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Peformance pay for teachers may be 'potentially divisive'
Performance-related pay is coming and not everyone thinks it is in the best interests of schools. Pat Howarth, principal of Hummersknott Academy in Darlington explains why he has reservations.
The new school year will be marked by the much-heralded advent of performance related pay in schools.
Many will say that this is a long overdue initiative, particularly in those under-performing schools where beleaguered teachers have been in the firing line for academic failings.
I, along with many of my peers in a leadership role at school, see that linking pay with performance may have a potentially divisive and negative impact that could trump any motivational benefits.
As the principal of a school that is high performing, and in the words of Ofsted "good with outstanding features", I approach this issue with the education system as a whole in my sights.
There have already been moves in the direction of performance pay in the NHS with a proposal that an element of basic pay will be put at risk if key objectives are not met.
A survey by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development found that a majority of public sector workers are opposed and the evidence about the effect of performance pay on organisations' performance both in the public and private sector is mixed at best.
One US study into the effects of performance pay found that piece rates and monitoring workers can improve quantity or quality - but that there is a trade-off between the two. Getting improvements in both "requires more committed workers" which, it could be argued, is not best achieved by further distinguishing between workers doing exactly the same job.
Some environments, such as a sales force, may benefit very positively from setting performance linked salaries, but others - prime among those are schools - would potentially suffer as a result.
How can it be equitable to set teacher pay based on outcomes for students when these depend upon the work of a team of staff not just that individual? For example, a student who has been a poor attender. At Hummersknott the college manager will intervene, attendance improves, the child has additional support from a learning mentor and by the end of the year makes good progress, yet the teacher is credited with the achievement.
I am not opposed to performance management being linked to pay. However, the vast majority of teachers are not motivated by pay. When you think back to your own childhood, the good teacher who spurred you on was not motivated by a bonus but by the sheer love of doing the job.
Good teachers entering the profession are not motivated by bonuses but by the love of doing the job and by the sheer joy of setting young people out on the path of life.
When we apply the principles of performance linked to pay we need to consider a range of measures beyond student progress. At Hummersknott this includes quality of teaching based upon lesson observations, scrutiny of students' work, contribution to the wider development of each child and contribution to Academy improvement. This gives a more holistic assessment of a teacher's performance which matches our own belief that exam results alone do not give a measure of what a good education is about: development of the whole child, providing a rich diet of extra-curricular activities, sport, and the arts. In the end the concept of performance related pay is a meaningless idea; why would a school employ a teacher who was not considered worthy of meeting the expectations of the head and governors, and so was not allowed to receive the next increment? From another perspective, what happens where a teacher's performance is considered not good enough but no training and support has been given?
Finally, these arrangements arrive at a time when school budgets are under pressure. Some may decide to save money by not allowing teachers to progress on the relevant pay spine. However, to do so will drive the best teachers away and make recruitment of new staff very difficult. Money is saved, but at what cost to the children?
In summary, I feel that these proposals will have little impact on outcomes for children. In schools with good monitoring of teacher performance and high quality professional development they will also have little impact on pay progression. They will, however, create a great deal of extra work and responsibility for hard pressed governors. It needs to be remembered that these unpaid volunteers are the ones who will be asked to find the time to make judgements on the 75 teachers employed at Hummersknott Academy, as well as the time to attend up to 30 meetings.
All in all, a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Sadly, something we in schools will have to get used to now that education has become a political football.
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