Mass campaign threat over PRP

June 2, 2000

Further education colleges look set to introduce performance-related pay, raising fears that universities may follow suit, it emerged at lecturers' union Natfhe's annual conference.

Lifelong learning minister Malcolm Wicks was booed by delegates at last week's conference in Blackpool when he said that he expected to see the introduction of PRP for further education teachers.

Natfhe immediately squared up for a battle with vice-chancellors over the threat of PRP for university staff. A motion to the higher education sector conference made it clear the union would not accept PRP, dismissing it as "obnoxious and demeaning".

An executive-backed motion promised a "mass campaign" against PRP in any post-16 institution. The motion warned that such schemes are "divisive, discriminatory and unfair".

"We reject any form of pay linked to 'appraisal' or inspection," conference said.

In his keynote speech Mr Wicks said: "Further education colleges could establish schemes on the lines we have introduced in schools for advanced skills teachers." The schools scheme, which has been rejected by teachers' unions, can reward some teachers, judged by heads to be high flyers, with extra pay.

Mr Wicks said: "I strongly believe staff should be paid on their merits. In all walks of life it is now recognised that we need to reward best those who show true commitment and excellent performance."

He said government investment in further education colleges left managers with no excuses for denying staff pay increases. He described reports that some lecturers have not had a rise for five years as "appalling" and said "the days of macho management" were over. He announced measures designed to "professionalise" college teaching, which would help the case for pay increases.

Mr Wicks unveiled a pilot scheme to extend Pounds 6,000-a-year trainee teacher salaries to those training as college lecturers. He also said teaching qualifications would be made compulsory for college lecturers - and in future for college principals - as part of plans to professionalise college teaching and regulate the use of agency lecturers.

Buoyed by Mr Wicks's condemnation of poor teachers' pay, conference resolved that the executive would urge Natfhe members to reject the latest 3.3 per cent pay offer in a forthcoming ballot.

Other motions carried at conference included:

* A vote of no confidence in education secretary David Blunkett. Natfhe's general secretary and executive team were defeated by grassroots members over the union's stance on the current government. Pleas that the no confidence vote would hinder negotiations with ministers were rejected by grassroots members who were angry over the abolition of grants and the introduction of tuition fees

* A decision to "oppose" the present proposals for two-year foundation degrees. The amended motion warned that foundation degrees risked "restoring the binary divide" and devaluing existing degrees

* A resolution to continue to campaign against key elements of the Learning and Skills Bill. The motion criticised the lack of links to higher education and the trend of separating provision for young people and adults

* A call for the abolition of the research assessment exercise as unfair to new universities and counter-productive

* A reaffirmation of Natfhe's demand for the restoration of student grants was accompanied by a warning that the introduction of tuition fees had contributed to a 20 per cent decline in mature students' applications to higher education

* University employers were attacked for trying to "cherry-pick" from the Bett report.

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