The long-awaited arrival of spring does not just herald the first lambs, fluffy chicks, fresh new shoots on the stark branches of wind-battered trees and (hopefully) some warmer weather, but it is also union conference season. As is always the case, attention turns to the terms and conditions of the memberships with the inevitable talk of strike action and votes of no confidence in those that lead us.
This year, speakers’ topics were dominated by the newly introduced concept of performance-related pay (PRP) with, perhaps not surprisingly, a variety of views being expressed. As we all know, PRP has been around for a very long time and is not even new to education.
When the upper pay scale was introduced, teachers had to demonstrate their ability in a broad range of skills, including final examination outcomes. Although the hoops we jump through to move through the upper pay scale are now much reduced, I have always required colleagues to demonstrate appropriate levels of progress for their classes, their contribution to whole-school initiatives, and consistent performance in the classroom.
Those scare-mongering union representatives that talk of PRP being assessed purely on raw attainment do the profession a disservice. Instead, I anticipate that school leaders will take a much broader range of factors into account when assessing an individual teacher’s performance. These will include context, value-added, individual circumstances and compliance with the Teachers’ Standards. This is exactly what I intend to do and, furthermore, I have already drawn up a draft policy for scrutiny by staff and governors which reflects just this view.
So, to my mind PRP is actually a non-issue. Instead, I find myself grappling with a very different pay-related dilemma. As we pass Easter, the pressure of impending exams begins to build and my colleagues begin to squabble among themselves over lunchtime and after-school slots for revision sessions and who has the greater case for the “best” slots. Clearly there is an argument for giving priority to English and maths, but this can cause resentment among teachers in other subjects.
Inevitably, I end up having to arbitrate in a turf war that I want no part in. My view has always been that making too many revision sessions available to students creates a dependency and lulls them into a false sense of security, with the result that they do very little independent revision at home in the belief that attending revision sessions is all that is required.
But whether or not revision sessions take place and who gets priority is not my dilemma on this occasion. Instead, what I struggle with is whether I should pay colleagues for putting on revision sessions during the school holidays. My view is that the extended holiday periods teachers enjoy are payback for the intensity of the job during term-time. But when staff undertake work such as marking and lesson preparation during the holiday periods, as we know they do, we do not pay them over and above their salary. Why should the same principle not apply to the running of revision sessions out of term-time?
My dilemma is further compounded by Ofsted’s publication on the effective use of Pupil Premium, which advocates the payment of staff for such activities. However, I still cannot quite come to terms with what I see as a double payment. But if I don’t pay, am I depriving students of access to additional support which could be crucial to their success? Furthermore, am I taking advantage of the good will of my colleagues who I know will run sessions regardless of whether they receive payment or not? Answers on a postcard please...
Diary of a headteacher is written anonymously and in rotation by three practising headteachers from schools across the country.