Practical concerns over implementation of performance-related pay

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While backing the principle of performance-related pay, a think-tank report has raised key concerns about its implementation. At the same time, the report has drawn fierce criticism from teaching unions after it dismissed objections to new pay rules and c

Practical concerns over the implementation of performance-related pay must be addressed by government and schools, a right-wing think-tank has warned.

A paper by Policy Exchange cites a lack of expertise among headteachers, a lack of guidance from Ofsted or government, and teachers’ lack of faith in assessment methods as key challenges.

It also warns that performance-related pay must be used as a “real reward for excellence and not a way of holding down the overall pay bill”.

However, the report has drawn fierce criticism from teaching unions after it dismissed objections to the overall principle of performance-related pay as “without merit” and claimed that a majority of teachers support the policy.

The unions, have rejected many of the claims and figures in the report as “misleading” and “flawed”.

The government introduced performance-related pay last term and the first wage increases under the new system are due to take place in September.

The report, Reversing the ‘Widget Effect’, says that under the new rules, the best-performing teachers could be paid as much as £70,000 within five to eight years without leaving the classroom.

However, it highlights practical concerns which it says must be tackled by government and schools.

These include that “heads lack the expertise, capacity and will to design and implement a performance management system with associated payments; that the pace of implementation is too fast; and that the supporting infrastructure of government guidance and Ofsted guidelines is absent”.

A YouGov poll of 1,000 teachers for the report also found that a “lack of faith in evaluation” is the most significant objection raised by teachers. 

The report emphasises that new pay systems must be fair and transparent and should include an evaluation based on several measures, not just test or exam scores, and a prolonged evaluation over more than a year to “reduce volatility in results and to allow staff to adjust to new assessments”.

On the Policy Exchange blog, co-author Jonathan Simons said: “To make PRP work, schools will need to work hard to design systems that are reliable, have credibility with teachers and reward collaboration and pupil progress. This is no small task, raising questions about the effectiveness of the Department for Education’s current ‘hands-off’ approach.”

Despite these issues, the paper argues that performance-pay could attract more graduates to the profession, driving up the quality of teaching in schools. 

Policy Exchange also claims there is widespread support for performance-related pay among teachers, quoting the YouGov poll which it says found that “89 per cent of teachers want to be paid based on the quality of their teaching”.

It is this claim and its dismissal of arguments against performance-related pay – such as fears over the difficulty of measuring teachers’ individual contributions – that has angered unions. 

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, said the report was “flawed”. 

She added: “The best way to improve children’s education is to invest in high-quality initial and continuous training for teachers and other education staff. There is no evidence that performance-related pay for teachers will improve children’s education, nor any evidence that it will motivate teachers, or attract or retain the best teachers.

“It has nothing to do with improving children’s education, but everything to do with saving money. Schools will struggle to give any teachers a pay rise without cutting the pay or numbers of other teachers or support staff because the government is not making any more money available for salaries.

“The complexity and range of factors which influence how well children do at school make it far too difficult to devise a fair system of performance-related pay.”

Meanwhile, Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, rejected the claim that 89 per cent of teachers back performance-related pay as “misleading”.

He said: “Their figures, from a poll in September, asked teachers if they believe ‘quality of teaching’ should drive pay and progression. The majority of teachers would answer yes to this question as that is exactly what happens at present with teachers only moving up the pay scale if they have performed to the satisfaction of the school leadership.

“What Policy Exchange continues to resist telling people is that just two per cent of respondents in the same poll felt it ‘significantly more likely’ they would choose to work in a school where performance-pay was actually introduced.”

Mr Courtney agreed it was “next to impossible” to measure teachers’ individual contributions. He added: “Teaching is based on teamwork and every teacher contributes in some way to a student’s development. Decisions will be unfair, subjective or even discriminatory. There is no convincing evidence that linking pay to performance motivates teachers or secures better results.”


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