Leading article: Pay must reflect performance

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The Independent Online

Head teachers may soon be backed into a corner over the performance-related pay scheme for their teaching staff. The Government has made it clear it wants to see limits on the number of senior teachers who get the rises - for which teachers who pass the "threshold" at the top of the main pay scale and go on to a new senior teacher pay scale are eligible.

The Government has told the profession's pay review body that it wants only 30 per cent of these teachers to be granted the rises, which will amount to about £1,000. The "threshold" payments that bring an extra £2,000 to those who pass will not be affected by this, however.

Whether or not the pay review body agrees with the limit, ministers still have the option of limiting the amount of cash available to pay for the rises.

There have been squeals of anguish over the divisive effect this will have in staffrooms across the country, but in reality - for a performance-related pay scheme to have any credibility - it has to amount to more than just sweets for all those who apply. In any private company operating a performance-related pay scheme, there will be a budget limiting the amount of money that should be spent on it - and so it should be for schools.

The Government - or at least the current Secretary of State for Education's predecessor but one, David Blunkett - must bear a measure of responsibility for the impending furore. In the spin that accompanied the announcement of the new pay scales, he left teachers with the impression that this was designed to boost the potential pay of a classroom teacher to £40,000 a year and said there would be no cash limits to the payments.

In addition, today's ministers should also ensure that there is professional training and some sort of benchmark to help the heads decide who should get the rises among their staff.

That said, Charles Clarke is quite right to insist that a performance-related pay scheme must be just that - a pay scheme that singles out the best performers for advancement. The heads will have to come out of the corner and institute a tougher regime for managing pay increases in their schools.