New performance-pay advice set to emphasise ‘no surprises’

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There should be a “no surprises” policy in schools when it comes to appraisals and pay determinations under the new performance-related pay system, the education secretary has emphasised.

There should be a “no surprises” policy in schools when it comes to appraisals and pay determinations under the new performance-related pay system, the education secretary has emphasised.

Michael Gove has confirmed that the Department for Education (DfE) is to issue additional advice to schools as they make the transition to performance-related pay.

The move has come as a result of the ongoing talks between education unions and DfE officials. 

Mr Gove wrote to the union general secretaries last week setting out areas in which he was happy to take their suggestions forward. A large part of his letter was dedicated to plans for new advice on performance-related pay.

In it, Mr Gove said he expects schools to use the new pay system to “pay the best teachers more”, however, he acknowledged that it will take time for “mature and flexible systems to be embedded fully”.

He wrote: “The programme of talks has been useful in clarifying thoughts on a range of issues. I therefore propose to issue additional departmental advice to support schools as they move into the crucial phase of preparing for appraisals and decisions on pay progression.”

The letter sets out what the advice will cover, including the “expectation that schools operate a ‘no surprises’ policy at the end of the reporting year in the context of appraisal and pay determinations, whilst acknowledging that there are responsibilities on the part of individual teachers as well as their line manager in terms of producing appropriate and proportionate evidence to support appraisal and pay discussions”.

The advice is also to explain the “range of evidence” that schools might use when assessing performance and will give practical support for governing bodies on the pay appeals process.

It will highlight schools’ responsibilities when it comes to equalities issues in the pay process and also set out the expectation that external providers or any materials used to support appraisal and pay processes “do not increase bureaucracy disproportionately”.

Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, emphasised that discussions were ongoing about the proposals.

He told SecEd: “We look forward to helping to shape the advice we have called for with (the other) unions and considering whether the proposals will be sufficient to provide the support schools need.

“Schools are doing what they can to get ready – the big problem is that there is no money to actually pay the best teachers more, so while Mr Gove says he wants to see the best paid more we can only do that by paying other people less. It’s very difficult to implement.”

Mr Lightman welcomed Mr Gove’s assertion that schools should maintain a “no surprises” policy, but warned that the training requirements for those at the heart of making decisions on appraisals and performance-pay are significant.

He added: “There is an enormous training need, particularly for middle leaders to be ready. They will have to set (performance) objectives within a very small timescale.” 

Elsewhere in his letter, Mr Gove also commits to working with the unions to monitor and evaluate the consequences of pay reform. He wrote: “In addition to this suite of additional advice to support schools, I would also be happy for the department to explore the viability of conducting joint monitoring and evaluation of pay reform implementation with a particular focus on the impact on recruitment and retention, workload, mobility and equalities issues.”


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