A pay rise? That depends on your pupils

13th June 2008 at 01:00
If a Swedish strategy catches on here, your young charges could dictate your salary
If a Swedish strategy catches on here, your young charges could dictate your salary

An academy sponsor with plans to run 30 state schools in England is experimenting with paying teachers according to how pupils rate their performance.

Kunskapsskolan has already started introducing the scheme in its native Sweden, where it runs 30 state-funded secondaries.

As an academy sponsor in the UK, the company will have complete freedom to set its own teacher pay and conditions, and it plans to use its Swedish model as its "natural starting point".

The news may alarm teachers in England, where there has long been fierce opposition to any kind of performance-related pay, let alone that determined by pupils.

Kunskapsskolan has received cross-party support in the UK, and is preferred sponsor for two academies in Surrey. It hopes to run a further 28 state schools by 2018.

It is trialling making pupil ratings one of the factors in deciding pay at its school in Uppsala, Sweden.

Anders Hultin, Kunskapsskolan's international managing director, said: "It is a recent thing that we do very carefully, step by step. We think it will work because students will take it very seriously. It has always been my view that they are the best evaluators of teachers."

Pupils' views already have an impact on the general level of teachers' pay in other Kunskapsskolan schools, but have not been directly linked to individual salaries.

The company allocates salary budgets to its schools depending on their test results, financial management, and the results of an annual survey of pupils and parents.

If the average budget rise is 3 per cent, individual schools might receive increases from 1.5 to 5 per cent according to their performance.

Mr Hultin admitted this could be problematic: "Some very hard-working, well-performing teachers working in schools with lazy colleagues feel they will not benefit from their performance, so we are looking at changing the system."

Kunskapsskolan headteachers are also free to make individual agreements with teachers about pay.

"If someone is doing a very good job, they might get a rise of more than 10 per cent," said Mr Hultin. "But someone else might get zero."

This means that salaries for teachers at Kunskapsskolan's Swedish schools vary from around pound;20,000 to pound;35,000, although Mr Hultin said there should be higher rates for top performers.

In the UK, teachers' unions have resisted suggestions that pupils should rate their teachers' lessons - and that was before there was any hint it could be linked to pay.

A National Union of Teachers spokesperson predicted the company would face united opposition from unions if it tried to introduce pupil opinions into teacher pay.

But Helene Oberg of Lararforbundet, Sweden's largest union, said: "Kunskapsskolan is ranked as a good employer, one of the best."

Mr Hultin said he was keen to develop the same positive relationship with English teaching unions that he had established in Sweden. "We have had a good, close relationship with them and that is the basic attitude we will bring to the UK," he said.

He suggested there would be room to negotiate with English unions. The "deal breaker" would not be pay, but the company's insistence on its unique style of personalised learning, he said.

Chain schools, pages 16-19.

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