Heads call for reform of teachers' pay system

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The Independent Online
TEACHERS should be given performance-related pay rises based on annual assessments of their work in the classroom, the head teachers' leader proposed yesterday.

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, told heads meeting in Eastbourne that they should assess teachers individually before awarding pay increases above the current maximum of pounds 23,000 a year. He said moving to such a system was the only way of persuading ministers to fund substantial rises for classroom staff.

Mr Hart told the union's annual conference: "Classroom teachers should only move further up the grade to a maximum of pounds 31,000 if the head certifies each year that they have demonstrated sustained fully acceptable teaching skills during the year.

"I believe that this type of performance judgement would be infinitely preferable to crude performance-related pay approaches which the profession rightly rejects. It is a price worth paying for a salary structure which would attract good honours graduates. It will reward properly a majority of the profession, not just a tiny minority."

Mr Hart said that heads should consider teachers' classroom performance, success at maintaining discipline and other aspects of their work, as well as the exam results their pupils achieve.

He said salaries of up to pounds 40,000 should be available for teachers with the greatest responsibilities.

Teachers' leaders accepted the idea in principle. Eamonn O'Kane, deputy general secretary of the second largest teaching union, the NAS/UWT, said "We recognise there will come a stage where employers might say in order to progress further along the pay grade we have to be satisfied that teachers are performing satisfactorily.

"We accept that in return for a reasonable pay scale there might have to be a review of teachers' work."

At present, classroom teachers get pay increases for every year of service up to a pounds 23,000 ceiling. Further rises are based on staff taking on additional responsibilities although heads have limited discretion to make pay awards based on merit.

Mr Hart said pounds 3.1bn needed to be injected into schools before the next election to cover the new pay structure, fund an expansion in the number of computers in schools and pay for better special-needs education.

He said "The decline in spending over the last five years has to be reversed. Settlements which short-change schools on pay and inflation can no longer be tolerated."

Head teachers also demanded yesterday that David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, should "take on" the Church of England and stop insisting on daily prayers in school.

Mr Hart said it was hypocritical to place a legal obligation on schools to hold a daily act of collective worship. He said the law was "an ass" and he would be seeking a ministerial review of the issue.

An estimated 70 per cent of non-denominational secondary schools and 10 per cent of primary schools break the law by failing to hold an act of worship for their pupils every day.