Performance-related pay? Not in my school, teachers say

13th November 2015 at 00:00
YouGov poll shows a third believe PRP is not being used by their school, but lack of awareness may be to blame

Nearly a third of teachers believe their school has not introduced performancerelated pay, despite it being a statutory requirement for more than two years, an exclusive YouGov poll for TES shows.

Teachers’ pay rises are all supposed to be awarded by headteachers according to their level of performance, rather than time they have served.

By law, performance-related pay (PRP) systems – which allow teachers’ pay to progress only if targets set by schools are met – should have been in place in schools since September 2013. But according to the YouGov survey of teachers, 31 per cent say their school has not introduced PRP, with a further 17 per cent stating that they “don’t know”.

The remaining 52 per cent of the representative sample of 758 teachers said their school did have a PRP system in place.

But unions argue that the findings may reflect teachers’ lack of knowledge about their school’s pay policy, rather than whether PRP has been introduced.

Sara Ford, a pay specialist for the Association of School and College Leaders, finds it hard to believe that any school would not implement performance-related pay. She said that not only was PRP statutory but “Ofsted now expects schools to identify between low and high performers in their budget”.

The YouGov poll does reveal a marked discrepancy between headteachers and classroom teachers as to whether or not they think PRP operates in their school. Nearly all (98 per cent) of the headteachers polled said the system had been introduced for their staff, but only 42 per cent of classroom teachers gave the same response.

Unions surprised

Classroom-teacher unions, which have circulated information on performance-related pay for years, were shocked by the figures.

Simon Stokes, pay and pensions expert for the ATL union, said: “I thought everybody would know. The only thing I can think of is that these people are not eligible for progression, if they are at the top of the main or upper pay scale.”

The NUT’s head of pay, Andrew Morris, claimed the YouGov findings were “clearly wrong”. He said: “PRP in schools has been in place since 2003 [for senior teachers] and teachers are well aware of that.”

All teacher pay rises should have been performance-related since September 2014.

Ms Ford believes the problem could be rooted in communication between schools and teachers. “It might just be that teachers are not conscious that it’s being used on them,” she said.

“Teachers who have received more pay annually may not feel any different, as nothing radical has changed.”

Since introducing PRP at Claypool Primary School in Bolton, headteacher Amanda Hulme has stressed to staff in meetings and in induction packs that their annual pay progression will be based on performance. “If teachers don’t realise, it’s probably because it’s not being discussed [in a school],” she said.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “It is for individual schools to ensure their staff are aware of the new performance-related pay arrangements.”

Tips for managing performance-related pay

Nigel Middleton, from consultancy Educate, offers his advice to headteachers on handling teacher appraisals and performance-related pay

Focus on teaching over time and individual components of teaching practice, rather than overall lesson observation grades. Several schools we have worked with recently have said they are moving away from giving an overall grade for a lesson. They prefer to provide graded feedback on the quality of the individual components of professional practice: marking, differentiation, assessment, use of learning assistants and so on.

Audit skill levels against Ofsted’s “teaching over time” grade descriptors and focus appraisal objectives in the weakest areas. Ofsted has left schools with the task of developing more outstanding teaching; you can do this by focusing on providing support, to help teachers turn areas of practice that are good into ones that are outstanding.

Frame professional development objectives in a way that generates clear evidence of classroom impact. Appraisal objectives can be related to named pupils or key pupil groups, making it much simpler to agree how impact will be assessed.

Adopt clear expectations for different pay points. With your staff, create descriptors of the different professional skill levels required for different pay bands.

Help governors to support and challenge. Key governors need to receive half-termly anonymised reports, identifying the impact of work recently undertaken to support underperforming teachers, leaders and students.

‘Not much has changed’

Tim Bowen, head of Maple Primary School in St Albans, Hertfordshire, says he can understand why teachers might not have noticed the change to performance-related pay.

“We have always had objectives and annual appraisals, so we haven’t had to change much,” he says.

The headteacher holds a mid-year review and an annual appraisal with teachers. “There should be no surprises,” he says. “When you have good teachers, it’s your duty to support them to let them go up the pay scale.”

In the two years since introducing PRP for all teachers, Mr Bowen has not had to prevent any of them from progressing up the pay scale. But he stresses: “You are failing in your duty as a headteacher if you give them a pay rise if it’s not deserved.

“If a teacher were not performing, then I would clearly explain the reasons why that was the case. There would also be warnings in meetings and we would give them support to help them improve.”

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