HC Deb 14 March 2002 vol 381 cc1003-6
5. Mr. Mark Hoban (Fareham)

What recent meetings she has had with the NASUWT to discuss performance-related pay. [40723]

11. Ian Lucas (Wrexham)

If she will provide extra funding for performance-related pay for teachers. [40729]

The Secretary of State for Education and Skills (Estelle Morris)

My hon. Friend the Minister for School Standards met representatives of all the teacher associations on 18 February and last met the NASUWT on 5 March. Since 1997, we have so far spent more than £700 million to fund threshold payments, and we have made available a further £250 million in special grant over the next two years to help schools pay for the performance points that they decide to award.

Mr. Hoban

I thank the Secretary of State for that terribly complacent answer. Having dealt a further blow to morale in the teaching profession by refusing to fund performance-related pay fully, will she accept that the wreckers of the public services are not those who work in them but those who run them—Ministers and the Government?

Estelle Morris

The hon. Gentleman is just a touch confused. Providing £700 million to fund threshold payments fully is not complacent. That £700 million to fund excellent teachers was not available under the Tory Government, and neither was the further £250 million to fund performance points.

In 1998, when we launched performance pay, we said categorically that we would fund fully on demand a £2,000 pay increase for every single teacher who met the threshold. We have done that fully and promptly, with money straight from Government to teachers' pay packets, and that has made a difference. We made it absolutely clear that we would make available a further four performance points for teachers above the threshold. Indeed, in 1998 we did not commit any money to that, but since then, we have committed a further £250 million. The hon. Gentleman describes that as complacent; I hesitate to say that there are many people in the public sector, let alone in the private sector, who would think it exceptionally generous.

Ian Lucas

I very much welcome the fact that the original threshold payments were demand-led and fully funded by the Government. Talking to head teachers in my constituency, there was an element of misunderstanding about the funding position on performance points. In a spirit of co-operation, which I know the Secretary of State adopts, what steps will she take to repair the damage and change the present position?

Estelle Morris

I thank my hon. Friend for his question. Let us teachers should get performance points above the threshold for sustained good performance. Head teachers already make those sort of decisions every day of the week: they look at their resources and make decisions about how many management points they should give and whether they should use their resources to further reward a good head of maths or English. They have never before had the option of making decisions about staff who want to be good classroom teachers.

For the first time, head teachers have a pay structure which permits them to reward staff for good classroom teaching; I applaud and welcome that. Of course, it is a tough decision, but that is what leadership in our schools is about these days. I have every confidence that our heads can exercise the same judgment, professionalism and commitment in deciding which staff should earn those performance points that they exercise in their decisions about the rest of the allocation of resources. Because it is a difficult task, we are further helping them by putting an additional £250 million into the pay system. Managing change is never easy, but I have every confidence that head teachers are up to it; this is about transforming and modernising our public services.

Mr. Phil Willis (Harrogate and Knaresborough)

I wonder how the Secretary of State can keep a straight face. Nowhere in the Green Paper "Teachers Meeting the Challenge of Change" is there any question of 50 per cent. of the people who have gone through the pay threshold being barred from getting an additional reward. People are going through the threshold having met all the performance criteria, only to be told by the Government that only half of them will be funded. People are going on to the management pay spine, only to be told that one in four of them can be funded. Surely the Secretary of State should be ashamed of that level of duplicity.

Estelle Morris

That was mock anger from the hon. Gentleman; I cannot believe that he has misunderstood the original announcements in the Green Paper so much. Let us be clear: nowhere did the Green Paper say that performance points above the threshold would be demand-led; it did not lay down a set of criteria, nor did it say that if those criteria were met, performance points above the threshold would be achieved. It clearly said that there would be a national set of criteria for threshold payments. To make sure that those criteria were implemented nationally, we established a system of assessors to ensure that public money was properly spent.

Every utterance that I have made in the past three years on the subject has always made it clear—if the hon. Gentleman did not understand teachers' representatives did—that performance points above the threshold were different from performance points at the threshold. The threshold is demand-led against nationally agreed criteria; the external assessor is a safeguard for making sure that public money is well spent. Points above the threshold are entirely different; they are about criteria decided by Government bodies and head teachers. Head teachers make decisions—

Mr. Speaker

Order. I have to tell the Secretary of State that I want to call another Member.

Jim Knight (South Dorset)

In the past month, I have visited some dozen schools in my constituency, most of them primary schools. My right hon. Friend will be pleased to know that, in every case, their head teachers very much welcome the introduction of performance-related pay and the ability to pay up to the threshold. However, in Dorset standard spending assessment funding for education is very low: compared with neighbouring Hampshire, it is at least £100 per pupil less. Head teachers in Dorset struggle to find the extra funding for performance-related pay. What hope can she offer that they will have that extra funding, so that our fine teachers can be rewarded?

Estelle Morris

Quite simply, the money for threshold payments and performance points above the threshold is ring-fenced and cannot be used for any other purpose. It is additional to the base budget for head teachers in my hon. Friend's area, so he should be able to return to Dorset and reassure them of that.

Mr. Damian Green (Ashford)

Everything that the Secretary of State has said in the past five minutes has amply confirmed the original charge of complacency made by my hon. Friend the Member for Fareham (Mr. Hoban). When she and her Ministers discuss performance-related pay with the unions, will she reflect that she is the first Education Secretary since state education was introduced in 1870 to unite head teachers in threatening industrial action? In considering that and today's strike, which is closing schools across London, how much responsibility does she think that she bears for the anger felt by teachers towards this Government?

Estelle Morris

Teachers in London who go on strike today are entirely responsible for their own decisions. On pay in London, the salary of a teacher who started teaching in London when we came to power is now 63 per cent. higher than it was in 1997. The previous Conservative Government could not boast such a record. Let us be clear: the Conservatives opposed the threshold payments that, for the first time, pay a 10 per cent. increase to people after seven years in the profession. Shortly, it will be paid after just five years.

I am the first Education Secretary who can say that our pay structure rewards teachers for teaching well in the classroom. I do not describe as complacent a £700 million threshold and a further £250 million for performance points. It is a sign of this Government's absolute determination to reward teachers well, and to recognise those who teach well and who manage effectively.

Mr. Green

It is transparently obvious that very few teachers would agree that the Secretary of State is not being complacent. No Opposition Member would support strike action that damages children's education, but, unlike the right hon. Lady, I have some sympathy for teachers. They are being driven beyond endurance by the never-ending stream of interference from her Department and by the Government's lack of support for issues that matter to teachers—from performance-related pay to enforcing proper discipline in schools. Does she not recognise that the underlying reason for the first NUT strike since the 1970s is that teachers are angrier than they have been since those years? If she does not change her policies and her tone, she will, like her 1970s Labour predecessors, preside over public sector strikes and terrible damage to educational standards.

Estelle Morris

The hon. Gentleman's memory is selective. He moves from the strikes of the 1970s to today, thereby missing out the 1980s. In respect of educating our children, more days were probably lost in the 1980s—under a Tory Government—than at any previous time. He talks about complacency, but let me list a few things. We are rewarding advanced skills teachers who stay in the classroom, and establishing threshold payments of £2,000 and a pay structure that involves performance points. On training salaries, those who train as teachers receive £10,000. Through education legislation, I am establishing the power to pay off loans—"golden hello" training salaries—for those who train to teach in our schools. None of those measures were in place before 1997, and every single one has been opposed by the Tories.

We offer more than words. We have shown by our actions and our investment that we value teachers. That is evidenced by this year's report of Her Majesty's chief inspectorate of the Office for Standards in Education. According to it, the quality of teaching in our schools is better than it has ever been in this nation's history. That has been achieved through excellent teachers and through a Government who, for the first time in a very long time, are committed to supporting them. We will continue to do so, but we will be tough on strike action, because it should not happen.