The coalition’s biggest clash with trade unions so far is fast approaching. From October, the NASUWT and NUT teaching unions are carrying out a series of regional walkouts over the introduction of performance related pay. Unfortunately for the unions, new polling from Populus shows the public are not on their side.

When questioned on how teachers’ pay should be decided, 61 per cent of those polled said they agreed that ‘schools should be able to set the pay of individual teachers based on the quality of their performance as determined by an annual appraisal’, as opposed to 28 per cent who believe teachers should receive the same amount, based on time served and not performance. 40 per cent also stated pay should be based on an annual assessment — similar to other public sector jobs — and not pupils’ exam results.

When asked what is the most important factor in deciding teachers’ pay, only eight per cent plumped for length of service — the current measure. On the upcoming strike action, over two thirds said they did not support the plans to strike — including a third who believed teachers should be banned from striking (like the Police) as they provide an essential public service.

Michael Gove has long campaigned to give schools more control over the employment terms of teachers. From this September, head teachers in England and Wales will have the freedom to abolish automatic pay rises and instead link pay to performance. The Education Secretary could go even further in improving classroom standards: by sacking teachers. As Fraser explained in the Spectator magazine last month, sacking bad teachers can have a tremendous economic effect as well as making a substantial difference to a child’s education.

If Gove triumphs in this battle for control, it will be another giant step forward in bringing more competition and fairness to schools. With the public on his side, this is one union confrontation the Tories will surely have no problem in winning.

Tags: Michael Gove, NASUWT, National Union of Teachers, Teachers' pay, Teaching unions, UK politics