Union opposes fourfold increase in number of superteachers

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Ministers are drawing up plans for a fourfold increase in the number of "superteachers" employed in state schools.

Ministers are drawing up plans for a fourfold increase in the number of "superteachers" employed in state schools.

They have set a target of increasing the number of "excellent" classroom teachers paid as much as £46,000 a year for passing on teaching tips to others from 2,500 at present to 10,000 by the year 2006.

As a first step, the number will increase to 6,000 in 2003-04. The move is central toplans to modernise the profession, due to be announced by David Miliband, the Schools Standards minister, on Wednesday.

It will anger teachers' leaders, who would prefer a bigger across-the-board rise for their members when the profession's pay review body rules on their salary claim next month.

"Superteachers" – or advanced skills teachers, to give them their proper name – can earn more than most headteachers by staying in the classroom in a scheme intended to reward good-quality staff who have no desire to seek management jobs. To qualify, they have to spend one day a week giving lessons and tips to colleagues in other schools to improve their teaching skills.

John Bangs, an assistant secretary of the National Union of Teachers, argued that giving substantial pay rises to a handful of teachers would have an "impact" on the overall settlement for the rest of the profession. The union maintains that a considerable rise above the level of inflation is needed to recruit and retain enough teachers to fill vacancies in some subject areas.

Ministers have already introduced a higher pay scale for teachers who pass MOT-style performance tests when they reach the top of the salary scale. The "superteacher" scheme is on top of that. A blueprint on the future of advanced skills teachers says they will spend almost 400,000 days a year improving teaching and learning skills in schools by 2006. Ministers have earmarked £33m to help schools to meet their wages bill next year – funding almost a third of their salary costs.

The boost to their number is one of several elements of the Government's modernisation package being negotiated with the unions. Other plans include guaranteeing teachers the equivalent of a day a fortnight away from the classroom for marking, preparation and professional development.

The NUT is defying plans to employ 50,000 classroom assistants, saying that would "dumb down" the profession.