HC Deb 23 November 2000 vol 357 cc417-9
1. Valerie Davey (Bristol, West)

If he will make a statement on performance-related pay for teachers. [138357]

The Minister for School Standards (Ms Estelle Morris)

Further to a report by the School Teachers, Review Body and consultation, my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State announced in a written answer on 21 November that he had made an order reinstating the performance threshold assessment system. The assessments will lead to a £2,000 pay increase for successful applicants, and they restart today.

Valerie Davey

I welcome my right hon. Friend's statement, as will the many teachers who have applied and those head teachers whose professional time and commitment has been involved. Is she able to assess the impact of threshold payments on teacher recruitment?

Ms Morris

The new pay structure is about recruiting and retaining the best people into the teaching profession, because that is what we need to do. I have every confidence that the threshold assessment, along with a range of other measures, will do exactly that. Earlier this week, we were delighted to announce that the number of people starting teacher training this year has increased by 2,000 on last year—the first increase for eight years. I am sure the House will welcome that. It is key that we have as many good people as possible in teaching, and we have turned the corner on that.

Mr. Richard Allan (Sheffield, Hallam)

I apologise for the absence of my hon. Friend the Member for Harrogate and Knaresborough (Mr. Willis), who is addressing the conference of the Association of Colleges this morning.

The Minister knows that concerns remain about the performance-related pay scheme, especially as there are fears that the pupil progress targets will be easier to achieve in areas where schools perform well, rather than in those areas lower down the league tables. To allay those fears, will she undertake to publish details of how many teachers are refused payment on the grounds of insufficient pupil progress and the areas where they come from, so that we can evaluate them? Can she confirm the name of the scheme, as I have press releases from the Secretary of State which refer to performance-related pay and press releases from her which refer to performance-related promotion?

Ms Morris

The hon. Gentleman might misunderstand pupil progress; teachers do not. We have made it clear that pupil progress will take into account pupils' prior attaintment and their starting point. Good teachers make a difference, and the key way in which they do so is that their pupils progress at least at the rate that we would expect given their starting point. It is right to recognise that—parents know it, teachers know it and students know it. For the first time, we shall have a pay structure that recognises the achievements of many teachers in our classrooms who do not want to take on administration or management, but who are really, really good at raising the standards of the children whom they teach. They will now be rewarded for doing so.

We will not publish the individual results of the teachers who are assessed. That information is to do with them. The feedback will go to them and continuous professional development will follow, so that they can improve and perhaps apply again. In due course, we will publish the number of applicants who have been successful at the threshold.

Fiona Mactaggart (Slough)

Will the Minister comment on the performance of teachers in Slough, which, with a 9 per cent. increase in the number of students who have achieved five A* to C grades at GCSE, comes third in the national improvement league table, just after the Scilly Isles and Rutland? Would she like to tell the GCSE students and their teachers at Langleywood, which is the most improved school in that very much improved town, what she thinks they can do to repeat those successes next year?

Ms Morris

I am delighted to congratulate the teachers, the students and their parents on the improvement in Slough, and, before I get into terrible trouble, I ought to do the same for those in the Isles of Scilly and Rutland. My hon. Friend will know that, without this Government, there would have been no improvement indices. We published not only the raw data—as we should—but data on the improvement, because we expect every school and local education authority to improve on its previous best. That is what parents want. I am delighted to join her in congratulating Slough on its achievement. Indeed, all teachers have a lot to be proud of, not only for achieving the best GCSE results ever, but for being the generation of teachers who have turned round literacy and numeracy, so that the number of 11-year-olds who can now read and write effectively enough to access the second curriculum is the highest ever in the history of testing.

Mr. Roy Beggs (East Antrim)

Is the Minister satisfied that those who will carry out the assessments to determine performance-related pay have had sufficient training? Will there be an appeals procedure for those teachers who feel aggrieved that their application is not successful?

Ms Morris

Yes and yes. The person who will make the initial assessment will be the head teacher, helped by a line manager or head of department. They know the teacher best and they will make a judgment based on the evidence presented by the teacher and on what they know of the teacher's performance. We have always made it clear that we wanted to offer teachers the assurance that, if relationships were not right between the head teacher and an individual teacher, someone would check that national standards were being implemented. That is the role of the assessor, who will visit every school and make sure that the appropriate system is in place.

I am content that head teachers and assessors have been properly trained. As a result of the work carried out by the School Teachers' Review Body, we have introduced a review process that will mean that all teachers can be sure of two things. First and most important, when they pass the assessment, they will know that they have passed well and deserve to be congratulated. They should feel proud. Secondly, if they do not pass, there will be every opportunity for them to seek advice and to ask for a review if they think that that is appropriate.