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Thursday, 8 April, 1999, 09:25 GMT 10:25 UK
Union backs dialogue over teachers' pay
classroom scene
Teachers dislike the linking of pay to pupils' results
By Adrian Dalingwater in Eastbourne

The second largest teachers' union in England and Wales has adopted a "wait and see" stance on the government's controversial proposals to introduce performance-related pay in the classroom.

Unions 99
Delegates at the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) annual conference in Eastbourne backed its leadership's policy of attempting to reach agreement with ministers on the issue.

Attempts to commit the NASUWT to rejecting the pay proposals outright and launch a campaign of industrial action in conjunction with other teachers' unions were heavily defeated.

The NASUWT's Senior Vice President, Martin Johnson, said outright opposition to the government's Green Paper on reforming the teaching profession - which contained 34 distinct proposals and the promise of 1bn for teachers' pay rises - was not an option.

"It's just as nonsensical to be completely against the Green Paper as it is to be completely in favour of it," he said.

But Eileen Mann, a delegate from Lincoln, said the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, was behaving like a 19th century mill owner in his treatment of teachers. "If performance-related pay is introduced, there will be trouble at t' mill, Mr Blunkett," she warned.

de gruchy
Nigel de Gruchy: Gets an easy ride from delegates
And Dave Wilkinson, from South Derbyshire, attacked the government's proposals as a "sycophants' charter" which would see teachers begging school heads for a pay rise each year.

The NASUWT's approach contrasts sharply with the stance of the rival National Union of Teachers, which is strongly opposed to the concept of performance-related pay and has decided to ballot its members on strike action - beginning with a one-day stoppage next term.

The motion backed by delegates says the union is not opposed to most of the principles of the government's consultative Green Paper, which signalled ministers' intention to reform teachers' pay, but believes the detailed plans for implementing the reforms are deeply flawed.

Possible action

It calls on the government to act on the "widespread criticism" its proposals have attracted.

The motion asserts that the best outcome would be a negotiated settlement agreed by teachers' unions, employers and ministers - but does not rule out a ballot on industrial action if no agreement can be reached and "unacceptable" measures are introduced.

The NASUWT's General Secretary, Nigel de Gruchy, said he was "very pleased" by the vote of support from the conference. "I was expecting more opposition," he admitted after the debate.

Later, a highly-critical motion on Advanced Skills Teachers - the new grade of experienced "super teachers" who can earn up to 40,000-a-year if they choose to remain in the classroom rather than moving into school management posts - was debated by the conference.

The motion, which was backed by delegates, argued that the new grade was creating division and resentment in school staff rooms.

See also:

08 Apr 99 | Green Paper
09 Apr 99 | Teachers Pay
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