I have been a teacher of English for 24 years, a Headteacher for 9 years and, at the age of 48, this much I know about performance-related pay for teachers.
Who brought politics into education? Last December I was asked by a BBC reporter whether I regretted bringing politics into education and my reply was, quite simply, that it was the politicians who brought politics into education, not me. Since then I have tried very hard to be a-political in these pages but I fear what follows might break my resolve.
We’re seeing the marketisation of education hidden in plain view. Whilst the rhetoric from Michael Gove is collaborate, collaborate, collaborate, DfE policy-making encourages competition at every level. Ask the bankers what happens when things are left to be determined by the market…
Teaching is a decently paid job. If you are a good classroom teacher and you reach the top of the Upper Pay Spine you will earn at least £36,756 p.a.. Finding a job with a similar salary without significant management responsibility is almost impossible nowadays. But…
…I didn’t go into education to make money and I don’t know any teacher who did. My profit is great examination results for our students. That’s what I’m required to provide and that is what motivates me, something the Coalition clearly does not understand.
Coalition policies seem to be ratified using a very simple Venn diagram:
Any new policy has to be cheap, if not cost-free; the new Teachers’ Pay Policy will allow schools to employ teachers more cheaply and supress pay progression. There has to be the political will to adopt the new policy; the public will be happy with the simple headline notion that only good teachers should receive pay increments. Any new policy has to be easy to implement; what could be easier than to let Headteachers and Governing Bodies make all the difficult decisions inherent in the implementation of the new Teachers’ Pay Policy? All three criteria met = POLICY!
Pay rises for all from an ever-decreasing pot is unsustainable and this policy allows Headteachers to find a way to survive during austerity by making relatively arbitrary decisions about pay progression so that schools remain solvent. This year I am expected to provide a better education for the same number of children as we had in our school in 2010 with £450,000 less funding – and so far we’ve been “ring-fenced”?
It is possible to pare my job down to one thing: to ensure that £6.5m a year is spent in a way which provides the best education possible for the students who attract the money in the first place. Consequently I cannot afford to reward poor teaching and never have done.
Highly effective Performance Management mechanisms negate the need for performance-related pay. If a teacher really isn’t performing well and all support mechanisms have been exhausted, they should be facing competency procedures in a fair and transparent way. Everyone else should be developing their practice and be at least good.
Our raw materials are not wood and steel. I was working with Dr Jonathan Sharples from the Institute of Effective Education and @HuntingEnglish yesterday shaping a research project into an element of pedagogy. What became clear from Jonathan is that it is almost impossible to isolate a single variable and eliminate all the other variables when conducting research in schools. Singling out teacher effectiveness as the variable solely responsible for student outcomes is a hugely complex business and way beyond the scope of even the best performance-related pay policy for teachers. The Sutton Trust’s Improving the impact of teachers on pupil achievement in the UK – interim findings, published in September 2011, states that overwhelming evidence [that] shows that there is almost no link between teachers’ prior education or experience and the achievement of their pupils. Steve Munby told the ASCL conference in 2012 that, if you are the longest serving Headteacher in the Hall you’re probably our best or our worst Headteacher. Like I said, judging teacher effectiveness is complex.
Attempts to make judgements about pay progression completely objective verge on the impossible. I’ve heard of one model where there are four elements which combine to provide a wholly objective numeric measure for making the pay progression decision: the grade for Lesson Observation 1; the grade for Lesson Observation 2; the quality of marking and assessment gleaned from a work scrutiny; student examination data. Each element constitutes 25% of the final figure which determines the decision and if the teacher gets 70% or above s/he progresses up the pay scale. An Outstanding observation grade gains a full 25%, a Good observation grade 17.5%…yes, it’s mad isn’t it? And it’s still based on a number of relatively subjective judgements!
Performance-related pay could induce competitiveness right down to teacher-to-teacher level: Why share my teaching resources with him if his students’ results improve and he will get a pay rise over me? Fullan and Hargreaves point out that, Trust and expertise work hand in hand to produce better results…social capital strategies are one of the cornerstones for transforming the profession. Behaviour is shaped by groups much more than by individuals…if you want positive change, then get the group to do the positive things that will achieve it.
Who will want to teach set 4 out of 5? The more you think about performance-related pay, the more the intricacies emerge. How will re-setting mid-year affect pay progression decisions? Timetabling difficulties mean you have to take on a Year 11 group in September – are you then held responsible for that group’s outcomes?
Job offers could be interesting…Headteacher: I would like to offer you the post. Candidate: Well, I have two more interviews later this week and they may well offer me M6 and you’re only offering M5 – I’ll let you know if I accept your offer on Friday evening. To use a Yorkshire term, we may see an epidemic of people giving backword…it will certainly make the whole package for new recuits to your school important: CPD opportunities; promotion opportunities; staff well-being strategies; general ethos, etc., etc..
As Fullan says, Never a tick box, always complexity. The reason the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) is a weighty tome is because how you pay people is a complex issue. The STPCD is the accumalation of years of experience and reflection by employment law experts; leaving Headteachers and Governing Bodies to construct individual pay policies may well result in them being embroiled in appeals against their pay progression decisions throughout November and December.
Headteachers have an opportunity to unite to reject the worst elements of the new Teachers’ Pay Policy proposals. The more divided we are, the more divided our staff rooms will become. We have to live by our values like never before and crush the grain of truth at the root of this old joke: What’s the collective noun for school leaders? A lack of Principals.
The trouble is, Headteachers are a mixed ability group. I was at an ASCL meeting recently where a Headteacher shrieked with barely controlled joy when she realised she did not have to match new recruits’ existing pay grades, because she wanted to save a bit of money. On many levels it was a depressing moment.
Hold on to what matters. I am going to return to our three values – Respect; Honesty; Kindness – and use them as the anvil upon which we forge our new pay policy. We already have a Teachers’ Pay Policy Working Party, comprising teachers and governors, and we will use our features of Truly Great Teaching at Huntington School, drawn up collectively by our teaching staff last month, to define what we expect of teachers at our school. And we will use wisdom and judgement in spades…