`Arrogant Blunkett' attacked over pay

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TEACHERS ACCUSED the Government of arrogance yesterday as ministers signalled their determination to press ahead with performance-related pay in schools.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, provoked anger from the two biggest teaching unions after confirming plans to introduce a link between classroom pay and pupil performance.

Under the proposals, experienced teachers could get a pounds 2,000 pay rise and access to pay scales reaching pounds 35,000 a year if they pass a performance threshold based on appraisal and pupils' progress.

Once past the threshold, additional pay rises would be available to reward performance or extra responsibilities.

Announcing the Government's response to a national consultation on the Green Paper on teachers' pay, Mr Blunkett said there was "no question of backing off the commitment to the new structure and a return to simply paying more across the board".

But union leaders accused the Government of refusing to listen to staff, as it emerged that about 60 per cent of the 20,700 teachers responding to the consultation opposed the Green Paper's main proposals.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said the announcement "smacks of New Labour" and accused the Government of "arrogance". He said: "This is a reaffirmation of Blair's condemnation and criticism of the public sector and public sector workers. It is dismissive of teachers."

Mr McAvoy acknowledged that the Government had compromised on aspects of the proposals, but said ministers had "a mountain to climb" to secure teachers' support.

Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers, said: "The Government remains dogmatically committed to retaining an element of payment by results, despite overwhelming opposition from teachers.

"Its refusal to consult genuinely on basic principles displays an arrogance which was rarely surpassed even by its dreadful Tory predecessors."

Estelle Morris, the School Standards minister, insisted there were no plans for "crude payment by results" and claimed that teachers would be won over when they knew the full details of the proposed reforms. She said: "We are talking about a cultural change and it's a new way of doing things for teachers."

Headteachers broadly welcomed the Government's statement, pointing to areas of compromise.

The new proposals drop plans to force teachers who pass the performance threshold to sign new contracts, and make clear that staff progressing towards the top of the current classroom pay scale will have an automatic annual pay rise unless their performance is unsatisfactory.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, said: "We recognise a number of significant shifts in the proposals along the lines recommended by SHA."