Uneasy compromise on pay

10th March 2000 at 00:00
The profession is united in its doubts over salary reforms. David Budge reports.

A MARATHON trawl of 4,000 responses to the Green Paper

proposals on "modernising" the teaching profession has

confirmed that the entire education service is sceptical about

performance-related pay.

The Government has acknowledged that "few professions have turned their back on linking pay and performance to the same extent as teaching". But education ministers may still have been taken aback by the torrent of - largely critical - comment that their PRP proposals have produced. The consultation exercise attracted 4,000 letters and submissions as well as 36,000 questionnaire responses.

Dr Anne Storey, the speed-

reading Open University

academic who has scaled the mountain of mail, says: "The underlying belief in the proposals ranges, at best, from fragile and hopeful (a stance taken by many of the local education authorities)through concerned and doubtful (many of the professional associations) and largely absent (most teachers)."

Dr Storey found that the overwhelming majority of respondents rejected the plans for judging teaching quality. They also be-lieved the PRP scheme would be bureaucratic and costly. They criticised the lack of an appeals system and were concerned about the calibre of the external assessors who would help to judge teachers' competence. Few appeared to believe that PRP would help the Government to achieve its goals: modernisation, better teacher and pupil performance, and innovation.

Nottinghamshire, like every other LEA, welcomed modernisation but pointed out that not a single person had expressed unqualified support for the scheme at any of the consultation meetings it had held.

The LEA said it wanted to reward effort and achievement but feared that the gains from the literacy and numeracy initiatives would be dissipated by worsening industrial relations.

Dr Storey adds that a "notable number" of respondents said that they had supported New Labour but now felt betrayed. "Teachers ... were highly passionate in their responses," she sys.

Many were particularly unhappy about being judged on the basis of their pupils' performance in national tests (though the proposals ruled out crude comparisons between different schools and classes). "It can be expected that appeals (against key stage test results) will increase," Dr Storey predicts.

But special needs teachers had even more fundamental objections to being judged on pupils' "performance". One wondered how progress would be measured in her school - "When an eight-year-old starts to crawl ... when a pupil joins in a song for the first time?"

LEAs shared their teachers' anxieties about trying to measure the "value" that teachers add. And governors also had strong misgivings. One chair of governors in Derbyshire said: "We are lay people, not educational experts. We cannot begin to make or endorse decisions about PRP for our staff."

Dr Storey also sees the question of how to measure a teacher's individual contribution as problematic. "The sustained efforts of a teacher of English will impact upon the work of pupils in history, geography and other subjects ... Whose contribution would be assessed as having premier value?"

She acknowledges that the Green Paper proposals represent a "multi-faceted approach to encouraging rewards and performance". Dr Storey also accepts that the present pay system may have drawbacks. But she argues that the Government will have an "uphill struggle" to change a staffroom culture that is currently inimical to PRP.

"A leap of faith is required to believe that, on balance, the new PRP scheme will produce a net benefit," she says.

Dr Storey believes that teachers, unions and the Government will reach an uneasy compromise in the short term. The majority of heads and deputies, for example, will bend the scheme to suit their schools' needs. But she concludes that: "In the longer term, a more carefully prepared and better-communicated scheme needs to be devised."

"A leap of faith? Performance-related pay for teachers", by Dr Anne Storey will appear in the next issue of

the Journal of Educational Policy

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