Gareth Bale vs Mr Bale

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Julian Stanley imagines a world where teachers are treated like footballers, with massive salaries, transfer windows and specialist support teams.

Imagine: Fans eagerly await news of this season’s transfers. As the window opens, speculation is rife as to who will stay and who will go. There is jubilation from some as their latest signing is revealed. Others commiserate as their favourites move on. Bosses offer increasingly larger salaries to attract the best. Once contracts are signed, the stars appear in all the papers the next day. Youngsters (and some not so young) aspire to be like them. Imagine we were not talking about footballers – but teachers.

In this world of teacher transfers, schools would need significantly larger budgets. They would not spend all of it on staffing, of course, but on improving grounds, better resources and the best support for their stars. This support would cover everything from developing their professional skills to maintaining their health and wellbeing, as well as employing key support staff to assist them.

Schools would be celebrated in their own right. They would compete against each other not just on performance and exam results, but on how well they treated and developed their staff. There would be league tables so teachers could decide on the employers that would treat them the best.

Like footballers though, wages in this world would most likely be dictated by performance. Christian Bale will not be receiving £300,000 a week at Real Madrid to just deliver on the field, but also for his future potential and impact on the club’s revenues.

Likewise, teachers would be paid not just for delivering in the classroom and exam hall, but by what they might achieve over the course of a long-term career and, just as importantly, by the impact they will have on the students they teach.

This would inevitably create certain market conditions for teachers, but, unlike football, the pay for those teachers at the top of their game would not be quite so disproportionate to those who are struggling. All teachers might even feel more confident and proud, thanks to the faith, time and resource that has been invested in them. Applications for teacher training would certainly rise, while young people, when asked about their career aspirations, would proudly state: “I want to be a teacher.”

Sadly, teachers will never be in the same league as footballers. We will never really care about the pay and career of Mr Bale from the local secondary, as much as we do about Gareth Bale. Or will we?

Despite David Cameron joking earlier this that “if you ask children in the UK, all they want to be is pop stars and footballers”, research from the Education and Employers’ Taskforce found that teaching was still one of the top professions 15 and 16-year-olds aspire to. Sportsman or woman managed to only reach eighth place on the list.

Similarly, football chiefs argue that the reason footballers are paid so much is a case of supply and demand. The minute percentage that are paid extraordinary sums are in scarce supply compared to the relatively abundant supply of qualified teachers. Yet, given recent reports of a school places crisis and shortage of teachers, could we see the demand for education staff soon begin to outweigh supply? What is the impact on market conditions then?

This naturally raises the thorny issue of performance-related pay. Many are opposed, fearing that salary changes linked to performance could create competition and resentment. 

But given it has now happened, should the discussion not move on to what the parameters for assessing performance are going to be? Is this not an opportunity for teachers and those that represent them to help define a system that is transparent and accountable in that it recognises minimum standards but also benefits, encourages and celebrates those at the top of their game?

  • Julian Stanley is chief executive of the Teacher Support Network. Visit www.teachersupport.info or call 08000 562 561 (England), 08000 855088 (Wales).


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