Unions fear 'superteacher' pay will be at expense of colleagues

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The Independent Online
Teachers' leaders yesterday claimed the Government risked losing the support of the profession if it boosted the pay of a new grade of "superteachers" but failed to raise teaching salaries across the board.

Their criticism, the most forceful yet directed at the Labour government by the profession, came as David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education and Employment, unveiled the first details of a new rank of "advanced skills teacher".

In guidance to the School Teachers' Review Body , which makes recommendations on classroom pay, Mr Blunkett called for advice on how the "superteachers" might be rewarded.

The National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers warned that the majority of teachers would oppose plans which would see "most held back so that a few get a fair deal". Jerry Bartlett, the union's ssistant general secretary, said: "Teachers were encouraged by the Government before the election to hope for fair play and fair pay. That means for all teachers, not a super, selected few."

He added: "To retain teachers' support this government will have to call for and fund a generous pay settlement for all teachers."

Doug McAvoy, leader of the National Union of Teachers, said teaching salaries were far outstripped by those of other professions. "I am disappointed that a government with education at the heart of its policies fails to recognise the need to lift the salary levels of the entire profession."

In his letter to the teachers' review body, Mr Blunkett stresses the need to do more "to ensure that the profession offers rewards for the highest quality teaching skills."

Ministers and teaching unions are concerned that, at present, teachers can only lift their salaries beyond a pounds 21,300 ceiling by taking on extra, non-teaching responsibilities such as heading a department or even moving on to management. There are fears the system drains from the classroom valuable expertise and experience crucial in raising standards.