Blunkett victory on bonus pay for teachers

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Bonus payments of £2,000 for up to 200,000 teachers will be given the go-ahead this week by the school teachers' pay review body, marking a victory for David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education.

Bonus payments of £2,000 for up to 200,000 teachers will be given the go-ahead this week by the school teachers' pay review body, marking a victory for David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education.

The move will sanction, for the first time, the introduction of performance-related pay for teachers, and payments will be backdated to September when the scheme should have been introduced.

In July the scheme had been blocked in a court action brought by the National Union of Teachers, which claimed Mr Blunkett had failed to carry out proper consultation. Union leaders warned the scheme would set teacher against teacher, and said the system was unfair and lacking in appeal for teachers turned down for bonuses by head teachers.

Nearly 197,000 teachers applied for performance-related pay, leading the union to appear out of step with many of its own members. Last night sources confirmed the NUT was ready to concede defeat over performance-related pay but that it was still arguing about an appeal system for teachers failing to win bonuses.

The court case was frustrating for Mr Blunkett who wanted to drive up standards in the classroom by rewarding the best teachers, and it led to Tory criticism over his competence in handling the education brief. The review body is expected to recommend that the payments now go ahead, but it will call on the Government to allow adjudication for teachers refused bonuses.

On today's BBC Breakfast with Frost Mr Blunkett will signal further plans to improve classroom standards, including new tests for 12-year-olds who have failed the expected standard at the age of 11. These tests are part of Mr Blunkett's strategy for reforming secondary schools with an emphasis on the "3 Rs", following growing alarm at the low levels of literacy and numeracy in pupils after primary school.

During the next school year, £80m will be spent on improving standards in maths, English and science for the 11-14 age group. There will be consultation on targets for the key-stage three tests taken by 14-year-olds.

There will also be more fundsfor the Excellence in Cities programme over the next three years. Spending on the programme for secondary schools will rise from £250m this year to £300m by 2003-4 and be spread across an extra 10 cities, to involve, in total, 58 local education authorities. The extra money will be spent on gifted children, and on staff dedicated to dealing with social problems such as lack of discipline and truancy.

An education adviser said: "This year's test results show that our focus on the basics in primary school has been paying off ... it is important that we maintain the improvements built up before [the age of] 11. It is also important that we recognise [children's] individual strengths and difficulties, which is why Excellence in Cities is so important to modernising secondary education."

This week, the Home Secretary and Mr Blunkett are also launching a crackdown on truants. Ministers are keen to ensure that problem schools with high truancy rates avoid staff devoting time to rounding up pupils. Teachers will get help from social workers in school and extra money to provide classroom places for disruptive children, in an attempt to meet Mr Blunkett's target for reducing the number excluded from classes. Some schools have used police on site to improve discipline and help stop "bunking off".

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