Cash lure premise is flawed;News amp; opinion;Opinion

5th November 1999 at 00:00
In the push towards perfomance-related pay the Government is seeking to allay doubts with its consultation papers. But Ray Richardson remains unconvinced that cash is the key to motivation

PERFORMANCE-related pay schemes in the UK public sector have not been a notable success. Studies conclude that only small minorities of public-sector employees report enhanced motivation from individual PRP, while much larger numbers perceive that it leads to jealousies and a reduction in trust between employees and management.

The National Union of Teachers asked me to examine whether the Government's Green Papers on pay, and its submission to the School Teachers' Review Body, will overcome the problems.

I concluded that the Green Papers suffered the same problems as other public-sector schemes and that they offered little comfort to those who thought that individual PRP would strongly motivate many schoolteachers to perform excellently. Does the Government's submission make any difference?

It is worth distinguishing between performance management with and without PRP. Performance management without a direct pay link can raise motivation and performance. But success in this aim is not automatic. Priorities should not be achieved at the expense of legitimate professional norms. Promised career development must be constructive. Assessments must be fair and accurate.

For this the manager must be equipped for the role as performance management is not something that everyone is born to; most people have to learn. And it must be backed up by adequate resources and time to carry it out.

The Government's consultation document, Performance Management Framework for Teachers, is an exemplary brief description of the steps involved in a good system of performance management. It properly emphasises the importance of fully integrating performance management into a school's culture, of engaging teachers in the process, and of ensuring that procedures support trust between teachers and their managers.

Two notable features of the document are worth highlighting. First, it says virtually nothing on pay. Second, it emphasises the team nature of much teaching. Global training consultancy HayMcBer's recommendations for the Department for Education and Employment on training for performance management point out that the required training will have to be on a "colossal scale".

Even then, they significantly understate training needs because Hay focuses on advisers and assessors. Also, linking pay to performance increases the sensitivity of these considerations.

Individual PRP is more likely to be a success if teachers:

accept the legitimacy of individual PRP

accept goals which must be clear, achievable and challenging

accept their assessments

are confident that pay will reliably follow their individual efforts.

The Government's STRB submission sheds no light on the first three conditions.

The examples of the goals set out in the Government's Performance Management Framework are certainly challenging. The problem is that, for motivation purposes, virtually none of them is truly under the control of individual teachers. Many teachers will not, therefore, be confident that they are achievable.

The Government's submission says little on the new threshold criteria. HayMcBer have a very difficult task. Identifying a small number of goals will either miss out too many important aspects of teachers' work, or will lead to vacuous generalisations.

There is no detail yet on the third condition which rests, crucially, on the quality of training.

There is clarity on the fourth condition. There will be no quota on the number of teachers passing the threshold and there will be a separate LEA fund. This, however, is not as simple as it seems. In some LEAs a high proportion of teachers might genuinely meet the criteria, leading to more claims than an LEA's fund can meet. Similarly, where an LEA has funds to meet all demands, all applicants might be passed. Thus, decisions during the transition period would be made on arbitrary criteria.

In addition, the Government now says that additional increments above the threshold are not automatic, giving the impression that it is diluting its proposals. Any movements up the new scale will be competing with all the other claims on a school's resources. The same applies to funding the accelerated increments up to the threshold.

My conclusion is that the Government is proposing a one-off salary increase of up to pound;2,000 for some teachers who can make a plausible case showing excellence. Long term success rests on matters yet to be specified.

All my original doubts about the scheme's raising motivation remain. It confirms my suspicion that the Government is mostly concerned to make a section of the profession less discontented, without paying all teachers salaries that are commensurate with other professions.

Dr Ray Richardson lectures in the Industrial Department, London School of Economics. Requests for copies of the report should be made in writing to the National Union of Teachers.

Governors, 35

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