Promise to delay teachers' appraisal

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THE GOVERNMENT yesterday attempted to take the heat out of its conflict with teachers over the introduction of performance-related pay.

Estelle Morris, the School Standards minister, said that proposals to make experienced teachers sign demanding new contracts in return for a 10 per cent pay rise were negotiable.

She told delegates at the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) conference in Eastbourne that there would be a year's delay in proposals to introduce appraisals for all staff. Negotiations over the details of pay reforms could start as early as next week. "It is so important to get it right that we are not going to say that if somebody has a better idea we will not take it on," she said.

Nigel de Gruchy, the NASUWT general secretary, welcomed the announcement and urged his members to join negotiations. But Doug McAvoy, leader of the National Union of Teachers (NUT), which voted for strike action over the plans at the weekend, called for all three main teaching unions to stage a joint ballot for industrial action.

Ms Morris was speaking as the Government concluded its conference season campaign to persuade teachers to accept its Green Paper on the future of the teaching profession. She told delegates that the main principles of the proposed pay reforms, including a link between pay and pupils' exam performance were non-negotiable.

But she insisted that ministers would take into account the 30,000 responses to a national consultation on the issue.

Teachers have expressed opposition to plans to introduce a new system of annual appraisals by headteachers, which would include targets for pupils' exam performance and would determine annual pay rises.

There has also been unease over proposals to offer experienced teachers the chance to pass a performance "threshold", which would give them a 10 per cent pay rise and access to a new pay scale up to pounds 35,000 - in return for signing more demanding contracts.

Yesterday Ms Morris said that the change was up for negotiation. But she defended the link between payments and teachers' performance: "Every teacher knows that some are better than others, some get better results than others, some perform more positively in the classroom than others."

Mr de Gruchy welcomed what he called "a new spirit" in the Government. He urged moderation in teachers' responses and insisted that strike action was "a scenario too awesome to contemplate".

The NASUWT accepts a link between pay and appraisals, but rejects linking salaries to exam results. The NUT opposes any kind of performance-related pay.

Doug McAvoy said that his union's ballot on an appraisal boycott would go ahead. And the Association of Teachers and Lecturers agreed at its conference last week to give its executive discretion to hold a ballot on performance-related pay.