Dispelling the myths of performance-related pay

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As schools move to performance pay, heads who keep the current pay scales and progression will avoid the risks associated with the change, says Chris Keates.

This term, the secretary of state for education intends schools across England and Wales to review their pay policies in the light of the revisions he is proposing to the teachers’ pay structure.

The School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) has been amended to enable schools from September 2013 to design their own pay structure and pay progression. However, the proposed changes are premised on myths, misinformation and downright lies.

The secretary of state claims that these changes are to introduce a direct link between pay and performance and to enable schools to pay “good” teachers more. Teachers’ pay has in fact been directly linked to performance since new regulations were brought in 2000.

The secretary of state’s pious statement that the changes are about “paying good teachers more”, has been exposed by his own cabinet colleague the chancellor, who in his March Budget Statement made clear that substantial savings are being sought by restricting public sector pay progression. These changes are, and always have been, about paying everybody less.

The intention is to hack to pieces the national pay structure and create a free market free-for-all in teachers’ pay within and between schools, setting teacher against teacher and school against school.

Not content with blocking teachers’ pay progression, the secretary of state has also asked the School Teachers’ Review Body to recommend that it should be left to headteachers to determine whether the average one per cent pay uplift the chancellor is allowing public sector review bodies to consider for 2013 should be paid to anyone in the school at all.

So from September 2013 in England and Wales the entirety of the teachers’ pay structure, with the exception of minima and maxima points, will be stripped out of the STPCD and the entitlement to salary portability for teachers moving between schools will be removed. Headteachers, whose own salary scale and pay progression remains untouched, will have unlimited discretion over individual teachers’ pay progression. This despite the fact that all evidence shows that the greater the managerial discretion over pay the greater the discrimination, inequality and unfairness.

These changes, taken together with the removal of the requirement for schools to appoint only those with qualified teacher status, and the recent announcement of the coalition’s plans to attack teachers’ conditions of service, including the length of the working year, PPA time and other provisions, will, if unchallenged, turn teaching into a second-rate career, creating a recruitment and retention crisis. Applications for teacher training have already dropped dramatically and resignations from the profession are up.

Sensible headteachers will recognise the high risks these changes pose and will not wish to entertain the introduction of such divisive and demotivating pay arrangements. They will have no desire to be distracted from a focus on school improvement by the turbulence which would undoubtedly accompany attempts to reinvent a pay structure that has taken years to develop. 

They will have no wish to spend their time and the school’s resources dealing with the pay appeals, grievances and discrimination claims. They will have no intention of compromising their school’s ability to recruit and retain teachers.

As the secretary of state says that he trusts headteachers to make the right decision, they will therefore undoubtedly choose to exercise the discretion the changes to the regulations allow and retain the current pay scales and criteria for pay progression, thus maintaining stability and avoiding uncertainty and a potential breakdown in industrial relations. 

The NASUWT/NUT pay policy checklist, which is compliant with the regulatory provisions, is a simple tool which will support heads in managing the changes effectively.


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