Select Committee on Education and Skills Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-139)

MR DAVID HART, DR JOHN DUNFORD AND MRS KATE GRIFFIN

WEDNESDAY 6 MARCH 2002

  120. So you do not think that system and those structures are in place at the moment to support the growing number of classroom and other assistants there are in schools?
  (Dr Dunford) I think it needs review.

  Mr Simmonds: Can I ask one further question, Chairman?

  Chairman: I would be grateful if you would ask a question on workload management!

Mr Simmonds

  121. I will ask the question I asked Peter Smith earlier which is to do with the workload with regard to the funding that comes from central Government, the way the schools are funded by different streams, and also some of it being ring-fenced. Do you agree that that adds unnecessarily to the workload of your members?
  (Dr Dunford) Yes, hugely. We have identified over 70 different funding streams through which secondary schools get funding, and I do not suppose primary schools are very different, and I think that does make an enormous amount of work for schools. ICT is an example.
  (Mrs Griffin) The network learning communities that we referred to earlier would create £50,000 for each school and yet the bureaucracy that is associated with them is out of this world. My deputy said yesterday that he was very happy to link with the schools we had established as part of a possible community, but he did not think the bureaucracy was worth £50,000 on top of everything else. He did not think he could squeeze it in.

  122. What system would you like to see put in place? Do you think schools should be given the money and the head teachers, the other senior staff and governors should be allowed to decide how to spend it? Or do you think there should be total control from the LEAs, saying, "This is your money, this is how you spend it"?
  (Mr Hart) I think that we do have to move as soon as we possibly can—that is why the new funding system coming on stream in the spring is so important. We do need to move as quickly as we can to a situation where we do not have all these funding streams, where actually the school receives their budget under the new system that does sweep up all the existing grant mechanisms. That is difficult. You cannot do it in year one because you have the Excellence in Cities grant money, the standards grant money (of which the Excellence in Cities is a part), you have got the Chancellor's money (as I call it) and you have got the pay money, the threshold money, that is £700 million, for instance. All that has to be brought into some synch. You can do that on a transitional basis but, eventually, I believe very strongly, we should give the school the budget and then the school will decide how that budget is spent. But you cannot do it in year one, you have got to do it on a transitional basis.

  123. Do you think that would free up teachers' time to do other things, whether it be in the classroom or outside in non-contact time?
  (Mr Hart) Absolutely. With that, I would add this point, it comes back to the support staff. One of the bids we made, so to speak, to the PricewaterhouseCoopers survey and subsequently to the STRB was that we should have a big increase in what I call bursars in the state sector. That has been accepted by government as being a major issue. The sooner we can move from training to having a decent cohort of senior admin officers or bursars throughout the state sector, tied to that new budgetary mechanism, we will solve an aspect of the work load problem at a stroke.

Mr Shaw

  124. Is it not the case that many of your members, the head teachers in schools, are sitting on huge reserves? In Kent I think there is in the region of £25 million in school reserves. When you think that the county council has a budget of £1.3 billion and reserves of considerably less than £25 million, do you not think, therefore, there is quite a lot of scope for schools to be able to fund teachers pay awards?
  (Dr Dunford) I think there is a lot of misinformation going around, or misinterpretation perhaps I should say, about the level of school reserves. As a head teacher I would aim for perhaps 3 per cent or so as a level of school reserves at any one time, but a number of factors mean that sometimes, at the end of the financial year on that particular day when it is counted, that is going to be higher. First of all, I may be keeping some money back for particular planned expenditure; secondly, I may have got some money on one of these 70 different funding streams that has actually come to me quite late during the financial year and it has not been spent yet—because long-term financial planning in school is very, very difficult indeed. So there is a range of issues around the levels of reserves that need to be kept. Of course one of the reasons for keeping slightly higher reserves in some parts of the country is that, where you face possible financial uncertainty in the future, you want actually to keep if you can a slightly higher level of reserve. I think the reserves in some schools may be unjustifiably high, and that is true and I will accept that if there are no reasons why the governors or the parents know why that money is being kept. But in the case of most schools—and there are 25,000 of them, remember, so there are bound to be some diseconomies of scale in the system—I do not think the level of reserves is unacceptable at all. But I certainly do not think you should look to that to solve other funding problems because inevitably it would be a one-off.

  125. I am slightly sceptical about your complaints. When a teacher said to me, "Well, we are not getting any more money for ICT training." "How much is there in reserves?" "£100,000"—this is in a primary school—"because we want a capital project." I asked, "How much is that?" "£300,000 at some point in the future."
  (Mr Hart) The overall national picture is something in the order of 3 per cent. We are absolutely nationally on a par with the Audit Commission recommendations. The Audit Commission recommendations are pitched at about that level, so nationally the amount of money in reserves is pretty well on a line with what the Audit Commission recommended. There are schools that are keeping back too much money. My organisation has on at least two occasions in the last 12 months advised its members very strongly only to keep in reserve (a) a reasonable contingency—which is what John is talking about—and (b) any money that has got to be kept back for committed programmes, and, what is more, that should then be publicly declared. We have made representations to the department, they have been accepted, that when the section 52 statements come out next year there must be a clear category within that statement that makes it abundantly clear why the school is keeping that money in reserve and what it is there for. That will, I think, give us public confidence, in the sense that we are telling the public, telling the parents, exactly why the money is there. Nothing is hidden: that is why it is there. Of course, if parents and others in the community think that that is an unjustifiably large figure, they can challenge it.

Chairman

  126. You are obviously very unhappy or you would not be involved in some sort of industrial action (as it is described in the newspapers). We represent real constituents, parents, and in a sense this is a unique opportunity to spend five minutes with you explaining in a sense what is the reason for your unhappiness. Too often when we have witnesses here we all speak the sort of language that educationists all understand and a lot of people in my constituency do not fully understand. I wonder if we could just probe for a moment. Let me give you an example. There are two schools. One has a head, a management system, where 10 people got through the threshold. Presumably you want money for that head to give all those 10 people who got through the threshold their increase in pay. A school down the road only got three through the threshold. Again, you would want all three to get the money straight away. I am trying to explain this in terms of the average constituent out there. Tell me, where is the rub between you and the Government. The Government is presumably saying, "Hang on, we did not give you a blank cheque. Some of these people have to wait for their threshold to come through, they have to be prioritised by management on the ground" or is it something other?
  (Mr Hart) I think the rub is in two areas. Firstly, it is very clear from Estelle's letter she sent yesterday to every head teacher in the country, that what the department is trying to do is actually to ratchet up the performance criteria because that letter actually drives a coach and horses through the pay and conditions document. This might seem very technical, but it is not. On the ground it is critical. The department wanted people who had gone through the threshold to move up the upper spine on an increasingly higher and higher and higher performance-related basis. So you had to perform better and better and better and better. That was rejected by the School Teachers' Review Body. Emphatically. They said, "That is not an appropriate performance-related pay scheme. If you meet your objectives which have been agreed by the end of the year, then you have a reasonable expectation that you will be paid the extra point moving up the upper spine." What Estelle did yesterday in that letter was actually to rewrite the performance criteria by talking about "only the most effective teachers will move up". She is using language which I think is attempting to redefine something that the School Teachers Review Body emphatically rejected. That is an issue that is causing a great deal of angst out there in the schools. Head teachers are very, very concerned about how they pitch criteria which reflects the STRB's wording, which the Government accepted, let alone pitch criteria which actually go beyond that and generate increased performance.

  127. How much is each increase along the spine?
  (Mr Hart) About £1,000. Just over £1,000 plus on costs.

  128. Is that not, theoretically, a blank cheque you are asking for?
  (Mr Hart) No, we are not. We are saying that, just like the threshold, we see no reason at all why for a sensible period of time, if a teacher is assessed as moving up the upper spine, that teacher should not be paid. The other point I was making is this: we must not forget, Chairman, that the School Teachers' Review Body emphatically recommended this year to the Government that they increase the £250 million on the table over the next two years—increase it substantially. The STRB—and it is made up of people who broadly speaking come from the private sector, people who have experience of performance-related pay schemes, including the Chairman Tony Vineall—said, "Jack up the money on the table significantly because if you do not do that, the performance-related pay system is going to be at risk." They said that and the secretary of state rejected that recommendation. It was the only recommendation she rejected. So we have two issues: (1) Are we being asked to apply criteria which are getting in fact progressively more demanding?—and we think that is wrong—but, even more importantly, (2) Are we being asked to run a PRP system with inadequate money?—and we think that is wrong as well. That is really the cause of our complaint.
  (Dr Dunford) David is absolutely right, the question of the criteria is at the core of the problem here. I have to say that we would not have invented an upper pay spine with five points on it, where we are going to have to go through all of this five times once every two years. A much shorter spine with much larger amounts of money between each decision would have been much more sensible. But we are where we are. If I can, as it were, put in layman's terms what David has been explaining, it is this—and I think it is this which has caused so much of the unhappiness here: whereas the secretary of state is now using phrases, in her letter yesterday, like "excellent teachers" and "the most effective teachers will progress up", in fact, when David Blunkett introduced this scheme, he said that it was in order to get good classroom teachers up to £30,000 a year, that they should have a reasonable expectation of getting to £30,000 a year. I think he has raised expectations. It is not an unreasonable salary for a cracking good classroom teacher late in their career, £30,000, or £31,000 as it is now, and we want to see our best staff get up to that. We who are dealing with the sharpest of sharp ends of the teacher recruitment and retention problems see that the present system as it is being introduced will have a dire effect on children's education because of its effect on recruitment and retention. But, fundamentally, we think it is about that change from good teachers with the expectation of £30,000 a year now becoming excellent, most effective.

Valerie Davey

  129. Can I come back to the point you made earlier, Chairman, which was the differential between the schools that had 10 through the threshold and three through the threshold, which I think is a matter of dispute. My understanding is that was ring-fenced money. If you had 10 or 12 or 3, that money was ring-fenced and those schools got that money. What we are now talking about is the additional targets, whatever they may be, five elements. I just want to challenge you, please, as to what the difference is between Estelle's excellent and your cracking good.
  (Dr Dunford) I should not have put the word "cracking" in, should I? I am sorry about that.

Chairman

  130. That is what Estelle is saying about excellent.
  (Dr Dunford) It is good, is the point I was making. But there is a substantial difference, as Valerie has pointed out, between a threshold which is fully funded, which we believe to be over-bureaucratic but we support in principle, and the upper spine where we are getting into all these funding problems.
  (Mr Hart) Can I quickly come in on that because I think you have made a very valid point. I simply want to say that we must be talking about good classroom teachers moving up. We did the threshold, about 97 per cent went through. Those 97 per cent, 200,000 teachers, are now sitting on point 1 of the upper spine. I think it would send a wholly negative, demotivating message if we were actually to be saying: "My ball-park figure is, I think, probably about 80 per cent of those are worthy to move up," if we were saying that the reality is that only a small proportion, these "excellent" few, should be moving up. I think that is absolutely wrong. I am saying that the good classroom teacher, who has gone through the threshold, who continues to demonstrate "sustained and substantial performance and a contribution to the work of the school", that person is worthy of moving up the upper spine year on year. If you want the description "the most effective teachers" what have you got an advanced skills teacher grade for? I thought they were the most effective teachers in the business. They have a special grade.
  (Mrs Griffin) I am not frightened of our decisions but my results are such that we get an A-star in the PANDA report at GCSE in every category. How do I say to some of my staff, "You are not effective"? In terms of raiding other pots, I have 500 in the sixth form, the funding for Curriculum 2000 was woefully inadequate and we are struggling to meet that particular need anyway. So I have got excellent staff and it would be very, very difficult to say to half, "You have got to wait," because they have contributed to the success of the school just as much as the half that I would be putting through.

Mr Chaytor

  131. Just pursuing this point, from the point of view of many of the members of the trade union to which I belong, which is the Transport and General Workers Trade Union—and there are probably some train drivers in that union!—they would say, "Teachers and head teachers have had a significant pay rise year on year over the last five years. They still get annual holidays far in excess of the wildest dreams of people working elsewhere in the public services." You are now being offered an additional pay rise for a significant number of teachers at the top of their profession and people say, "Well, look at other people working in education, particularly classroom assistants. If there is a limited pot of money to allocate, would it not be more beneficial to the education of children to increase the pay levels of classroom assistants and invest more in encouraging them to train to be teachers"—following the argument of Peter Smith earlier—"than simply giving £1,000 or £2,000 to teachers at the top of the range?" There is this feeling amongst the public that teachers and head teachers are never satisfied, that they had justifiable criticisms of pay salaries and structure in the 1980s and early 1990s, but now, five years after a period of continuous improvement, you are still complaining.
  (Dr Dunford) But the pay of teachers compares very unfavourably with the pay of underground train drivers.

  132. Is there a drift from the teaching profession to go to work on the tube?
  (Dr Dunford) There is a drift from the teaching profession to work in all sorts of other areas.

  133. How many teachers have left teaching to take a job as a train driver?
  (Dr Dunford) I have not met one recently.

  134. It would be interesting to find out, to test the validity of your argument.
  (Dr Dunford) No, I do not think that does because I think there is a drift problem from teaching which has got to be dealt with. But pay is just one way in which that is going to be dealt with. What we have here is a specific part of the pay structure which is clearly very dear to the Government in some way—it may be that they are introducing it in education and perhaps wanting to spread it to other parts of the public service—and we are saying, "You are introducing it in a way which is not fair and is not workable."

  135. Can you tell me any other group of managers within the public sector or the private sector which immediately threatens to go on strike when they are asked to make judgments about the colleagues for whom they are responsible? Is there a precedent anywhere else where this has happened?
  (Mr Hart) I do not know if there is a precedent or not but I am more interested in the fact that the Government—and I think for very good reasons—has set a great deal of store by the structure for recruitment and retention purposes. If we are going to recruit into the profession good young graduates or returners or people coming into the graduate scheme, if we are going to get them into the profession and stop those who are leaving the profession from leaving, then we have got to have, amongst other things, a pay structure which makes sense. I think the pay structure makes sense, funnily enough, in the sense that a good classroom teacher will move to £30,000-odd a year over this period of time. But if the Government believes—and I agree with the Government—that this is a crucial part of their recruitment and retention strategy, then it beggars belief that it should, in the initial, vital first, say, four years, so under-fund it that it is causing this deal of aggravation. And I have to say that it does not matter whether you talk to one of your innovative heads—and there are plenty of those around—to one of your non-risk-taking heads, it does not matter if you talk to a cracking good head or you talk to an average head, the heads are united on this issue as they have never been united before.

  136. I think you are blurring the two issues here. You are blurring the issue of the amount of money that ought to be available—and we can all agree that there ought to be more money available and of the need to safeguard retention: to ensure recruitment is paramount and recruitment is increasing—with the key issue of the head teacher's responsibility to manage within the given allocation of resources. I put it to you that what is different between the decisions that head teachers will be faced with over the upper pay spine and the decisions which head teachers were facing under the old system, where there were scale 2s and 3s and 4s, is that there was a fixed allocation of scale posts. Within any given school there would be arguably a number of teachers perfectly well qualified to take on the scale jobs and the head teachers had to make that distinction. What is qualitatively different from that old system to the system that we have at the moment, I do not know.
  (Dr Dunford) What is quite different is that under that system the head had very often a difficult decision to make: everybody understood there was one post going and there were four or five people applying for it and only one person could get it. That was understood. Under this system, there are criteria which are set which you have to meet, and what people do not understand, is why, if you meet those criteria, you are then not rewarded.

  137. You are arguing that the criteria are absolutely objective. I think the point we have to consider is whether any criteria can be absolutely objective. If criteria were completely objective then your head teachers would not have had to be spending 80 hours over the summer making judgments about passing the threshold because it would have been self-evident who should pass the threshold. Is it not the case that no criteria can be completely objective and the exercise of judgment by the head teacher is what makes the difference?
  (Mr Hart) But the funding of performance-related pay schemes is the absolutely crucial aspect of delivering performance-related pay.

  Mr Chaytor: But no one disputes that.

Chairman

  138. Give David a chance, David.
  (Mr Hart) It does not matter who you speak to. I have spoken to hundreds and hundreds of heads in the last few weeks and months, and they in turn have spoken to hundreds and hundreds of chairs of governors, including chairs of governors who come from the private sector, who come from organisations that run performance-related pay schemes, and unanimously they say: "If you are going to run a performance-related pay scheme that is going to motivate, that is going to reward, that is rigorous, that has difficult decisions within it, you have got to fund it properly. If you do not fund it properly, it will fall into disrepute and it will damage motivation." That is the crucial issue we are debating with the Government, if you like.

  139. In my own constituency in Huddersfield, or in David's constituency, there is a very big difference in terms of rigour of decision for managers. In the company that employs my people in Huddersfield, the manager makes those decisions on criteria, trying to be fair, assessing the quality of his workforce, and the very big difference is that if they do not make a profit at the end then somebody has to wait to get increased remuneration. That is what my constituents perhaps do not understand, that there is someone—them, because they pay your wages—who will write a cheque on this basis: anyone you say gets through the criteria will get that cheque when you want it. That is very different from the private sector, where, if you are not making a profit, you cannot pay the increases until the profit starts coming in. I think that is what David is trying to probe.
  (Mr Hart) But the payment of profit-related pay schemes, even in the private sector, which is not necessarily profit related, is based upon the achievement of certain targets.


 
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