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EDITIONS
Monday, 8 April, 2002, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
Teachers query heads' deal on pay
classroom
Heads say they can reward more good teachers
Teachers in England have reacted with suspicion to a deal about their performance pay, involving head teachers and the government.

The deal - concluded late last week - led to the two main head teachers' unions calling off a planned ballot on industrial action.

They had said the scheme was under-funded, but now say they have a workable arrangement.

But teachers' leaders say they are not happy with the deal.

Background

The wrangle involves the performance-related pay scheme for teachers in England and Wales introduced two years ago - although negotiations are still going on about the Welsh aspect.

John Dunford
John Dunford says the system is better funded
Teachers who applied to "cross the threshold" onto a new, higher pay scale got 2,000 initially and were then eligible for further pay rises if they showed continued high performance.

They would be eligible for the first extra rise from September this year.

But the complaint had been that the Department for Education was making available only enough money to pay about half the teachers who would merit a rise.

Deal struck

Head teachers said governing bodies would be put in an invidious position - either having to tell some of their best teachers they would not get a rise they had earned, or "rob Peter to pay Paul" and use funds intended for teaching materials.

So the Secondary Heads Association and the National Association of Head Teachers threatened to ballot their members on boycotting the scheme.

The threat was withdrawn on Friday.

John Dunford, general secretary of the secondary heads, said negotiations had focused on three areas.

1. The number of teachers who would be eligible.

When the new pay scheme first came in about 196,000 teachers in England "crossed the threshold". But some of those were part-time.

Numbers

The Department for Education has calculated that the number of "full-time equivalent" posts was rather less than that.

Also, since then, the "wastage rate" of teachers leaving the profession, retiring, or being promoted to senior management posts has been about 12% per year.

So the unions agreed to accept that the number of teachers involved this year was only 138,000 - so the money available to meet their pay rises would go a lot further than originally thought.

2. The department was prepared to put in a bit more money, in the region of 5m to 10m.

Dr Dunford said this was "peanuts" but an important signal of intent.

School leaders

3. What made it all workable is the continuation of a scheme by which the government pays 60% of the cost of awarding a performance rise to heads, deputies and assistant heads who meet their objectives.

So instead of those pay rises having to be found out of the 100m general pot, the deal was to reduce the pot to 90m but continue those central grants - which made the whole lot worth perhaps 110m.

Dr Dunford said this would allow head teachers to reward 80% of good teachers instead of the 50% who would have benefited under the old proposals.

They had always expected to have to make judgements and on that basis they could now do so.

"The messages I have had over the weekend are that heads will be happy with it," he said.

Teachers' suspicions

But unions representing mainly classroom teachers are not so pleased.

Eamonn O'Kane
Eamonn O'Kane: "We'll suck it and see"
The general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Doug McAvoy, said he would take legal action if any of his members were unfairly discriminated against.

The new general secretary of the other big union, the NASUWT, Eamonn O'Kane, said he was "cautious" but would "suck it and see".

His suspicion was that the rearrangement of the figures amounted to little more than a "sleight of hand".

Action threat paid off

"It could be that the only ones who benefit are those in the leadership group," he said.

"But it vindicates our strategy ... which is that we will put the system to the test.

"Our members will present themselves and will expect payment and if that doesn't happen then trouble will happen in those schools," he said.

Nor would it be lost on his members that the Education Secretary, Estelle Morris, had ignored the recommendation of the independent review group to put more money into the scheme, but had responded to a threat of industrial action by head teachers.

"I don't think teachers will be prepared in the future to take too many lectures about industrial action."

See also:

15 Mar 02 | UK Education
18 Feb 02 | UK Education
13 Feb 02 | UK Education
23 Jan 02 | UK Education
23 Jan 02 | UK Education
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