The coalition must fight to defend performance-related pay for teachers

Lauren Thorpe is a former secondary school teacher and is now research and corporate partnership director at the independent think tank Reform. Writing in City AM she says introducing performance related pay could be the most positive change the coalition government will oversee…

…From September, all schools will be able to link teachers’ pay more closely with performance. The government’s reform to pay will transform the market for teachers. Pay rises based on length of service will disappear, decisions on pay will need to be individual, and all schools will be able to offer one-off and fixed-term bonuses to keep and attract the best teachers.

This brings teacher pay more in line with policies in the private sector, where fewer than one in ten businesses reward tenure, and over three quarters provide some form of bonus or incentive scheme. Many in the private sector would find it incredible to reward employees based solely on years of experience rather than performance. And 62 per cent of the public agree. Yet this is the status quo in schools, despite the fact that teacher quality is the most significant driver in improving pupil outcomes.

Teachers account for the majority of school spending and are paid relatively well against international benchmarks. Yet around 20 per cent of English schools have teaching that is not good enough. In the most deprived areas it is over a third. Interestingly (but perhaps not surprisingly), the average teacher salary in a school is much the same, regardless of teacher quality. The average annual salary difference between schools with outstanding teaching and schools with inadequate teaching is just £644 per teacher. In English schools, not all teachers offer good value.

In focusing on performance management, there is an opportunity for underperforming schools to up their game. We know this is possible because the best schools already do it. School leaders want to be able to reward outstanding performance and incentivise improvement. Durand Academy in Lambeth already operates a pay scheme which allows teachers to earn significantly more when they do their job well. The school measures teachers on pupil achievement, leadership, and personal performance. And Durand also withholds pay rises from underperforming teachers. As Sir Greg Martin, executive head at the school has put it: “We have never tolerated under-performance. This reform will underscore this requirement nationally.”

Introducing performance-related pay for teachers will perhaps turn out to be the single most significant and positive change to the education system that this government will oversee. Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, the National Association of Head Teachers, and the Association of School and College Leaders all support the reforms which provide the framework to improve the quality of the workforce. Conversely, the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers union, has warned that the proposals will lead to “inequality and discrimination”. The union is already preparing its placards for further strikes over pay and conditions in the autumn, with demands that the proposals are withdrawn. But good and improving teachers should welcome these changes to pay. Protecting underperforming staff will slow the pace of reform, so head teachers and Michael Gove must hold their nerve.

More at:  The coalition must fight to defend performance-related pay for teachers

See also: Worst schools ‘pay teachers almost as much as the best’

Your thoughts on @laurenthorpeUK‘s arguments? Do you agree that, properly implemented, performance related pay for teachers could improve standards in teaching and benefit education? Or do you fear it will increase inequality? Is the biggest issue not the principle but the actual mechanics of how it will work in practice? Please let us know what you think in the comments and on twitter…

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Categories: Employment.


  1. drmattoleary

    SchoolsImprove Won’t PRP just promote divisiveness & unhealthy competition among teachers? Performance ‘criteria’ is suspect & subjective

  2. 68ron

    SchoolsImprove emmaannhardy laurenthorpeUK Save me the bother. Does Lauren find any countries where PRP gets better results for children?

  3. Chrysalis

    So…. if you are a good teacher, would you apply to work in a poor school and be paid less?  No.  The only people likely to end up in poor-performing schools with challenging intakes will be the teachers who cannot find jobs elsewhere.  
    In previous announcements, the government talked about getting the best teachers into the under-performing schools.  this PRP policy will have the opposite effect.

  4. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove Says ex-teacher who isn’t affected by PRP. It sounds a great idea on paper but could be used badly/wrongly by some HTs

  5. andylutwyche

    “drmattoleary: SchoolsImprove Performance ‘criteria’ is suspect & subjective” – agreed, which means it could be used adversely for some

  6. BeckyCheAbas

    SchoolsImprove laurenthorpeUK Trite, silly piece from ex-TeachFirster exposing no understanding of how state schools function effectively.

  7. drmattoleary

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove Part of Gove’s plan to increase powers of HTs, thought up before election & enshrined in DfE 2010

  8. drmattoleary

    andylutwyche SchoolsImprove White Paper based on market view of educ & premise that ‘strong’ HTs are what’s needed to ‘lead’ improvement

  9. WS_GA

    drmattoleary SchoolsImprove Healthy competition, survival of the fittest. Better outcomes for children can only be a good thing.

  10. drmattoleary

    BeckyCheAbas SchoolsImprove laurenthorpeUK Agree. The whole PRP issue is ill conceived, whimsical & crude attempt to ‘divide & rule’!

  11. B4Susan

    SchoolsImprove bonuses in the USA resulted in cheating. Experience in private sector is rewarded financially, as is cost of living raises

  12. schlteacher

    SchoolsImprove My schl budget is in deficit so I can’t see anyone getting a payrise this yr – good or bad teacher. Certainly no PRP for us.

  13. BramRaider

    SchoolsImprove So a teacher who got out of the classroom (couldn’t hack it) states its a good thing!
    Exceptional choice to listen to.

  14. janbaker97

    Treating education a a business is never going to work for the simple reason that the product, ie children, are not inanimate objects able to be mass packaged down a conveyor belt. If the argument for introducing PRP is to pay based partly on pupil achievement then this is grossly flawed because people need to remember that PUPIL EFFORT also has a major impact on achievement & this is often outside teacher control.. teachers can only do so much, the rest has to come from the pupils!   And teaching is about so much more than results which is often not measurable.  And personal performance:  Are schools going to set targets like you must spent at least 20 lunchtimes this year sorting out pupil squabbles?…  How ridiculous!   
    Schools have always had the power to pay teachers more so PRP is not necessary for this – it’s a reason to cut budgets & pay.. nothing more…  And what happens if you are forced to accept unreasonable pupil attainment targets?  You are set up to fail before you start!

  15. janbaker97

    Chrysalis   I work in an inner city, highly deprived area where pupils need the very best teachers far more than public school children!  I feel very sorry for these children if this is introduced.. what incentive is there to teach them?  Moral ethics are all very well, but I have a family to feed too & I pay as many taxes as every other private sector worker!

  16. Sue_Cowley

    BeckyCheAbas schlteacher SchoolsImprove laurenthorpeUK What a sad attitude .. what happened to ‘collegiality’? Is this what TF leads to?

  17. schlteacher

    SchoolsImprove laurenthorpeUK 1/2 I am so fed up hearing this from so called experts. We are teaching real chld not statistics…

  18. schlteacher

    SchoolsImprove laurenthorpeUK 2/2 & given how many chld are tutored(50% in London apparently) may well reward tchs whose class rec ex help

  19. Susan_Wilde

    MikeCraven5 SchoolsImprove Every output target distorts. Good perf outcome measures at levels student to national is Gove’s challenge

  20. JennyCameron

    SchoolsImprove My husband jokes that I would remain in my current school even if they decided my post was voluntary…

  21. It is the case that management researchers have shown
    that for workers engaged in routine operations performance-related pay is a
    successful strategy for increasing output, but for workers engaged in complex
    cognitive operations it does not improve their efficiency but risks
    disenchanting them.  Come on, REFORM, get real.
    “Academic evidence has increasingly
    mounted indicating that performance related pay leads to the opposite of the
    desired outcomes when it is applied to any work involving cognitive rather than
    physical skill. Research funded by the undertaken at the with input from professors from the and repeatedly demonstrated that as long as the tasks
    being undertaken are purely mechanical performance related pay works as
    expected. However once rudimentary cognitive skills are required it actually
    leads to poorer performance.
    experiments have since been repeated by a range of economists, sociologists and
    psychologists with the same results. Experiments were also undertaken in , where the financial
    amounts involved represented far more significant sums to participants and the
    results were again repeated. These findings have been specifically highlighted
    by in his work examining how motivation works.”   (Wikipedia

  22. ChrisChivers2

    schlteacher Sue_Cowley BeckyCheAbas SchoolsImprove laurenthorpeUK Who gets the classes where it’s easier to show progress?

  23. John Eglin

    Performance related pay in the private sector helps companies improve performance (allegedly) so the company makes more money. The firm can offer more cash to new recruits to attract the best candidates because it is making more money or is investing in future performance which will again generate more cash.
    The problem with this approach in a state school is how we are funded. We have a budget based on average teacher pay. Schools cannot make more money than they are given although there is freedom to prioritise. However as salaries make up the lion’s share of the pot this freedom is severely restricted. PR pay is therefore a zero sum game in schools.
    This limitation will result in major difficulties. Here are just two scenarios. If you happen to have a fantastic high performing staff most of whom deserve to be paid well the school will not be able to reward everyone. How would such a school ensure fairness and maintain a good team spirit.  In a poorly performing school pay cannot be cut .There is therefore not enough cash to reward a significant number of new staff who might improve the school. 
    Of course the main problem with PR pay is that teachers generally are not well motivated by money. The people that are generally work in the private sector. Public service is different, bringing intrinsic rewards not easily found in a call-center or a bank. The priorities for most teachers when looking for a job are supportive colleagues and management; aspects of schools that will be undermined by performance related pay.
    John Eglin
    Shropshire Headteacher

  24. Organic_Jane

    SchoolsImprove Children are not products or things to be marketed.Funding is per pupil & in fact the better the results the less you get!

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