Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-155)



  140. You cannot pay anything if you do not make a profit.
  (Mr Hart) I accept that, but we are not talking about a profit making business; we are talking about a public service. If you are going to introduce performance-related pay in a public service which is not a profit making business, all we are saying is you have got to make sure the money is there to make that workable. The difficulty we now face—and it will be across thousands of schools in this country, the vast majority of schools in this country, I would suggest—is that if the money is not there in adequate amounts—and we are not talking about 100 per cent, by the way, going through, we will make the difficult decisions—if the money is not there, then it is going to have to come from somewhere else. I think that is wrong in the first, vital four years or so of the scheme. That is all we are saying. We are not saying we want the money in perpetuity; we are saying we need it in that crucial first, say, four years.

  Mr Chaytor: I am looking at the submission from the Secondary Heads' Association to this Committee, where you discuss the question of autonomy and say, "Greater autonomy and less central prescriptiveness would, however, be most welcome to school leaders." Over the last 14 years, head teachers, year on year, have had greater autonomy. Surely part of that greater autonomy is the responsibility to make judgments about the allocation of budgets to staffing purposes, to resources, to materials, to capital, yet, when faced with this hard decision, you back off and you say, "It is not our responsibility to make judgments." But this is what many people find confusing.


  141. You only like autonomy when it is easy.
  (Mr Hart) No, no, no.
  (Dr Dunford) We are always making those autonomous decisions within the framework of accountability, within the framework of what is much more about a state education system, and we have here the rules of the game, as it were, of performance pay which are being laid down in a way which we believe makes it impossible for us to be fair and motivate properly our good teachers. That is why we are saying that we believe that this is something that should have been done differently.

  Chairman: If I could just bring Paul in here.

  Paul Holmes: As a result of what my colleague has been asking, I want to seek some clarification. Until eight months ago, I had been a teacher for 22 years and I thought I knew how this system worked but I am beginning to doubt it now. It used to be, until quite recently, that you became a teacher and after about nine years you got to about £24,000 and that was it, you were stuck, you could not get any more money. The only way you could get more money was to take on managerial responsibility: head of department, head of year, etc. David Blunkett introduced a scheme and Estelle Morris trumpeted it in the summer and early autumn, saying, "We now have a scheme, the performance/management upper pay spine, whereby a teacher who would have been stuck for the rest of their lives at £24,000, effectively, can now rise up to £30,000 because they are a good classroom teacher" (as opposed to taking on bureaucracy and management). The clear intention was that good teachers would rise up to £30,000. David Chaytor seems to be saying that the new system for classroom teachers to be able to rise up to £30,000 without taking on management that takes away from the classroom, so they can exercise their good classroom skills in the classroom, should turn into another one of competing for scale posts where four people apply and one gets the job and so forth.

  Mr Chaytor: Is that a question to me or . . . ?

  Chairman: I have to ask you, please direct the questions to the witnesses and not to colleagues.

Paul Holmes

  142. Am I correct in what I thought was the system?
  (Mr Hart) Yes. That is the system.

  143. The new upper pay scale, so we were told by two secretaries of state quite recently, David Blunkett and Estelle Morris, was designed to allow a good classroom practitioner to carry on in the classroom and to rise to £30,000 if they were good at their job.
  (Mr Hart) Can I say this—and this is partially an answer to my colleague Peter Smith. Suppose a governing body says, "We are not prepared under any circumstances to allocate a penny of extra money from within the school's budget to fund the performance-related pay scheme. We are not prepared to do that. The only money we are prepared to devote to a performance-related pay scheme in this school is what the Government is going to give us"—the 50 per cent or whatever it is. It is Peter Smith's members who are going to suffer because the head will then have to say, "Right, if that is the money I have got to spend then I am going to have to apply criteria which makes sure that only x number of teachers get the money—because that is all I have got." What about those who are doing just as well as the teachers that head has picked out? Peter Smith and his colleagues will be banging on the head teacher's door the next day: equal pay, racial discrimination, sex discrimination—all grievances, the lot, will come in. I know it will come in as night follows day because I know what the other teacher unions' agenda is. That is the crucial problem we face and that crucial problem can only be alleviated and the Government's own pay structure supported if we get the funding, the properly needed funding, in those crucial first four years. That is the crux of the problem.

  144. Can I turn to a slightly different area now. Peter Smith was saying that it is a shame that in schools now the only mechanism that seems to matter is market competition. He said that did not really work properly in an educational setting. We heard from Jonathan earlier that some schools in Kent, for example, have large reserves. But what happens to the schools in the poorer areas, the schools that for whatever reason are less successful, the schools that serve the inner city council estates, etc? They do not have money reserves, they have only deficits—certainly the ones in my constituency. Under this system, even if the head wanted to, even if the governors wanted to, they do not have any extra money to allocate into rewarding good classroom teachers, so the good classroom teachers go to the successful schools and the other schools, the other half of the schools who are not specialist and not getting any extra money, etc, are going to have an even bigger problem of recruiting good teachers and keeping good teachers than the educational sector as a whole is doing already.
  (Dr Dunford) Chairman, one of the wider issues that we are concerned about is the polarisation of the secondary school sector as the Government encourages diversity between schools and so on. I think one of our concerns here is that gradually over time there will be an increase in that polarisation as a direct result of this policy. Because the Government is putting £100 million in for a part year followed by £150 million in for a full year into this performance pay structure, threshold apart. That £150 million in a full year is less than £100 million proportionately in a part year and I believe that the Government intends to decrease the amount of money over time that it puts into this performance pay and rely more on it coming directly out of school budgets. Your constituency, Paul, I know suffers particularly badly because of the unfairnesses in the funding system and I think that will worsen over time . . . That is one of the reasons why we feel we have to make a stand at this stage, before we get too far down the road and those funding problems become too acute and the polarisation becomes too great, to ensure that that does not happen.

  145. The schools in the poor areas, that most need the good teachers, are going to have less chance of actually recruiting and keeping them because of this system.
  (Dr Dunford) Yes, absolutely.

  Chairman: I am not sure I understand the logic of that. But, David . . .

Mr Chaytor

  146. I understand the logic of the argument but it is a distraction from the main issue of the standards review and the funding for specialist schools. Can either of you tell us the distinction between a good teacher, a cracking good teacher and an excellent teacher?
  (Mr Hart) I think the answer to your question is that a good teacher is a teacher who demonstrates a sustained and substantial performance; in other words, continues the good work they demonstrated at threshold. So they are continuing to demonstrate sustained and substantial performance, they make a contribution to the work of the school. That is what the criteria laid down are, and that is the definition of a good teacher. The definition of somebody who is excellent is, I think, the advanced skills teacher grade. The advanced skills teacher grade is supposed to be the grade for the very best teachers, and they are being created, they are being employed in increasing numbers. I think those are the two quite distinct types of teacher that we are talking about. How you actually define that can only be done by criteria laid down in terms of the objective setting of an individual teacher supporting those criteria at national level.


  147. To some of us it does seem a little churlish that here is a government who has actually tackled this problem and provided substantial new resources so that we can attract good teachers into the classroom and pay them reasonably well and at that very time you announce industrial action.
  (Dr Dunford) I think it is quite an achievement to put £0.25 million into performance pay and upset so many people.

  Valerie Davey: I think you are muddying the water, with respect, with all your expertise, in questioning, as it would appear to us and, I think, the Government, performance-related pay scheme which you have already virtually agreed, with what I see you to be arguing for—and I would be arguing if I were you—which is for interim funding. I accept Kate's position, I accept the position that was asked for before. If a head teacher has done 80 hours on threshold work this last couple of years, that is because all the teachers at a certain year were coming into a new system. No one is going to do those 80 hours again because each year in future there will be a structure coming through where there will be teachers at different ages and different sectors coming through. What Kate has got in her school, and I sympathise with her, are all the teachers coming into a new scheme, all saying, for whatever reason, "We fit the criteria." She will not have that in the future. That will be a different spectre as teachers move through. If I were you, I would be asking for . . . I cannot think of the right phrase. What is the phrase you have when you buy a house and you have not got the money to pay?

  Mr Shaw: Bridging loan.

Valerie Davey

  148. Bridging loan. For however many years, you need bridging money to see yourself through, to stabilise a system which you agree with. Why upset the Government with the possibility of action, when actually, it seems to me sitting here, there is fundamental agreement, you just need bridging money?
  (Mr Hart) Perhaps the secretary of state can persuade the Treasury, because I suspect the Treasury is behind all this, that we do need sensible bridging money over a four-year period.

  149. I am not saying how long or anything else.
  (Mr Hart) All right. I said four years. We have said that as an NAHT. All we have ever said is that we accept at some stage in the future, quite in the reasonably near future, it is all going to be brought into one pot. Simple, no problems. But you have to transitionalise it over a period of time. Call it a bridging loan, if you like, all I am simply saying is: "Let's have decent money over a short term period so that we can settle it in."
  (Dr Dunford) The sort of suggestion that Valerie has just made is exactly the sort of thing that we have been suggesting to the Government during 12 months of negotiation about all of this. They have not moved.

  Chairman: I am sure Valerie is available as a mediator.

Ms Munn

  150. I am just trying to simplify what has happened here. Not having been a teacher and having been in a profession which looked enviously at the money that was being thrown at teaching—I would love to have seen social workers earning anywhere near that amount of pay—is the issue that what was set out and what you understood—and this pre-dates my entry as a member of parliament, so I will not have been as aware of the detail as you would have been in terms of when the process was set up—has been gone back on, that what was sent out is not what is now happening? Is that what you are saying?
  (Mr Hart) There is a dispute about this, but the fact is—and Estelle mentions in her letter to all heads, she talks about the Green Paper—the NAHT laid down the 10 conditions (if that is the right word) for our delivery of the performance management system. One of those conditions was full funding. We were assured by the Department for Education and Skills that there would be full funding of the performance-related pay system over a transitional period of time. We have always had that understanding with them, we have always talked about, "We must get all these pots of money into one pot. With the new funding system coming in, let's have a transitional period and we will all then move into one stream of money." That was what we were given to understand. The then secretary of state 12 months ago at SHA's annual conference made the announcement about the £250 million. We have been arguing ever since with the Government about the fact that is inadequate. We believe very strongly that we were assured by the department there would be full funding for performance management

  151. How could anybody know, setting out at that point, what full funding would mean, given that nobody gets written a blank cheque? How could that have been an agreement?
  (Dr Dunford) To make a successful system, you can either operate on the funding or you can operate on the criteria. What you cannot have is what we have got at the moment, which is cash limited funding and a very generalised criteria. If you have a cash limited funding pot, then you need more precise, better criteria by which to make a judgment. What the secretary of state was suggesting in her letter to heads yesterday is that they invent those criteria, but the problem is that we are lumbered with a system in which, as David said earlier, the secretary of state wanted to have graduated criteria as you get higher up the spine and the STRB said, "No, we will just have this one generalised criteria." We are left with the problems of that situation.

  152. I am still extremely puzzled by all of this because nobody was ever going to get a blank cheque for anything because the Government has a limited amount of money and then is therefore going to give you a limited amount of money. How can there have ever been an understanding that there would be a blank cheque?
  (Mr Hart) It is not a blank cheque. When we talk about full funding, we mean the threshold approach. The threshold approach is not full funding; the threshold approach is: You are fully funded if you assess somebody as worth moving through the threshold. It is true, Estelle is right in her letter, that is the subject of external evaluation, but, remember, that external evaluation of the threshold is moving to a very, very light monitoring approach as a result of the STRB's recommendation which Estelle Morris accepted. We see no reason at all why, over, as I say, a reasonably short period of time, we should not apply the threshold approach to the upper spine. In other words, if somebody is assessed as appropriate to move up the upper spine on the criteria, that should be funded. The Government has rejected that, clearly, in that letter, so when I talk about fully funded I mean a demand-led approach. If the Government does not want to go down the demand-led approach, then the only other approach is to do what Valerie Davey, I think, is talking about, which is to talk seriously about how we can have a much better supported system in terms of money over a limited period in order to bed it down and make it work. Do what the School Teachers' Review Body recommended and the secretary of state rejected. That is all we are asking for.


  153. I think we are getting to the end of our time. I make no apologies for spending a lot of time on this particular issue. I hope you appreciate that this is a very real function of the Committee, to give you a chance to explain to us what is going on and for us, I hope, to put some probing questions. I, on behalf of all the Committee, hope that this is resolved amicably because whether you think the secretary of state put the two disputes together in a sense if I was your public relations consultant I would have said in a sense you also put it together because it is at the same time. It is industrial action. But the newspapers will put it together anyway. Thank you for your attendance. We have learned a lot.
  (Dr Dunford) Thank you very much. I am sorry we have not had the opportunity perhaps to discuss in more detail all the other issues that we want to discuss with you.

  154. Absolutely.
  (Dr Dunford) Perhaps on another occasion.

  155. I think the agenda was set by events.
  (Dr Dunford) Indeed.

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