Performance-related pay is ‘cut-throat approach’ says former Tory darling

The TES is reporting comments from a free school founder previously praised by Michael Gove saying the introduction of performance-related pay for teachers is “a cut-throat” approach that will “destroy the ethos of schools”…

Katharine Birbalsingh said performance pay, which will come into effect in September, turns the focus of teachers away from their pupils and on to themselves and could mean “the end of goodwill in schools”.

Ms Birbalsingh, who lost her job after giving a speech to the 2010 Conservative Party conference condemning state education as “broken”, said top private schools “would not touch performance pay with a barge pole” because they knew how it could harm their ethos.

Speaking to TES prior to her talk at the Festival of Education at Wellington College today, she said that, with the exception of jobs such as banking and factory production lines, performance pay “damages organisations”.

She said: “If you are in a factory making toothbrushes, performance-related pay works really well. But when the work has to do with creating team spirit, thinking, developing ideas, it will actually harm your organisation. It makes people think only about the individual and it focuses the mind on the wrong things.

“Heads depend on teachers putting their all in because they love children and putting something in which undermines the love of children into your school, to me, it’s just suicide.”

She said Michael Gove had introduced the change with “good intentions” because it would encourage competition, but that did not mean it would have a positive effect…

She said the system had been introduced as a means of penalising coasting or poorly performing teachers, but it amounted to “a sledgehammer to crack a nut.” The majority worked hard anyway and did the job for the satisfaction of what they could achieve with children, she added.

Ms Birbalsingh, who is the founder and principal of the new Michaela Community School in Brent, opening in September, said she would not be introducing performance pay…

Ms Birbalsingh’s tirade against performance-related pay follows research from the social mobility charity the Sutton Trust, which found that resistance to performance pay may be falling among the teaching profession…

More at: Performance-related pay is ‘cut-throat approach’ says former Tory darling

Katharine Birbalsingh makes a lot of claims about PRP but the approach seems to be used far more widely than she suggests would be appropriate – does the evidence therefore suggest it might be more versatile than she thinks or has she got this right (at least as far as use in schools is concerned)? Please give us your thoughts and feedback in the comments or via Twitter…

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Categories: Employment and Teaching.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove The sooner the education world gets the fact that schools can’t afford pay rises for staff, the sooner this debate ends

  2. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove In order for PRP to be implemented by any school one teacher will have to lose out for another to gain. Not workable

  3. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove PRP will ensure that very few, if any teachers ever get a pay rise, and I suspect that Gove knows this, despite claims here

  4. Janet2

    The Sutton Trust (aka The Education Endowment Foundation) may say that resistance to PRP among teachers is falling (hardly surprising, since overt resistance might mean no PRP or even losing a job), but the Sutton Trust’s toolkit says:

    “Performance pay has been tried on a number of occasions, however the evidence of impact on student learning does not support the approach.”

    But Gove ignores any evidence that doesn’t support his prejudices.  Even the opposition of Birbalsingh, one-time Tory darling, won’t change that.

  5. Janet2

    Birbalsingh did not lose her job because she told the Tory conference British education was “broken”.  She lost it because she acted unprofessionally.   She showed pictures of pupils to the Tory conference and then mocked one of them to the delight of her audience.

    That said, there were nuggets of truth in her book “To Miss With Love”. Teachers are under pressure to produce results.   OFSTED has redefined “satisfactory” as “unsatisfactory”.  League tables are unfit for purpose and have a divisive affect on the entire school system: 

    She wrote: “Our understanding of learning for the sake of learning is long gone, lost in a sea of tables and corruption. Sure, schools should be judged but league tables are not the way to do it.”

    Neither, she now writes, is performance-related pay.

  6. davowillz

    SchoolsImprove I agree. In terms of producing a good education system, introducing performance related pay is like cutting your own throat.

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