Union condemns elite teacher plan

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The Independent Online
THE BIGGEST teaching union yesterday condemned as "an insult" government plans to offer a fast-track to training and promotion for an elite group of 1,000 graduates a year.

Plans to offer accelerated promotion to top graduates will be contained in a Green Paper on the future of the teaching profession to be published on Thursday. The paper is expected to include proposals for rewarding high-performing and improving schools, as well as introducing a system of performance-related pay aimed atindividual teachers.

The National Union of Teachers attacked the proposal, which are designed to help to fill the increasing number of teacher vacancies.

The union has threatened to strike against attempts to link pay with exam results. Other unions, however, have broadly accepted the principle of linking pay with performance and David Blunkett, the Secretary of State for Education, declared the current system of classroom pay "daft" and told union leaders opposed to performance- related pay to "get real".

At present there is a pounds 23,000 ceiling on the pay of classroom teachers, with extra pay awarded for extra responsibilities.

Under the fast-track scheme, 1,000 graduates or newly qualified teachers will be offered a salary of pounds 23,000 after four or five years, rather than the seven years staff currently have to wait. They will be expected to rise rapidly to fill management jobs or become advanced skills "super teachers" with salaries of up to pounds 40,000 a year.

The fast-track recruits will undergo a business-style training programme, including time in several schools and possibly a stint in industry. Special status will be offered to graduates with a good academic record and an ability to enthuse and communicate with children.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the NUT, attacked the proposal. He said: "Every teacher needs proper professional development and to assume that only 1,000 are worth special treatment is an insult to the profession."

But Mr Blunkett said it was vital to provide incentives to attract more good graduates into teaching. He said: "We are going to transform the Three Rs that we have been concentrating on into a new Three Rs, which is Recruitment, Retention and Rewarding good teaching."

Mr Blunkett hinted yesterday that possible measures for performance-related pay could include benchmarks of pupils' performance and measures of the "value added" by teachers. The government is thought to be considering giving extra money to good and improving schools as well as introducing an element of performance-related pay for all teachers.

But Mr McAvoy said: "We have always made it clear that any attempt to link performance-related pay with pupil achievement is a non-runner and it is totally unacceptable."

Mr Blunkett said he wanted "a break in the traditional ways which are stopping two-thirds of teachers at point nine on the pay scale, which is pounds 23,000, and saying, `This is daft and you should be able to progress because you are good at the job, not because you take on management responsibility.'

"I know of no other walk of life where two-thirds of people have a barrier on being able to progress past pounds 23,000 a year."