Exclusive: Heads turn away from teacher performance pay

Both headteachers' unions are now casting doubt over whether the controversial policy works, citing evidence of its negative impact on recruitment and workload

Claudia Civinini

paying bills

Headteachers' unions have decided to highlight the negative effect of performance-related pay for teachers on recruitment and workload, and the lack of evidence for its positive effects, Tes can reveal.

Both the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the NAHT have withdrawn their support for the policy. 

Initially introduced in 2013 for all teachers, the policy has attracted a great deal of controversy. Classroom teacher unions have frequently criticised it, while a study found it was ineffective and the Department for Education's own research reported that it increased teachers' workload. 

ASCL was "cautiously supportive" when performance-related pay was introduced in 2013, but maintained that it had to be separate from cost-of-living increases which all teachers should receive equitably.

But during a council meeting last month, the association decided to take an official position that considered the growing evidence of the policy’s negative consequences.

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton told Tes: “It is difficult to effectively and accurately measure performance, and doing so can actually demotivate teachers and damage retention.

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"In addition, the bureaucracy involved in linking performance to pay impacts negatively on workload for both the school leaders operating the system, and the staff being appraised.

“What we find six years on is that there is no evidence that performance-related pay improves pupil outcomes, but there is growing evidence that it has other negative effects.

“There was obviously no evidence around at the outset of this policy on whether it would have a positive impact, and we have continued to watch closely how this develops.

“We are an organisation which follows the evidence and so serving school leaders on ASCL Council, our policymaking body, responded to this with a new position statement in October."

The NAHT has also changed from its original position on PRP and will this year submit evidence to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB), arguing that the policy doesn’t work and has been counterproductive.  

“We need to review the pay system to arrive at a system that’s fair and rewards people properly – it’s a continuing argument for us,” said NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman. 

“We found that [performance-related pay] hasn’t worked at all, so we are not supportive of performance-related increases now.”

“We are very pleased that the debate is moving towards the opinion that we have had not just from ASCL but from other teaching unions as well."

The ASCL statement says employers should have the autonomy to choose whether or not to continue with a performance-related system or to develop an alternative robust appraisal system that is not linked to pay.

"Recent research suggests that PRP does not work in schools in the same way that it does in business," the statement reads.

The Department for Education has been contacted for comment. 

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