Thursday 11 July 2013

Lewisham Headteachers provoke dispute over performance-pay - action will follow

Michael Gove is on a mission to deregulate teachers’ pay and conditions as part of a broader Government agenda to privatise public services and undermine educational opportunities for many youngsters.

From September, a new Pay and Conditions Document has been imposed which could mean every teacher faces the threat of their next annual pay progression being blocked on the basis of arbitrary and divisive decisions about their ‘performance’. Over a few years, this could easily lead to salary losses of tens of thousands of pounds.

These provisions will, of course, allow schools and the Government to cut salary costs by holding down pay increases from their staff. The threats will also be used to bully staff into taking on even greater workload and will set teacher against teacher, damaging education. 

However, Gove’s fondness for ‘deregulation’ and ‘freedom’ for schools means that he has given Governing Bodies and Local Authorities a choice. 

Schools can follow Gove’s wishes and impose pay and appraisal policies that enable them to block pay progression, and perhaps also to cut the pay of new staff or even to introduce their own pay scales. 

On the other hand, schools have the choice to adopt policies that protect staff from most of Gove’s divisive intentions. The NUT and NASUWT have produced model policies which offer that protection. A range of Local Authorities have also now agreed model policies which offer similar safeguards.

It is, therefore, even more disappointing that the Labour-run Authority of Lewisham has failed to recommend model policies that stop schools being divided and demoralised by performance-pay. Instead, they have allowed an unaccountable group of Headteachers to insist that recommended policies include damaging provisions which are rightly unacceptable to teachers and their unions.

These unacceptable provisions include:

Teachers having to put together extensive portfolios of evidence to justify why they should be awarded pay-progression and how they meet each of the Teachers’ Standards. This will not just mean unnecessary bureaucracy but create more opportunities for pay-progression to be denied. Classroom observations, results, lesson planning, internal tracking, pupil work sampling and evidence supporting progress against Teachers' Standards will all be used to judge individuals.
Pay progression and performance being judged by Ofsted criteria of lesson observations. Even for the newest teachers, the Authority is insisting that “teaching should be over time consistently ‘good’, as defined by Ofsted”. The use of Ofsted criteria will lead to arbitrary and subjective decisions being made about a teacher’s performance and could also be unfairly influenced by factors outside a teachers’ control.
Teachers being expected to take on even greater workload to justify their pay progression. For example, the Authority are saying that a main scale teacher has to show “an increasing contribution to the work of the school” and “an increasing impact on the effectiveness of staff and colleagues”. To move on to the upper pay range, teachers are meant to show that they make “a significant wider contribution to school improvement” and that their teaching “is consistently good to outstanding”. These criteria will also mean denying even more teachers pay progression onto and along the upper pay range.
Teachers moving to a new school could be denied pay progression that they would otherwise have expected. The Lewisham model policy was amended to include reference to ‘pay portability’ but only to confirm that pay would not be cut – but not that it would also award annual pay progression to a teacher moving from one school to another - nor will it confirm previous relevant experience being taken into account for a teacher on their first appointment. When neighbouring boroughs are confirming these protections, why would teachers choose to come and work in Lewisham?
Rights to union and staff representatives will be limited. For example, the model policy denies the right of a staff governor to be on the pay committee; and does not accept that equality monitoring reports and plans for temporary TLR responsibility posts should be discussed with trade union representatives.

This provocative insistence on these unacceptable provisions leave teacher unions with little choice but to escalate to strike action next term, under the provisions of our ongoing ballot for action as part of our national dispute with Michael Gove.

Meetings have already taken place in two secondary schools where NUT and NASUWT members have voted overwhelmingly to support strike action to oppose these unacceptable policies. There is every reason to believe that other school groups will feel just a strongly about the need to defend their livelihoods - and children’s education – against these damaging policies.

Lewisham NUT – also liaising with the NASUWT – is now in discussion with National Union Action Officers about a hard-hitting program of strike action in Lewisham schools in September.

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