Monthly Archives: September 2018

Confusion about pay scales

A cynic might think that it suits the government to create confusion about pay increases, but whatever your view, it’s clear that this year’s changes have been complex. After years of fairly simple – if small – changes to pay, the soundbites surrounding this year’s changes along with the strange calculations about how it’s worked out have led to some confusion which I’m attempting to clear up here:

Extra funding

The DfE doesn’t have enough detail about which teachers earn what to allow it to make exact calculations at a school level. Having announced that it would fund any increase over 1%, the calculations are not that straightforward. The ‘estimate’ they have used has been calculated by working out roughly how much it will cost nationally, and then sharing the money out between schools based on their size.

This means that a typical 420-pupil primary school will be given an additional sum of nearly £12,000 for the whole year, which is intended to cover the additional increase.

Of course, if that school has lots of staff on the upper and leadership scales who only get the 2%/1.5% rise, it may cover all the costs over 1%; if they have lots of staff on main scale who should be getting 3.5%, it may not.

Which pay points are increasing.

Many people are reporting that only teachers at the bottom/top of each pay scale have been given a pay rise by the government. This is a confusion that stems from a misunderstanding about teachers pay. For 5 years now, the government has only set out minimum and maximum rates for each pay scale. Although as teachers we’re used to talking about points M1 to M6, and U1 to U3, these no longer exist by statute. The government sets out the minimum a newly-qualified teacher can be paid, and the maximum any teacher on the main scale can be paid; everything else in between is for schools to decide – normally based on the recommendation of their local authority. (Of course, many academies will also follow the national approach, so will also have the decision to make, although they can choose completely different pay scales if they prefer)

For that reason, the %age awards this year are only applied by the government to the minimum and maximum of each scale. It is then up to schools/LAs (and academies) to decide how to apply it elsewhere. What that means in practice is set out in some examples here:

  • A teacher on M1 who doesn’t move up to M2 (or its equivalent on its authority’s payscales) will automatically get the 3.5% increase, because the new minimum amount will increase (from £22,917 to £23,729 outside London)
  • A teacher on M1 who is offered a payrise by their school after appraisal or similar, will get whatever pay rise their school/LA policy allows for. For most schools that still means a move to the equivalent of the old M2 point (£24,728), based on the recommended pay scales that the unions publish together. Whether the amount of the M2 payment is increased by 3.5% is up to the LA’s pay policy. The government would argue that they are giving funding for all teachers to increase; an individual school.LA/academy may decide that it can’t afford that increase and take the opportunity to set pay points that are lower than the union recommendations.
  • Although the maximum of the main scale has been raised (from £33,824 to £35,008), it does not mean that all teachers currently paid at the old maximum are entitled to the new maximum. Again, its up to the policy of the local authority or academy trust.

The animation below is an attempt to show the main options for employers:

payscaleanimated

It would be a very odd choice to increase the pay of those at the top of the scale, while not increasing the pay of those on M5, or its equivalent. But arguably that is a choice open to local authorities & schools.

 

The fact that this confusion still lingers shows how few local authorities and academy trusts have moved away from the well-understood point system. I’d imagine there is a good likelihood that a majority of authorities will move all teachers up by the respective 3.5% / 2% / 1.5% increases that the government announced.

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On the importance of vocabulary

Just a quick blog, inspired by this much more detailed and challenging one by Solomon Kingsnorth:

I think he has a point about the importance of vocabulary, and it’s something we can easily underestimate. It’s also something we can worry that we’ll never be able to resolve, because there’s no way of knowing what vocabulary will come up in any given text or test.

So I took a look at this year’s KS2 Reading test paper and tried to identify some of the vocabulary required to answer each question. It’s not every word in the texts, but it’s also not just the case of the 10 marks theoretically set aside for vocabulary. In fact, I think there were 80 or more examples of vocabulary which might not have been met by pupils who don’t read regularly:

Q1 approximately, survive
Q2 disguise
Q3 razor-like, powerful
Q4 majority
Q5 develops, newborn
Q6 hibernate
Q7 captivity, territory
Q8 puzzling
Q9 vital, essential
Q10 extinction, survive, supplies, diminishing, poaching, territory
Q11 adopt, reserve
Q12 challenge
Q13  
Q14  
Q15 fascinating,
Q16 protective, enfold
Q17 punished
Q18 mountainous, praised, lavishly
Q19 wounded, lame, circumstance
Q20 seized
Q21  
Q22 vividly recall
Q23 frail, hobbled
Q24 hobbled, hesitate, peered
Q25  
Q26 lit up
Q27 amusing, shocking, puzzling, comforting
Q28 arrives, injured
Q29 verses
Q30 suggests, bothered, basins, smelt
Q31 lifeless, ancestors
Q32 guardian
Q33 devices (left to my own devices)
Q34 recesses
Q35 dawned (dawned on me)
Q36 assorted, debris, network, grime
Q37 detemination, thorough
Q38 impression, evidence, frightening, intensity, cautiously
Q39 justice, efforts
Q40 inspect, fashioned, ought

The only questions that are counted as vocabulary marks are the 10 written in italics. And all those ones in bold? They’re listed as inference questions in the mark schemes. The challenge of inference is often about interpreting complex language as much as it is about guessing what the writer intended.

Perhaps more importantly, very few of those words are technically specific to the texts they appeared in. Even in the case of the non-fiction text about pandas, much of the apparently technical vocabulary is applicable to plenty of other contexts that children meet in the course of the curriculum.

The link here to ‘tier two’ vocabulary is clear: there is plenty of vocabulary here that would come up in a number of different contexts, both through fiction and non-fiction reading.

Which rather makes me think that Solomon is on to something important: a significant part of teaching reading is about getting them reading and reading to them.