Performance pay saps teacher morale

21st September 2001 at 01:00
PERFORMANCE-related pay, which was designed to motivate teachers, has had the opposite effect, according to Government-commissioned research released this week.

Opinion pollsters MORI found that headteachers felt the controversial threshold scheme had demoralised staff, while even those winning pound;2,000 bonus payments considered it unfair and divisive.

Two-thirds said succeeding in their application had done little to raise their confidence, while teachers who refused to apply said it had contributed to their decision to leave the profession.

The findings included in the Department for Education and Skills' evidence to the School Teachers' Review Body, show:

* teachers spent an average of 20-22 hours completing application forms;

* three out of five successful applicants for the threshold bonus were opposed to the scheme on principle;

* nearly half of unsuccessful teachers failed on the controversial pupil progress measure;

* one in seven teachers who refused to apply said the scheme had contributed to their decision to leave the profession;

* only 0.2 per cent of headteachers' assessments were overturned by external assessors.

The findings, based on interviews and group discussions this summer with 46 heads and deputies and 172 classroom teachers in 49 schools, will heighten criticism of the threshold scheme. The multi-million pound exercise has involved more than 2,000 external assessors checking the judgments of headteachers, and visiting more than 20,000 schools. Even the assessors were checked, the Government setting up a special unit to monitor 1,000 of the assessors' verdicts. At the end of this, 97 per cent of teachers were successful.

The report said: "Headteachers perceive that the threshold process has left teachers feeling demotivated and low in morale."

The view was not unanimous. Some heads said it had increased teachers', and their own, awareness of strengths and weaknesses.

But among teachers who won the pound;2,000 rise, 73 per cent of primary staff and 49 per cent of their secondary counterparts were opposed to the scheme in principle.

The researchers reported that the majority of successful applicants were critical of "the stress and anxiety caused, the unfairness that not all teachers received a pay increase and the potentially divisive nature of the policy".

Only a third said that passing the threshold had done much to increase their confidence, though 40 per cent felt it had reaffirmed their wish to progress professionally.

Among 28 teachers interviewed who decided not to apply, four said the scheme had contributed to their decision to leave the profession, one secondary teacher revealing an intention to "get out of teaching. Stacking shelves in Sainsbury's would be better."

However, the research also suggested that fewer teachers may refuse a rise on principle in future. Of the 28 interviewed who were eligible but did not apply last year, 11 said they would do so this year.

It also disclosed that more than 1,400 teachers - around a quarter of those whose applications failed - have appealed against the decision.

Last year 201,000 teachers - around 80 per cent of the 250,000 believed to be eligible - applied for the threshold rise.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, which opposed the scheme and last year won a High Court victory over the Government delaying its introduction for several months, said:"Time and again, we have told ministers that threshold was not going to work in terms of achieving the Government's three targets of recruitment, retention and motivation.

"It should go and we should have an independent inquiry into pay and conditions."

The Government conceded in its evidence that the threshold scheme had been attacked before its launch as divisive, unfair, stressful and time-consuming. The amount of time taken on applications would fall in future years as performance management became embedded in schools.

The submission added: "The evidence indicates that for many teachers the process has supported the Government's objectives of boosting professional confidence and self-esteem, and the threshold standards are helping to focus professional development."

Among 28 teachers interviewed who did not apply, four said the scheme had contributed to their decision to leave the profession, one teacher revealing an intention to "get out of teaching - stacking shelves in Sainsbury's would be better".

But the research also suggested that fewer teachers may refuse a rise on principle in future. Of the 28 interviewed who were eligible but did not apply last year, 11 said they would do so this year.

It also disclosed that more than 1,400 teachers - around a quarter of those whose applications failed - have appealed against the decision.

Last year, 201,000 teachers - around 80 per cent of the 250,000 believed to be eligible - applied for the threshold rise.

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said:"We have told ministers that threshold was not going to work in terms of achieving the Government's three targets of recruitment, retention and motivation."

The Government conceded that the scheme had been attacked before its launch as divisive and unfair. It said the amount of time taken on applications would fall as performance management became embedded in schools.

PRP FACTS

37 per cent of 201,000 applications were from primary teachers, 52 per cent secondary, 5 per cent centrally-employed LEAstaff and 4 per cent special schools.

1,300 schools did not apply.

Men and women equally likely to apply but 4.6 per cent of men failed, 2.2 per cent of women.

Younger applicants of both sexes more likely to succeed.

Common failings were teaching and classroom management.

Assessors overturned decision in 315 cases (0.2 per cent).

47 complaints received about 22,716 visits to schools.

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