Teachers back strike over pay by results

Leader warns that action over performance-related bonuses will paint union as being 'driven by lunatics'

Leaders of the biggest teaching union were trying last night to head off a strike over the Government's decision to introduce performance-related pay.

Sixty per cent of members of the National Union of Teachers voted in a survey in favour of a ballot on a one-day strike against the plan, which includes judging teachers by their pupils' results.

Tomorrow the union's annual conference in Harrogate is to hear calls from left-wing delegates for a programme of strike action against the Government's policy.

The survey returned by 52,000 union members - 28 per cent - shows a lot of support for a campaign of disruption in schools, with more than 85 per cent in favour of a work to rule, which might include any activity not connected with teaching, such as after-school clubs and meetings.

Estelle Morris, an education minister who is to address the conference today, will be left in no doubt of the union's opposition to the performancerelated pay scheme. From September teachers will be eligible for a £2,000 rise if they meet new government criteria.

Ninety-six per cent of union members said the scheme would not motivate teachers and 94 per cent believe it would fail to improve teaching.

Doug McAvoy, the union general secretary, said he was opposed to a one-day strike, because it would not win the backing of enough members.

"It is a one-day event. It comes and it goes and it gives the Government an opportunity to bash teachers yet again. If you don't have an overwhelming majority for a one-day strike, the Government will say that the union is driven by lunatics."

Instead, the union's executive is to put an emergencymotion to the conference tomorrow calling for a ballot of members on a work to rule and on a refusal to take on extra work caused by the new scheme. Today delegates are to debate a motion threatening local strikes if teachers are forced to "snoop" on their colleagues when they are assessed for the £2,000 pay rise. Mr McAvoy refused to specify what form the work to rule might take.

He said the union remained implacably opposed to the principle of performance-related pay. "I cannot conceive a day when the NUT will embrace it, particularly the element of payment by results."

However, it would be wrong, he added, for the union's members to forgo the opportunity of a pay rise while the campaign is in progress. The union has sent out 120,000 letters to members it believes are eligible, arguing that they should apply for the new threshold test unless they have good personal reasons for not doing so.

Mr McAvoy said: "We have told them to make the decision themselves and not to listen to those who are saying they should not apply as a political gesture. There is no conflict between this and our opposition to the principle."

Members are also receiving advice from the union on how to fill out their applications for the money.

The union argues that every teacher deserves a £2,000 pay rise whether or not they have passed the threshold test.