Dalton's diary: what a performance

7th February 1997 at 00:00
We should have established criteria for reviewing the salaries of our head and deputy head last September. We have not yet done so.

This is not because we are reluctant to accept our responsibilities or do not understand the issues involved. We had already addressed this as part of our overall school pay policy and established what are essentially judgment-free criteria. We had decided we would not award excellence points to teachers, rejecting the idea as divisive and unnecessary. We expect - and get - excellence from all our staff. Similarly, we agreed that the head's and deputy's salary should be reviewed solely on the basis of increased responsibilities, due either to rising pupil numbers or to specific extra duties undertaken at the request of the governors.

What troubles us, and I suspect many other schools, is the compulsory element of performance targets and assessment. Under the previous system of annual review, 25 per cent of heads and deputies were awarded an increase in salary by the governors, a far higher proportion than are rewarded for "excellence". The introduction of performance criteria may have been intended to tighten up the process and make it less likely that governors would award an increase. The opposite will probably prove to be true.

How many governing bodies will feel comfortable telling their heads and deputies that they fail to qualify for an increase because they have not achieved the required "sustained high quality of performance"?

The underlying problem, as with so much of government policy on education,is the mistaken idea that business principles can be applied to schools. What we have here, in effect, is the annual productivity bonus. Unfortunately, no one has yet found a way to make schools run at a profit.

The Department for Education and Employment would probably argue that an improving school will attract more pupils and generate more income. But in that case the salary increases could be justified anyway on the basis of increased responsibil ities, because the whole salary structure for heads and deputies is based on pupil numbers. The DFEE also persistently overestimates the importance of parental choice, basing its arguments on what happens in London, where there are many schools to choose from, well serviced by a public transport system. A village school will not attract significant extra numbers of pupils no matter how excellently the headteacher performs. And even if it does, it may find itself, as my school did, financially disadvantaged by the withdrawal of its small schools' protection.

My school is committed to continuous improvement. We are constantly reviewing and improving our service to the children, their parents and the community. It would be easy to identify targets for the year ahead, and I am confident that we could achieve them. It would be a positive pleasure to see the head, the deputy and all our staff rewarded for their expertise and dedication. But we have no money.

As a governor, I feel my value to the school has greatly increased over the past few years as a result of training, experience and a great deal of hard work. I am due for a bonus too, but unfortunately 10 per cent of nothing is still nothing. The staff will have to be content, as I am, to be rewarded by the happiness and achievements of the children, the appreciation of the parents and the satisfaction of a job well done.

Unless, that is, the DFEE is prepared to fund performance-related increases. No, I thought not.

Joan Dalton is a governor in the east Midlands

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