Heads to see Blair take a stand

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR will make it clear to headteachers this week that the Government will press ahead with performance-related pay for teachers, despite widespread opposition.

Mr Blair, who is the first serving prime minister to address a teachers' union conference, will also publish the prospectus of a new national college for school leadership which will be headed by a figure of "international stature". But the main purpose of the Prime Minister's trip to Cardiff for the National Association of Head Teachers' annual conference is to win over heads whose support is vital to the success of the performance- related pay policy.

Ministers are determined not to back down over plans for an annual appraisal of all teachers and payments based, at least partly, on pupils' exam and test results. They see the scheme as a way of resolving the recruitment crisis.

Members of the biggest union, the National Union of Teachers, have voted to boycott appraisal and even the two headteachers' unions are unhappy with some parts of the package. David Hart, the NAHT's general secretary, said they were opposed to any direct link between pay and pupils' results and questioned whether the pounds 1bn over two years was enough to fund the changes.

Mr Blair will remind head teachers of their vital role in the Government's standards campaign. But he is likely to face fierce criticism.

Mr Hart said: "Members have no doubt about the Government's commitment to education but feel they are in danger of `initiative overload' with new government demands being made at an almost daily rate. Head teachers feel increasingly that the Government is unnecessarily prescriptive and even more centralist than the Tories."

Heads are expected to welcome the prospectus for the pounds 10m national college for school leadership. Sources at the Department for Education emphasised yesterday that Ministers want the college to be a "world-class" institution, producing a generation ofinnovative heads. Businesses will be invited to sponsor scholarships at the college. Serving heads from abroad as well as from Britain will be seconded to its staff and David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, is about to begin an international search for a director.

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