Academy principal argues for performance-related pay for teachers

Performance-related pay for teachers gets under way in state schools next term and the Northern Echo has an article by Debbie Clinton, principal at Nunthorpe Academy in Middlesbrough, who argues why schools should embrace this new approach. This is an extract…

…As before, the STPCD is a gargantuan 106 page read; and the DfE advice a ‘pithy’ 30 pages long. However, this time it is well worth the read and well worth the effort.

Mr Gove’s letter says: “The purpose of the pay reforms is to give schools the autonomy to attract, recruit and reward the teachers that they need. It is for each school to decide, within the law, on the right pay policy for their local circumstances….”

Used properly, the new draft STPCD and the accompanying DfE advice, which is remarkably helpful, can help us all to achieve exactly that.

But the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) has claimed that the 2013 Draft STPCD could “increase substantially the workloads of headteachers and governing bodies, distract them from the important focus on teaching and learning and put schools at serious risk of legal challenge.” In our view they could not be more wrong.

Let us examine these specific claims made by the teaching unions: “That adopting the 2013 STPCD changes will ‘increase substantially the workloads of headteachers and governing bodies”

This is unlikely to be the case at Nunthorpe.

We already have an established culture of robust applications for the career progression of Nunthorpe staff. We do not move any teaching colleagues onto higher pay levels without a substantial base of absolute and relative performance evidence.

In our recent Ofsted Inspection, inspectors found “rigorous procedures for managing teachers’ performance ensure that staff are accountable for the progress their students make. The academy robustly links this to salary progression.”

In adapting the DfE Model Pay and Progression Policy along with our experience of performance related pay – at middle and senior teachers’ leaders levels – we are not only confident that workloads will not be increased, but actually that it will be reduced as expertise and confidence grows.

*That adopting the 2013 STPCD changes will “distract them [headteachers and governing bodies] from the important focus on teaching and learning…”

We would argue the exact opposite to be the case.

We use detailed evidence based firmly on teaching and learning when arriving at pay decisions. This includes lesson observations, Ofsted inspections, exam performance and parent and student feedback.

It is simply nonsense to claim that such work is a distraction.

It is surely the core purpose of all school leaders to be absolutely confident that the teachers employed in our schools are the very best they can be; and that those teachers are rewarded accordingly.

In examining such evidence for all of our teachers pay performance decisions become clear, transparent and consistent.

The teaching unions also claim that adopting the 2013 STPCD changes will “put schools at serious risk of legal challenge.”

I remain unsure why this would become more likely than in the current status quo.

What the new STPCD finally does for ambitious school leaders and governors is enable them to:

*Arrive at a proper market rate for salaries which will, as with all other professions, be determined by a combination of factors – including regional contexts.

*Operate our schools with the necessary staffing flexibility.

*Properly reward high performing teachers.

*Set a competitive salary for a role and not be bound by another school’s pay decisions.

Teachers, along with virtually all other professions, will need to negotiate pay packages on each occasion.

Clearly, school leaders would be foolish not to at least match a high quality employee’s current pay package.

Nunthorpe Academy is disappointed by the lack of courage at the heart of the NASUWT/NUT Model Pay Policy.

It is a cautious document set on preserving aspects of the unsatisfactory status quo.

I also have yet to meet a governing body that would be willing to guarantee a one per cent pay uplift for their teaching staff in the context of standstill budget settlements.

It would be all too easy for us all to simply adopt the Model NASUWT/NUT Pay Policy. But taking a path of least resistance would be letting down our students. The future success of our country rests upon our young people and equipping them with a quality education – we must do whatever is in their best interests to achieve that goal.

More at:  Academy principal argues for performance-related pay for teachers

Do you agree that teacher unions have been to quick to condemn performance related pay or do you think Debbie Clinton’s arguments are flawed or naive? Please share in the comments or on twitter… 

UK faces desperate shortage of science and maths teachers
How to stop your children being cyber bullied (or cyber bullies)
Categories: Employment.


  1. Janet2

    Is it any coincidence that Debbie Clinton was recently praised by Michael Gove in the Commons?  And here she is pushing the Gove line about performance-related pay (PRP).  She poses a false choice: either performance-related pay or “letting down our students”.
    She accuses the NASUWT/NUT pay policy as “lacking courage” and “cautious”.  It’s not a lack of courage that requires professionals to be cautious but a desire to ensure that policies are underpinned by evidence.   But the evidence suggests otherwise:
    Gove described Nunthorpe academy as “a school that has gone from special measures to outstanding in the last couple of years.”   He had been misinformed – see:

  2. (2nd draft) A robust set of arguments here and good to see the challenge to conventional views from the main teacher unions. Janet1 (below) does not argue against Debbie’s view but looks at research critiquing PRP and wants an evidence based approach. So, what is the way forward? Our view at is that whatever position you take on appraisal, performance related pay and capability, it is professional suicide not to self-evaluate. For anyone paid to do a job, there is a simple truth – we are paid to perform to an acceptable level. So, knowing how well you are doing the job is absolutely critical. The iAbacus is the only equal opportunity, inclusive, self evaluation on line tool to support professional development in schools – whatever position you take on PRP etc…..It gives the user (whether they be head/principal, teacher, teaching assistant, governor) the opportunity to identify barriers to improvement and helping factors too.  More importantly it gets into planning not just describing the situation. Have a look at it here:

    • Janet2

      John Pearce Appraisal and self-evaluation are not the same as performance related pay for teachers.  The latter can be debased into payment by results.  And there’s always the sneaking suspicion that heads could reward their favourites and sycophants.

      • Janet2Janet2 John Pearce I agree they are not the same but want to argue, like you, that PRP without (evidence based) appraisal can become debased.  Furthermore appraisal, without the appraisee (teacher, head etc) getting their own evidence together by self-evaluation first, risks becoming a one sided dialogue.  I want teachers and heads to be stronger professionals through self-evaluation. Let us kill sneaking suspicions and scupper sycophants with evidence based arguments.  We have deliberately put into The iAbacus a section for analysis of what is HELPING and crucially, what is HINDERING progress to allow teachers, heads, teaching assistants and governors to list these factors.  That allows and surfaces the kinds of “unrealistic” targets listed elsewhere in these postings…

  3. janbaker97

    Ah there is a very important phrase here – “used properly!”   
    So, what happens when you are set totally unrealistic examination targets (and have no choice but to accept them)?  Surely you are set up to fail before you start under PRP?  
    This isn’t to reward hardworking staff who work anything in excess of 50 hours per week & a lot of their unpaid holidays too – it’s prime fodder for schools to cut their budgets!  Schools have always had the option to pay their staff more if they want to so introducing PRP wasn’t necessary if the argument is that it’s designed to allow schools to pay their staff more! 
    And the right pay policy for local circumstances mean that as wages are generally a lot lower in the north, any teacher wanting to teach there must accept that they will get paid less, especially if they find themselves in a challenging school (where pupils need the very best teachers far more than privately educated ones!) with poor examination results precisely because of the “local circumstances”.  If no teacher has any incentive to teach there, it’s the pupils who will ultimately pay the price!  
    And focusing on teaching & learning is one thing.. getting pupils & parents to take responsibility for their learning so they achieve their potential is something else – especially as FFT data is a percentage game & takes no account of the person concerned – and until that’s sorted, teachers may always be put in a position where they can be penalized for things outside of their control under this regime.
    Sorry but as a serving teacher, you’ll have to do better than that to convince me!

  4. robcampbe11

    SchoolsImprove Much merit in what Debbie is suggesting. Current system not great & broad evidence will be used so not ‘pay by results’.

    • janbaker97

      @robcampbe11 SchoolsImprove  So what happens if you are not “liked” by your pupils because you challenge them & do your job properly?  Still very subjective!!

  5. janbaker97

    Oh and I forgot to add, that’s not even taking into account the messing around by the government with the actual exam grades themselves – so nobody has any idea how to predict a grade accurately any more – it’s pure guess work until the results come out..  Factor that one in & tell me it’s easy to judge performance!!

  6. Janet2

    John Pearce Janet2 You are, of course, marketing your own product here.  In a pre-computer world (most of my teaching career) my head knew exactly how I was performing without the need to use IT.  It was called observation.

  7. Janet2 John Pearce Why does it hurt (and is maybe meant to) that you say “marketing a product”?  I am, of course, promoting an idea, based on 40 years work in the profession, of which I’m proud (the profession). I’m also trying to inject some reality in what often becomes a silly slagging match.  I think all who work for pay should be prepared to guarantee a reasonable service be they bankers, window cleaners, singers or teachers or even people selling products.  Don’t we all want value for money in services, or products we buy?  The iAbacus was actually  forged, without  computers in Special Measures school.  In the end it’s the moral purpose of the individual that matters to me – across all professions…  We are using IT because it makes the process easier – I dare you to try it – that’s why there is a free trial  🙂

  8. janbaker97

    John Pearce Janet2  I personally work around 70 hours a week providing the best “service” that I can.. plus I’ve spent at least 3 days this holiday on school stuff with another four or five days worth of work to do before we go back..  I think that’s plenty of bang for their bucks!!

  9. drmattoleary

    balance_ec SchoolsImprove. Don’t see how this is an ‘argument’ for PRP. Built on idea of individualism & market principles = way forward

  10. drmattoleary

    balance_ec SchoolsImprove. Noticeably absent from this shallow ‘argument’ are notions of teacher collaboration, helping each other etc

  11. drmattoleary

    balance_ec SchoolsImprove. Important to challenge such facile, Darwinian views on fostering excellence in education.

  12. drmattoleary

    PFJ132 balance_ec SchoolsImprove. If your philosophy of educational improvement is inspired by Gordon Gekko then you’ll be ok!

  13. Janet2

    janbaker97 John Pearce Janet2 
    Exactly.  I did the same before I retired.  No account seems to be being made for the amount of hours that teachers spend on school-related work.  Performance-related pay assumes that people are motivated by money.  But this isn’t the case with professions like teaching.  Those in favour of PRP talk about “rewarding” good teachers but, as the OECD found, it’s formidably difficult to do well.  And if it isn’t done well it breeds low morale and resentment.

  14. wheresoulbegins

    SchoolsImprove what are these “packages” of which principal speaks”? Car, BUPA, extra hols based on length of service, profit based bonus?

  15. kalinski1970

    Wonderacademy she was the Head of Sixth at the first school I worked at…only member of SLT that used to send missives rather than memos

Let us know what you think...