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Why Performance Related Pay won’t work

Why Performance Related Pay won’t work

There is no evidence that performance related pay (PRP) will improve teaching or educational standards. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) published a paper in 2012 which said “the overall picture reveals no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes.” The OECD’s international studies of education systems are independent of government, well established and highly esteemed. The UK Government itself often quotes from them.  The OECD’s research has also shown that the highest performing education systems have teachers who are well paid and have a high status in society.  The Secretary of State’s proposals threaten to undermine this.

PRP may lead to narrower choices and opportunities for children and young people because it will distort teaching practice. Teachers must be allowed, encouraged and empowered to take risks in relation to their teaching practice and classroom projects.  PRP will inhibit this exploration and innovation. Teachers should not be placed in the impossible position of choosing between their financial self-interest and the interests of the students they are teaching. Canadian academic Ben Levin, who has extensive experience in both education and policy making, and helped influence significant improvements in Ontario’s education system, says that under PRP “goals that are measured in relation to pay are likely to get more attention at the expense of other goals that are not measured, whether those are different subject areas or soft skills or relationships with students."
PRP will undermine and disrupt the factors that we already know lead to effective school improvement Rather than suggesting that increasing pay for selected teachers will improve educational standards, it would be preferable to learn the lessons from proven ways to target funding such as the City Challenge model in Birmingham, London and the Black Country. Research evidence is clear that the City Challenge initiative produced measurable and sustainable school improvement. This broad approach to school improvement is a successful and appropriate approach and is more cost effective that other strategies’. Teachers and school leaders currently work together to identify teachers’ training and development needs in order to continue improving and developing their professional knowledge, their teaching skills, their contribution to pupils’ learning, and specific roles across the school.  Very often, when schools pay course fees and release teachers to attend professional development courses, they will ask the teacher to share the benefit of what they have learned with other colleagues for the good of the whole school. In a competitive system of PRP, why would teachers admit that they had a learning or development need that they wanted to address to improve their teaching?  Would teachers feel able to report challenging pupil behaviour and classroom management issues? It cannot be in the interests of learners for teachers to work in a system which discourages them from being open about their own professional development needs for fear of financial penalty.

The majority of teachers are far more concerned about workload than any apparent benefits of PRP. According to a recent Policy Exchange poll only 2% of teachers said that it would make them significantly more likely to want to work in a school where pay was more explicitly linked to overall performance.  Far more said it would make them less likely. Even under the proposal of PRP being offered in return for an imagined reduction in bureaucratic workload, only 13% said that it would make them significantly more interested in working in a school with PRP. Yet in many schools the introduction of PRP will lead to a much greater bureaucratic workload as head teachers introduce new forms and evidence gathering.

Teachers work in a collaborative fashion. Young people’s success depends on the interplay between the work of all their teachers. There is also every scope in linking pay to performance for the creation of unfairness. The prospect of each individual school setting its own pay system frankly represents a bureaucratic nightmare.  It is time Michael Gove listened to the real concern of teachers and engaged in a meaningful way to resolve the issues that matter to teachers.

Teachers are incredibly concerned about bureaucracy, workload and pay issues with which the Secretary of State is failing to engage. Michael Gove wants to make the working year longer, not shorter, and remove guarantees on non-teaching time and limits on cover and carrying out bureaucratic tasks. There is no improvement in pay on offer either. The Education Secretary talks constantly about allowing the best teachers to be paid more, but cuts in school funding mean that paying some teachers more means paying more teachers less and a cut in the overall teachers' pay bill.