Teachers split over performance pay

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The Independent Online
TEACHERS WILL fight Ministers' plans to introduce performance related pay in schools, leaders of the profession's biggest union said yesterday.

But a survey by the National Union of Teachers shows that a surprising number - nearly one in three - back the idea.

And nearly eight out of ten believe that their pay should depend partly on their ability to demonstrate that they have particular skills.

Doug McAvoy, the union's general secretary, said that the organisation would resist any crude link between pay and exam results.

A special union conference later this month is expected to reject outright the the idea of performance related pay or payment by results.

Ministers are drawing up a Green Paper on the future of the profession and its salary structure.

David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, has already said that he is interested in "a more sophisticated system of payment by results".

He believes that higher rewards for classroom teachers are vital to ease the current recruitment crisis.

Payment by test and exam results was tried and discredited at the end of the nineteenth century.

Though most of the 12,000 teachers surveyed - 62 per cent - opposed a direct link between pay and performance, the findings show that teachers' attitudes are changing.

In the past, extra pay has been offered mainly to reward extra responsibility or experience.

Now, around 80 per cent of teachers think those who can show that they have "specified competencies" should receive more.

The competencies, which have yet to be worked out, might include, for example, skill in teaching reading or children with learning difficulties or administrative talents.

Mr McAvoy said that such skills might be measured partly by monitoring teachers in the classroom.

More than 90 per cent of teachers are unhappy with the present salary structure which means that most primary teachers progress quickly to the top of the pay scale and then cannot earn more unless they take on additional responsibilities. There is criticism, too, that promotion may depend on the whim of a headteacher.

Mr McAvoy warned Ministers to note the clear majority against performance related pay.

"It can never be fair, linked as it is to pupil performance which can vary from school to school and from year to year as the pupils change."

But he said: "Teachers have emphasised their belief that the achievement of specified targets for competencies deserves recognition on their salaries.

"A national scheme based on the achievement of such targets would be fair and open and would not be based on a subjective achievement of high performance."

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers has long accepted that extra pay for teachers who have reached the top of the basic scale (around pounds 22,000) should depend partly on a sensible appraisal system.

Nigel de Gruchy, the union's general secretary, said: "We accept that, if the Government is going to pay pounds 30,000 a year to classroom teachers, it will want to have checks on quality."