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Checks on the post

Now is the time governors must start assessing how they are going to pay heads next year. Governing bodies have just a few months to negotiate performance criteria which could determine the size of future pay rises for heads and deputies.

From September next year, any movement up the pay spine by heads and deputies will depend upon governors reviewing their performance against criteria agreed a year before. Full details of how the new system should work will not appear until the end of next month in the 1996 School Teachers' Pay and Conditions document.

Yet in spite of this push towards performance related pay (PRP), governing bodies could still ignore the results of a performance review and award extra pay spine points for other reasons, such as the fact that a post is difficult to fill.

Alternatively, governors could acknowledge the targets set for a head or deputy have been met but inform them that the school cannot afford any additional pay.

In order that governors can review a head's performance over a 12-month period, any criteria should be in place by the start of next term. Kerry George, the National Association of Head Teachers' senior assistance secretary for salaries, described the timetable as absurd. "Everybody is aware that there is no support for PRP within the teaching profession," she said, "But even assuming that heads or governors are interested in PRP, the policy has to be one which people have confidence in."

Last year's pay survey by the review body showed that 27 per cent of heads and 26 per cent of deputies were awarded one or more extra points in 1994-5 compared with 32 per cent and 29 per cent the previous year.

The School Teachers' Review Body admitted this was probably due to constraints on school budgets. "For most governing bodies the whole notion of discretion at school level has proved to be a chimera," added Ms George.

Neither the NAHT nor the Secondary Heads Associations is likely to draw up model performance criteria to negotiate on behalf of their members. They are, however, both expected to produce guidance.

Kath Brooke, SHA's salaries and conditions of service officer, said PRP criteria had to be negotiated locally and would depend upon the school's circumstances. A model framework would be too prescriptive. SHA, which opposes PRP as divisive, is investigating the possibility of heads and deputies receiving team-based pay, according to the overall performance of a school's senior management. "Whatever criteria you come up with are bound to depend upon what other staff are doing," she said.

Governing bodies are currently required to review annually the salaries paid to heads and deputies and inform them of the basis on which their position on the scale was determined. Among the existing criteria which may be applied, and which may still be used in the future, are the responsibilities of the post, the social, economic and cultural background of pupils attending the school and whether the post was difficult to fill. The Government is now insisting that governors apply the fourth criteria and consider whether the overall performance of a head or deputy exceeds normal expectations.

Alan Barnes, a SHA research officer on salaries, said there was no way of telling whether previous discretionary rises were based on performance. "If you send out questionnaires you discover that it's not clear on what any advance has been based," he said.

Some governing bodies might continue to ignore performance criteria, in spite of carrying out the review, and award discretionary spine points or not on the same basis as in the past, he added.

"Where a governing body is dominated by highly-paid professions, they tend to be more generous towards their chief executive than if they earn a fraction of the head's salaries themselves."

Structured performance reviews might do away with such local anomalies, but the four performance indicators suggested last year by the STRB Q exam results, pupil attendance, OFSTED inspections and sound financial management Q found little favour with heads or governors. Bev Curtis, director of Education Personnel Management in Cambridgeshire, said governors would do better to look at the school's development plan and ask heads and deputies to identify long term objectives. "There is a danger they might pitch achievement at a low level to gain the bounty but governors should be quick enough to recognise that. "

The flaw in the Government's approach, said Mr Curtis, was to assume a successful school led by a top-performing head would necessarily attract more pupils and therefore have extra money to spend on salaries. This was not normally the case where a school was full or was in a rural area where parents had little choice over where to send their children. "The question is whether you are looking at quality assurance to achieve improvements in the head's pay or raising standards," he said, "Governors should focus on raising standards among pupils."

Walter Ulrich of the National Association of Governors and Managers said the obligation to carry out a performance review would pose problems for governing bodies which had no intention of increasing salaries. Governors could continue to face pressure to award extra spine points, even where a school could not afford it. "Once you have a system which gives greedy or importunate heads the opportunity to increase their own pay, you are putting more pressure on the governing bodies."

Mr Ulrich said NAGM would be opposed to a model framework for carrying out performance reviews, as this would prevent local discretion and flexibility. But Pat Petch, the new chairman of the National Governors Council, said this would be one of the questions it would be putting to its member in a major consultation exercise. The NGC would also ask local associations to suggest criteria for assessing performance. Ms Petch added that too many governing bodies were under pressure to award discretionary rises without knowing the actual level of salaries paid to heads and deputies at other schools, "They are having to play pay leap-frog and are facing ever-escalating bills," she said.

The review body recommended the National Employers Organisation should provide governing bodies with comparative data on salaries in both local authority and grant maintained schools on a local and wider basis. Mike Walker, secretary to the NEO, said many authorities provide good general information about pay levels but governing bodies were often reluctant to reveal the reasons for reaching their decisions. "Some of their judgments are completely subjective, " he said.

Mr Walker predicted that most governors would adopt a cautious approach to performance review and that few would make direct links with pay.

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