Performance-related teacher pay: it simply does not work

You could argue that this has been a week of bad news in education (as it has in the ongoing Brexit omnishambles). A former independent school headteacher writes in Tes.

Following on the heels of Stephen Tierney, another blogger and leader of school leaders, Ros McMullen has had enough. She’s retiring early, not least because she “has simply had enough of having to do more with less, unintelligent and damaging accountability systems, constantly moving goalposts and supporting outstanding headteachers who are treated as the whipping boys for all the failings of social policy”.

Closer to home, I was chatting last weekend with my friend Jim, who teaches a Year 2 class in a village primary school. Notwithstanding several years’ experience under his belt, he’s currently anxious about his class’ Sats results. He’s worked out that, if just one of his weaker students scores less than 80 per cent overall, he’ll miss his performance target. And the consequence? No move up the pay scale.

Heads are under pressure, if not actual compulsion, to operate performance-related pay (PRP) within robust management systems. In the hard-nosed, cash-strapped world of UK education in 2019 (where two-thirds of teachers have not received the government’s promised 3.5 per cent pay rise after a decade-long freeze), most academies have introduced PRP, using financial rewards, or penalties, as “motivation” for teachers.

Simplistic judgements and inflexible, absurd targets hurt individual teachers, as well as whole schools and their heads. A teacher like Jim is hit in the wallet; schools are labelled and shamed, and heads roll. Small wonder that not only frontline teachers, but even successful, high-profile and widely admired heads like Stephen and Ros are getting out – tired of, in the words of the latter, “defending the indefensible”, as the school’s figurehead and public face is required to do.

How many heads, trying to stretch an inadequate budget, are tempted to set their staff unattainable targets to prevent the salary bill from growing (or even to shrink it, as is happening in many primaries)? How often might individual teachers “help” their class in their Sats, if next year’s salary depends on it?

Read the full article Performance-related teacher pay: it simply does not work 

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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