Bob Sulatycki

A delegate to the conference of the National Union of Teachers responds to David Aaronovitch's criticisms of the union's attitude towards performance-related pay
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The Independent Online

It's the same old ritual every Easter - more shoddy reporting of the conference of the National Union of Teachers. Now it's the turn of David Aaronovitch.

He has been busy searching the internet about me. That is so much less difficult than phoning to talk to me in person, when I could easily have told him: "Yes, I have contributed to Socialism Today. So what?"

Vengeance, prompted apparently by my participation in the debate on performance-related pay (PRP) at the NUT conference, was the motivation for Mr Aaronovitch's trawl through cyberspace. Why no vengeance towards David Blunkett? He's proposing to shut schools for two days so that teachers learn to appreciate the benefits of his new schemes.

PRP and performance management are unfair, bureaucratic and overwhelmingly rejected by teachers. Such measures will lead to a joyless saga of testing and form-filling. Teachers will turn from colleagues into competitors, thereby undermining the trust and teamwork on which schools depend.

Now, obviously, that is only what teachers believe, and therefore probably won't cut much ice with Mr Aaronovitch. However, many parents are aware that teacher dissatisfaction is leading to a flight from the classroom. Vacancies are at a 10-year high. Applications for teacher-training courses have plummeted.

Opposition to the Victorian payment-by-results system led to the creation of the National Union of Teachers 130 years ago. It was a system that took more than 30 years to replace.

It was universally loathed and reviled by teachers. It created one of the most backward education systems in the then developed world. That is why delegates supported the statement: "If we don't strike on this, what do we strike on?" - a measure of the importance of PRP, not the triviality of strike action.

I hope NUT members will see through the fog of misrepresentation and vote against a system that will profoundly damage the job we still want to love, despite the Government's efforts.