Headlines: February 26th, 1999

Education Secretary David Blunkett is pressing on with his bid to achieve the most far reaching reform of the education system for 50 years. He has written to Clive Booth, Chair of the Teacher Training Agency setting out work that has to be done quickly. The top priority is to develop a numeracy test for trainee teachers ready for piloting in the summer. Earlier work on teacher numeracy showed very low levels of competence. The test will have to strike a balance between the ideal level of competence and the reality of what is achievable.

The other work that needs to be done quickly includes developing a new modular courses for postgraduate teacher training and reviewing existing practice on pre-course and in-course study.

Although teacher training is important in the reform programme, success will depend much more on the adoption of controversial measures such as teacher performance assessment. The proposed tough appraisal system will create a pay threshold where teachers would need to demonstrate high and sustained levels of achievement and commitment to move up the scale. Success in crossing the threshold would mean an initial salary increase of up to 10 per cent with the opportunity to earn up to 35,000 pounds. Teacher unions view this move as divisive.