Super-teachers for the classroom

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The Independent Online
THE Government yesterday unveiled details of its proposals for a new grade of "super-teacher", which could attract salaries up to pounds 40,000.

Advanced Skills Teachers would be the best in their profession, and the new grade would allow them to remain in the classroom, rather than switch to management in search of higher pay.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, also intends AST teachers to spend at least a day a week in other schools, helping to spread their expertise.

The plan was praised by the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), which made recommendations on salary levels as "radical and innovative". But it sparked a row with the teaching unions, who said it cut across salary differentials, and would create "divisions" in schools.

Despite potential difficulties, ministers believe the scheme will prove popular with teachers, and are keen to get the plan "up and running". The creation of the new AST grade was a General Election manifesto commitment.

The first AST teachers are due to be appointed this September in specialist schools and schools in the proposed new Education Action Zones.

Mr Blunkett yesterday opened a month-long consultation about the details of the scheme. Ministers had hoped to unveil details more than a month ago, but the review body asked for more time to draw up a new salary scale, reflecting AST teachers' responsibilities.

In recommendations submitted to ministers last week, it said AST teachers should be paid between pounds 25,000 and pounds 40,000. Aspiring AST teachers should be evaluated by inspectors recruited for the purpose.

Mr Blunkett said yesterday: "This new grade will reward the very best classroom teachers, encouraging them to stay in the classroom rather than taking up management posts."

David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said that the principal of a new grade of teacher recognising expertise in the classroom would be widely welcomed, but added that, as it stands, the plan would "make it very difficult for governors to appoint these new posts, without creating great difficulties of differentials with head teachers in small primary schools and deputies and heads of department in secondary schools."