Page last updated at 01:23 GMT, Monday, 28 July 2008 02:23 UK

Call to give schools pay opt-out

Schools in deprived areas should have extra cash for staff, says report

Schools in deprived areas should be able to opt out of national pay deals for teachers so they can attract better staff and pay them more, a report says.

The report by think tank Policy Exchange argues that extra funds for inner-city schools should be targeted at higher rates of pay.

It says that a national pay agreement discriminates against the recruitment needs facing more challenging schools.

Successful schools in richer areas can find it easier to attract staff.

Attractive packages

Extra funding is already targeted at schools in deprived areas - but the report suggests that such money should be used for a more flexible approach to teachers' pay.

It says schools "should be able to opt out of the national pay agreement - levelling the playing field and boosting recruitment".

Although schools can already offer extra cash to staff through recruitment and retention allowances, Policy Exchange says these either tend to be given to everyone or no one at all.

Instead a range of competing, alternative pay structures are needed, it argues.

"All schools that employ their own staff should be allowed to opt out of the national pay agreement and use their own model, as academies are already doing," it says.

"Having more money, schools in challenging areas would be able to offer the most attractive packages, which could include incentives like smaller class sizes as well as higher pay."

'Fast-track routes'

The report also suggested that low salaries and a lack of glamour was putting off good graduates from going into teaching.

It said four out of 10 would-be teachers who entered post-graduate training courses in 2005-6 had 2.2 degrees or lower.

Many undergraduates viewed social work or nursing as the profession most similar to teaching.

The report also argued that greater use of fast-track salary bands would attract better quality applicants into teaching.

There should also be a fast-track route to advanced skills teacher status, so that teachers do not have to move into leadership roles in order to access higher salaries.

The head of education at the National Union of Teachers, John Bangs, said the report took a "reductionist market approach" and completely missed the point of why most teachers went into teaching.

"What teachers in tough schools need is not extra money, but a guarantee that they will be supported and that they won't lose their jobs because the school is threatened with closure or special measures as the result of a failure to meet some government target.

"The reality is that teachers will work in tough schools if they are going to be with friends and work as part of a team," he said.

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