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Teachers Pay Friday, 14 July, 2000, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
Teachers' pay changes ruled illegal
Performance pay: Hot topic in staffrooms
The country's biggest teachers' union has won a major legal victory that will halt the process by which 197,000 teachers in England are applying for a 2,000 pay rise.

The secretary of state cannot insert a controversial term in all teachers' contracts of employment simply by making an announcement in the Department for Education and Employment News, or by printing it in an information note circulated to schools.

Mr Justice Jackson
The National Union of Teachers had argued that the Education Secretary, David Blunkett, did not have the power to set the standards by which teachers applying for performance-related pay should be judged.

In the High Court in London Mr Justice Jackson agreed. He said Mr Blunkett had "evaded the proper scrutiny" of Parliament and the Welsh Assembly.

In Wales the introduction of the system is following a later timetable to that in England.

BBC Education Correspondent Mike Baker says this is a big embarrassment for the government.

The government saw itself as above the law

Steve Sinnott, NUT
It will cause a delay in England, because the process will now have to be subjected to Parliamentary scrutiny - and the summer recess is looming.

The Welsh Assembly is opposed to any link between teachers' pay and pupils' performance, the most contentious of the proofs teachers must come up with.

Assembly members have been told by Labour ministers that they do not have the right to intervene. That might be in doubt as a result of the ruling.

'Exceeded powers'

Mr Justice Jackson said he would not allow Mr Blunkett to "foist" such a major reform on teachers "in a manner not authorised by Parliament".

He rejected the argument that Mr Blunkett had "inherent powers" as a minister of the Crown to take administrative action in support of policies to promote education.

"The secretary of state's inherent powers do not extend to re-writing the terms and conditions on which teachers are employed," he said.

"If he wishes to do that he must follow one of the statutory procedures."

'Victory for the law'

The deputy general secretary of the NUT, Steve Sinnott, said after the hearing: "This is a victory for the supremacy of the law.

"The government has tried to impose a system that teachers didn't want and which did not obey the law. The government saw itself as above the law.

"What it should be doing is listening and talking to the teachers and devising a means whereby teachers are paid properly in accordance with the law."

The Department for Education said it was seeking legal advice on whether to appeal against the judgement.

But a spokesman said members of the NUT needed to ask their leadership why it had taken legal action which would delay their getting the pay rise they deserved.

"It's the first time in history that a union has blocked an immediate 2,000 pay rise for teachers and access to a new, higher pay scale," he said.

'Snooping' order quashed

Mr Sinnott said: "They will still get their money because they are entitled to it.

"It is up to the department to devise a new system, with the help of teachers who have had enough of the government behaving as if it could impose the law on them."

Mr Blunkett has made it clear he intends to press ahead with the scheme.

He said it was a "Pyrrhic victory" although he appreciated the judge had decided that "we didn't follow the procedures in quite the way he would expect".

The union had also challenged an amendment to teachers' existing responsibilities.

The NUT said the effect of this was that all teachers could be required to "inform" on colleagues if head teachers asked for their views on whether they merited the pay rise.

Again the judge agreed, and quashed the order.

The government had tried to argue that the meaning of the change was only that heads of departments could be asked to assist head teachers.

Assessments in train

Approximately 197,000 teachers in England applied for the new pay scale - almost 80% of those who were eligible.

They are being assessed by head teachers, using the standards set down by the government, to see if they can "cross the threshold" from the top of the current basic pay scale.

That would give them an immediate pay rise of 2,000 and access to a higher pay scale which could ultimately see their earnings reach 30,000.

Those who succeeded had expected to get the rise from September.

Because of the later timetable in Wales it is not known how many teachers there are planning to apply.

The BBC's Mike Baker
"The government insists the scheme will only be delayed"
NUT Deputy General Secretary, Steve Sinnott
"The government does really need some serious reflection"
See also:

12 Jul 00 | Teachers Pay
11 Jul 00 | Teachers Pay
10 Apr 00 | Teachers Pay
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