Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100-113)




  100. Is anyone suggesting that? The fact is that you and many unions have campaigned for years and years to have a GTC—
  (Mr Smith) Absolutely.

  101.—And surely it will take time for a new organisation or professional body to find its role?
  (Mr Smith) I think that is perfectly fair, and I think we are in a period of settling down and working out how cohabitation might occur.

  102. However honourable your colleagues and other unions are, there is the word on the street, is there not, that there are some wrecking tactics going on at the moment. What is the fee for the GTC for a teacher?
  (Mr Smith) Certainly not from my organisation—

  103. It is £23, is it not?
  (Mr Smith) £33.

  104. And we hear that some of the unions do not think that their members, if they are part-timers, can afford £33, is that right?
  (Mr Smith) There is a problem about a pro rata fee—I think it is a marginal problem, quite honestly. The view that my organisation takes is that our members should be encouraged to pay the required registration fee and I think it would be a humiliation to the profession if, ultimately, the GTC had to rely upon its power to enforce payment. That would not, to me, send a good message to the public generally or, indeed, members of other professions like doctors or lawyers or chartered accountants or surveyors or whoever.

Paul Holmes

  105. Moving on to the questions of performance management and the new pay threshold, what are your comments on how the system was introduced with the £2,000 jump up and, secondly, how it is going to operate now and in the future?
  (Mr Smith) Can I, first of all, deal with the threshold? There are those who would argue that application for the threshold was over-elaborate and time consuming and I have sympathy for that. Having said that, the threshold established that a very large number of teachers are performing at a satisfactory or better level, so we have gone through that. The difficulty comes in that the threshold was seen as, using the word in its true sense, the gateway, the path to performance management, and a better career structure for teachers who had passed through the threshold. My own view was that a key factor in the threshold was that it dislocated or decoupled what a teacher was paid from the size of the institution in which he or she taught, so that you could be an absolutely brilliant performer in a primary school but never earn as much as an adequate teacher in a large secondary school, and I think that was an important culture change to achieve. Now, if that gateway to a reward structure career development for people in the classroom is seen to have been no more than a con, a quick fix, then a large number of teachers will feel deeply disillusioned—not least the 45 pluses to whom I referred earlier upon whom we crucially rely. In other words, that the Secretary of State and the Chancellor will need to satisfy governing bodies and heads that the money authentically is there, and they are far short of being convinced at the moment.

  106. In terms of it being seen as a quick fix or a con, certainly all of my former colleagues and teachers I talk to in my constituency say that one of the big issues in the staffroom is the fact that schools have only been given about half of the money they need for all the people who would qualify for promotion on this new scale. Therefore heads are going to be faced with either robbing other parts of the school's budget, or they are going to have to say to two people who both deserve to get the extra money, "I will give it to you but not you", and that is going to be incredibly divisive within schools.
  (Mr Smith) All differentiating pay systems are inherently divisive, so "divisiveness" is a word that I would like to be removed from the lexicography of the teaching profession. It does not seem to me to take us anywhere. The real issue is whether heads are placed in a position where, instead of being funded to make intelligent management decisions which can be justified, they are put into a position where they are taking decisions which are so arbitrary that they cannot defend them and would not wish to take decisions that they cannot defend. Now, there is a real issue there. Balanced against that, of course, outside the public service certainly, there are decisions which managers have to take which are difficult decisions, and you will please one and disappoint another, and that is one of the responsibilities of management.

  107. But taking issue with what you said at the start, when the Government introduced this scheme they said that anybody who qualifies, and passed all the applications and the interviews and so on, will get the £2,000 increase and progress to the bottom of the new pay scale, and then the clear intention was that if, as a teacher, you then year-on-year or every two or three years qualified for the next increment you would get it but, because only half the money has now been provided, it means that half the people who do qualify are not getting it. When somebody sits a music exam or a driving test you do not say, "We are going to have to fail all you lot because have not met the quota for this week or this year". If you qualify, you pass, and the clear intention of this new pay scale was that good professional experienced teachers who qualified would get paid. Half of them are not going to now. Surely that is totally the opposite of what we were told a couple of years ago of what the intention of the scheme was?
  (Mr Smith) It is the difference between incrementality and the expectation of incremental process and managers having to make difficult decisions within resources which will always be limited, but where I agree with you is that the money at the moment is inadequate for managers to make informed, fair, equitable decisions.

  108. And teachers in the staffrooms see it as a quick fix and a con?
  (Mr Smith) That is the risk.

  109. That is what is happening.
  (Mr Smith) Yes.

  Chairman: I think members of this Committee ought really in this sort of situation to declare their interest.

  Paul Holmes: I did say I was one of the first wave of teachers to go for the £2,000 increase, so in a recent space of time I have been a teacher and I am still a member of the Union.

Jeff Ennis

  110. The momentum seems to be building up particularly amongst the NUS and the NUT towards the creation of a single trade union. What do you see are the barriers to achieving that goal and objective, for want of a better expression?
  (Mr Smith) Can I say, first of all, that I wholly welcome moves towards teachers' unions working more co-operatively together and I think the last year has shown that very powerfully. Certainly in presenting evidence to the school teacher review body on workload following the PricewaterhouseCoopers study, it was the first time the five unions represented oral evidence together. That was a first, and I think there is a wind of change going on. Can I be very candid with you and put it this way? Within the next five years, we know Nigel de Gruchy is retiring; I will be retiring within the next five years; and Eamonn O'Kane, who hates me saying this, is a caretaker general secretary because he goes, I think I am right in saying, in 2006. In other words, there is an opportunity there for unions to come together as against reinforcing tribalisms and historic cultural divisions. I like to think that ATL has been very positive about this: we have an alliance agreement with the AUT and have mounted conferences with them; we have submitted joint evidence with the AUT on matters where school teachers and university lecturers can bring a common cause. If I can be even more candid, I think that Eamonn O'Kane in his forthcoming conference will have an argument to conduct. I hope he succeeds in suggesting that it would be far more logical from all points of view if the teaching profession were represented in not so fragmented a way as it currently is. It confuses teachers; it confuses the public; it confuses politicians; it confuses the DfES; but my final point is it will require immense self-discipline and courage, because compromise is where everybody goes away equally unhappy.

  111. One final question, Chairman, changing the subject: the role of the local education authority has changed or diminished quite significantly over the last 10 or 20 years. Do you see the role of LEAs being about right, or do we need to beef them up or get rid of them altogether?
  (Mr Smith) I think the Conservative government made a critical mistake which has been aggravated to date by your Government. Let me put it this way: here you have a very large important public service workforce with no human resource policy whatsoever. It is being run like a sort of franchise where "devil take the hindmost", and if we are talking about deploying the best teachers in the best schools—and by the best schools I mean the schools that need the best teachers—at the moment there is no other mechanism for that but the market, and the market in education does not work that way. That is not to say that the education service is wholly inimical to being run in a wholly business-like way so, to my mind, my organisation has consistently said that marginalising local educational authorities was a grave mistake and we are not learning to live with it because it is very difficult to live with.


  112. We are coming to the end of this present session. Are there any points you came here hoping to make that you briefly wanted to put over to the Committee, or did our questions elicit all the points you wanted to make?
  (Mr Smith) I think the Committee's forensic skills are incomparable!

  113. Is there anything you came here hoping we would not ask that we have not asked?
  (Mr Smith) No.

  Chairman: Thank you very much for your time. A degree of co-operation has already broken out in the teaching fraternity because David Hart, John Dunford and Kate Griffin have agreed to come together to give their evidence in the next session.

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