Top pay plan for super teachers

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A radical restructuring of teachers' pay to create a new class of highly- skilled "superteachers" and raise standards in schools will be outlined by the Government today.

The new pay framework will reward expert staff who wish to stay in the classroom but who at present are offered no financial incentive to do so.

But David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education, will make it clear in evidence to the School Teachers' Review Body, which makes recommendations on pay in the New Year, that he does not want the extra pounds 835m allocated for schools in England in the Budget to be swallowed up in high pay awards.

He will warn the pay body that a high award would not allow the Government to fulfill its commitments to reduce class sizes and invest in more books and equipment to raise standards.

In addition to the "superteacher" category, there will be moves to gear the pay award to close the gap between primary school teachers, who are regarded as relatively poorly paid, and secondary school teachers. The review body will be asked to raise primary school teachers' salaries to improve recruitment.

The body will also be asked to consider how work carried out by teachers outside school hours, such as supervising after-school homework clubs, can be reflected in salaries.

This year's pay settlement will spill over into next year's award because the second part of this year's pay award comes into effect in December, with a pounds 75m increase next year.

The Chancellor, Gordon Brown, is expected to reinforce the message about affordability in a letter to all public sector pay review bodies in September. Pay rises will have to be paid for out of productivity, he will say.

Mr Blunkett will be keen to balance the tough line on pay restraint with a positive approach to develop ways of structuring pay to improve standards.

The proposed "advanced skills teacher" grade, the most radical change to the current pay structure, will offer teachers committed to remaining in the classroom the chance to gain higher salaries in recognition of their expertise.

Ministers are concerned that, at present, many of the best teachers are forced to seek non-teaching responsibilities which reduce their time in the classroom in order to gain salary increments.

The current pay ceiling for a classroom teacher with no additional responsibilities is pounds 21,318, irrespective of age and experience. Newly qualified staff just starting out in the profession earn just over pounds 14,000.

Teachers in primary schools have less opportunity than their secondary school counterparts to boost their salaries at present because there are fewer extra responsibilities available.

Mr Blunkett will emphasise that the Government wants the best teachers to keep their jobs. The Government is seeking to link them to professorships in universities and to undertake research.

The Government believes that some of the extra pounds 835m will have to be made available for pay, but it is keen to promote its pledges to reduce class sizes, spend more on books and equipment, and give particular attention to where it is most needed.

Sources have indicated that no more than pounds 300m of the Budget windfall should go on meeting the pay award. The Local Government Association suggested last month that pounds 400m would be needed to fund an inflation-linked award.

Teaching unions have consistently backed the idea of a new "master teacher" grade. However, the National Union of Teachers, the country's largest teaching union, last night claimed the Government was "going about things back to front" by asking the pay review body to advise on salaries for such staff without first defining what their responsibilities would be.

The NUT general secretary, Doug McAvoy, said: "The Government is asking for a decision on how these teachers should be paid before deciding what the job entails. This is not a matter for the review body."

More detail was needed on what such teachers would do and how they would be selected. The union wants to see open competition within schools for master teacher posts, rather than appointment by heads.

Teaching unions insist pay remains a key issue in raising the status of the profession. Most claimed higher pay would do more to raise morale than the knighthoods for successful heads being proposed by Tony Blair.