Ministers fight on with performance pay for teachers

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The Independent Online

The Government pledged to press on with performance-related pay for teachers yesterday despite a humiliating High Court defeat over the issue. Estelle Morris, the School Standards minister, told the Commons the scheme would be introduced "with as little delay as possible".

The Government pledged to press on with performance-related pay for teachers yesterday despite a humiliating High Court defeat over the issue. Estelle Morris, the School Standards minister, told the Commons the scheme would be introduced "with as little delay as possible".

Mr Justice Jackson ruled on Friday that David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, had "evaded scrutiny" by Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the school teachers' pay review body.

Nearly 200,000 teachers have applied to pass a performance "threshold" to gain a £2,000 pay rise and access to a higher pay scale. But Friday's victory for the National Union of Teachers threw the process into disarray by ruling the Government had acted unlawfully in imposing standards for teachers passing the threshold.

Answering an emergency Commons question, Ms Morris said Mr Blunkett would decide on a possible appeal when a written judgment was available. She promised to press ahead with the pay reforms, and assured MPs that teachers' pay rises would be backdated to September. The deadline for threshold applications was also being put back, she said.

"The Government's pay reforms are the best opportunities teachers have had for a generation for a radical pay improvement," she said. "All the Government has asked is that teachers do a good job in return."

Ms Morris insisted that Government policy on teachers' pay did not need review in the light of the court judgment. "We intend to press on with paying good teachers more money within the correct legal framework," she said.

Mr Blunkett had not referred the standards required of teachers passing the threshold to the teachers' pay review body because "they are about standards of teaching, not about pay structures and scales".

But Theresa May, the shadow Secretary of State for Education, said the Government had suffered a "humiliating" defeat while Richard Allan, a Liberal Democrat education spokesman, accused Ms Morris of "caricaturing" the NUT's case. "The Government has left teachers in an appalling situation," he said, calling for them to be given a guarantee that they would not have to apply again for a pay rise.

Barry Sheerman, the Labour chairman of the Education Select Committee, said many teachers would be frustrated by the delay. "There is a great disappointment this has happened and I do hope that this is going to be sorted as quickly as possible," he said.

Ms Morris replied: "I think the NUT have become the first trade union in the history of the movement to go to court to block some of their members getting a £2,000 pay increase."

Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, said he was pleased the Government was "bringing itself back under the law".

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