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Popular performance pay system creates “an extra hurdle to teachers’ career progression”

Schools have been told that from next month they must link teachers’ pay more closely with performance – although precisely how they do this is down to them to decide.

For those schools at a loss to grasp exactly what sort of system they need to put in place, plenty of model pay policies have been doing the rounds.

Suggestions have been put forward by everyone from the Department for Education to the NAHT heads’ union. Predictably enough, commercial human resources specialists have been keen to get in on the act as well.

One system in particular, a model policy drawn up by Educate Services, has been attracting plenty of attention. Managing director James de Bass told TES that more than 1,000 schools – plus several local authorities, including Hertfordshire, and academy chains, such as the Northern Education Trust – have signed up so far. “We think it’s the best system out there,” he said.

Under the old pay system, teachers would enter the profession on the Main Pay Scale and then, once their school was satisfied they were ready to pass the threshold, could move on to the Upper Pay Scale.

Somewhat controversially, the Educate Services system places teachers in one of three pay bands: “teacher”, “accomplished teacher” or “expert teacher”. This effectively means that teachers will need to cross two thresholds instead of one, prompting Martin Freedman, head of pay, conditions and pensions at the ATL union, to claim that the system includes “an extra hurdle to teachers’ career progression”.

“It’s a one-size-fits-all solution for 20,000-odd schools which are very complex and very different,” Mr Freedman said. “It adds an extra layer of bureaucracy and is unnecessary.”

The concerns were shared by NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby. “It’s utterly the wrong way to go about implementing performance-related progression,” he said. “It contradicts what I understand were the intentions behind the policy and what inspectors will be looking for.

“Schools have been handed the opportunity to connect progression to performance, so I don’t understand why they would want to be reintroducing a proxy for performance.”

Nigel Middleton, Educate Services’ divisional director for appraisal and pay structures, insisted that he had received good feedback from heads and teachers, and told TES that the NAHT had not “got their heads around” the requirement for teachers to be given a detailed descriptor of the standards they should be expected to meet.

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