Performance-related pay – two months in

Written by: HTU | Published:

What ever you think about the merits of performance-related pay, it has arrived in our classrooms. Suzanne O’Connell looks at how the early stages of implementation are working out in practice

It sounds simple. The best teachers get the best pay. 

Of course, there have been previous attempts to make performance-related-pay a meaningful feature of teachers’ salary structure. The introduction of the threshold had, as its intention, that those “going the extra mile” would receive more. 

However, the reality was that headteachers and their governing bodies tended to carry on as before with the vast majority securing the move onto the upper pay scale with relatively little extra to do. 

This time the changes to the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) are more extensive. They are set against a general opening up of the teaching workforce with academies and free schools able to recruit teaching staff without qualified teacher status. 

The perception of the teachers’ salary as sacrosanct and consistent across schools and regions is disappearing. The government claims this will improve flexibility for schools and provide incentives for teachers. The unions claim it is undermining the collegiate and professional status of teaching. 

New statutory requirements

The statutory requirements contained in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document, September 2013 (STPCD) include: 

  • Schools do not have to maintain the present salary of a teacher when they move schools.
  • Schools are not confined to placing teachers on a specific salary point.
  • There will be no automatic rise up the pay scale, with incremental payments removed and decisions on pay increases based on performance. 
  • The removal of the pay scales and assessment arrangements for Advanced Skills Teachers and Excellent Teachers. 
  • A new pay range for Leading Practitioners whose role will be to lead the improvement of teaching skills.

So, as the new academic year takes hold what preparations are schools making?

Performance pay in practice

The evidence from our headteachers and from recent Ofsted reports, is that schools are managing the initial changes well. They already had structures in place for supporting and developing teachers, and where necessary, addressing incompetence. These are providing the foundations for the new arrangements. 

Jubilee Park Academy in the West Midlands has an academic coaching model which has featured in an Ofsted good practice example. Headteacher Heidi Conner explained: “We have always set smart targets and tied these in with pupils’ progress and whole-school self-evaluation of performance.”

Meanwhile, Lorraine Ellis, headteacher at St John’s CE Primary School in Chorley, is modest about the praise given by Ofsted in their latest report. 

Inspectors wrote: “The management of staff performance and training of teachers and other adults successfully meets whole school and individual staff needs. There is a clear link between the performance of teachers and their salary progression.” 

“I don’t feel I do anything special,” Ms Ellis said, “I discuss and agree targets with staff and then if the targets are met I use a simple pro forma (names and details removed) to state whether individual teachers have met their targets or not and if they are eligible for a pay award. 

“There is another box to make a recommendation. The review information is also available for governors to view – again with names and details removed.” 

The timeframe has been an issue. Ms Conner said: “Timescales have been a challenge and have forced us into accepting a pay policy with striking similarities to local authority policy.”

At Holy Apostles’ CE Primary School in Cheltenham, headteacher Gareth Davies has also been busy revising and updating the school pay policy to reflect the new regime. “We updated our pay policy fairly conventionally I’d say. We obtained drafts from different sources including a commercial company, local authority and the National Association of Head Teachers and then melded them into a composite for our school.”

Overall headteachers are making the best of it and are hoping that the extra freedom and flexibility will work to their school’s advantage: “We are excited about the greater freedoms in future,” explained Ms Conner optimistically. 

Mr Davies believes the full impact is yet to be felt: “Teachers who were due to move up the pay scale incrementally from 2012/13 to 2013/14 knew that their progression was assured this year. 

“This risks having an anaesthetising effect in dulling their approach to next year’s review – which will be quite a different experience. It’s a learning curve for all of us.” 

The challenges of the new regime will depend very much on the individual school, its historical profile and mix of staff. Ms Conner can see how the extra freedom might enable schools to hold Upper Pay Scale staff and those who are under-performing more to account. However, she can also see that the new system could lead to more appeals and challenges in 2014, although this has never been a problem in her school.

Proof in the pudding

It is from September 2014 that teachers will no longer be secured a pay rise based on length of service. Appraisers are only now setting the targets that will lead to the pay recommendations next year and to the governors’ pay committee making the final decisions. 

Primary headteachers are very aware of the importance of the team in relation to student performance. Perhaps more so than in secondary schools, it can be difficult to separate out exactly what the contribution of each individual has been to the final outcome. What heads do not want to establish is a system which simply sets one teacher against another and creates an ethos of unhealthy competition. The mistrust between schools over levelling as they transfer must not be replicated within schools. 

The changes to teachers’ salary awards are also likely to clash with some other crucial changes, such as those to primary school accountability. From September 2014 it is proposed that there will be no national curriculum levels and no prescribed replacement system for on-going assessment (see page 3).

Schools will have to decide how to evidence children’s achievements and attainment as they move through the school. 

Teachers who are not only held to account but are rewarded financially according to the attainment of their pupils will want to feel sure that the system adopted is sufficiently robust and reliable to do this fairly. 

Performance management objectives will need to be carefully constructed and teachers will need to be made well aware of them. It will be the responsibility of the headteacher to moderate appraisal reports and ensure the contributions of reviewers are valid and consistent. 

With new assessment procedures and the prospect of a new primary curriculum on the horizon, the vision for how all these new developments will fit together is, at best, murky. 

It is only next year that we will really see just how well the school community is adapting to and adopting this new structure of assessment and accountability. 

  • Suzanne O’Connell is an education writer and former primary school headteacher.

Further information

  • School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document 2013 and Guidance on School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions (September 2013): http://bit.ly/1ajEATX
  • New National Curriculum: Primary assessment and accountability, DfE (July 2013): http://bit.ly/H3QYfT
  • Subsidiary Guidance: Supporting the inspection of maintained schools and academies, Ofsted, September 2013: http://bit.ly/1ajEH1R


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