Teachers’ salaries now predicated on performance

27 Aug

I           Introduction

As from September 2013, automatic progression up the pay scale for teachers ceased and was replaced by salary increases based on performance.   Every governing body is required to devise a pay policy for staff based on this change, albeit there are no statutory modifications to the manner in which staff on the Administrative, Technical, Professional and Clerical (ATPC) Scale are paid.

Previously, automatic progression happened only for those teachers on the main scale from points 1 to 6.   Teachers wishing to progress on to the upper pay spine (where there are three levels) had to demonstrate that their performances were excellent.   Advanced Skills Teachers (ASTs) and those on the leadership scale also had their salaries tied to performance.  However, there are now no free lunches for all teachers.  They will have to sing well for their supper.

II          Options

Gillian Allcroft, the policy manager for the National Governors’ Association (NGA), wrote a very helpful article, Teachers’ pay and performance, in the July/August 2013 issue of Governing Matters, an organ of the NGA, setting out three options (doing nothing was not one of them) that could be adopted as a consequence of the regulations set out in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).  It will be up to the governing body of each school to decide what is in its best interests to adopt.   The options are as follows.

(i)         Do the bare minimum.

(ii)        Introduce some differentiation.

(iii)       Adopt a radical approach which significantly differentiates salaries based on teachers’ performance.

The first option is favoured by the teacher unions, i.e. the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT). What it means is that, provided that a teacher has had a “satisfactory” appraisal and nothing significant of a negative nature has reared its ugly head, she/he receives a performance related pay award in line with the former scale.   This is legal but not what Michael Gove, the secretary of state, envisages.   Also, Ofsted inspectors will be closely watching “that space” and if they find that teachers are being granted pay increases but the quality of teaching and learning is simply “satisfactory”, they will be looking askance and marking down the quality of leadership and management.

The school introduces an element of differentiation in the second option. For instance, the former six levels on the main scale could be divided into a 12-point scale.  A teacher whose performance is very good may be given an award of two points.  A teacher performing well but who has not been particularly awe-inspiring may be granted one point.  The “satisfactory” teacher who does not deserve to be put on capability but needs a “shake-up” will receive no increase.   The outstanding teacher may be awarded a three-point increase on the main scale.

The third option would be the most radical of all.   Here, Allcroft proposes a box system with grades from 1 to 4 with 1 being for outstanding performance and 4 the bottom and giving rise to capability.   Progression is differentiated accordingly.   The governing body decides on quotas, particularly if there is a shortage of funds so that no more than (for instance) 5% of teachers are awarded the top grade because that’s what the school can afford.

III         Performance Criteria

There are some aspects of teachers’ pay that are not the subject of debate. One is that they provide evidence of good performance and demonstrate that they are operating in accord with the Teacher Standards published by the Department for Education (DfE) in September 2012 if they wish to receive salary uplift.  See here.

Teachers performing well

(i)         set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils;

(ii)        promote good progress and outcomes by pupils;

(iii)       demonstrate good subject and curricular knowledge;

(iv)       plan and teach well-structured lessons;

(v)        adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils;

(vi)       make accurate and productive use of assessment;

(vii)      manage the behaviour of pupils effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment; and

(viii)     fulfil wider professional responsibilities.

In addition to providing evidence that they are complying with the requirements of these standards, teachers will also have to prove that they have met their objectives unless there are compelling circumstances why they have not done so, e.g. long-term illness, maternity leave or seismic changes in the school’s educational landscape.

IV         The arrangements

Teachers need to be informed at the outset – i.e. the beginning of the academic year – of the criteria that will determine pay rises and how much they can expect on the basis of different performances.   If this is not clarified sooner rather than later, the governing body will come a cropper and see its workload increase immensely at the end of the academic year with grievances from teachers slapped on.   Unions will become even stroppier and issue legal challenges.

Ideally, every governing body should establish a pay committee of three members plus the headteacher.  Many a governing body already has such a committee.  The committee will be charged with overseeing the establishment and fair implementation of the pay policy.  These responsibilities may already be vested in a finance and general purposes committee or something similar.  The committee should receive reports from the headteacher on a regular basis about how the appraisal system is working.   Information must be treated in the strictest confidence where teachers are named.  However, the committee may prefer to receive reports from the headteacher with teachers numbered anonymously.

Such a committee will need to convene at least twice a year.  The first meeting could be in the autumn term. At this time, the headteacher presents information to her/his governors on the teachers’ objectives. The second meeting should be at the tail-end of the summer term when the headteacher reports to the members of the pay committee about how well the objectives were met and recommends appropriate salary increases for teachers to take effect in September following.   The increases in salary levels for the administrative and support staff normally take effect on 1 April – albeit these are not predicated on performance; so there could well be a need for a third meeting to receive and decide on salaries for this cadre of staff.

Given the complexities surrounding staff salaries, the governing body would do well to form an appeals committee, none of whose members are members of the pay committee.   The governing body may decide to appoint all its members (save those working at the school) to serve on this committee. The clerk could then be given responsibility to select three members from the list – to serve on the appeals committee by rotation and on the basis of availability.   The committee will be charged with hearing appeals from staff members against decisions made on their salaries by the pay committee.  It will be up to the chair of the pay committee and the headteacher to make the case for the defence of these decisions.

A small governing body may find it difficult if not impossible to appoint sufficient, disinterested governors to deal with staff pay appeals.   It will be open to governing body to enter collaborative arrangements with neighbouring schools to call upon their governors to serve on their appeal committee and deal with the case/s.

V          Commentary

The government’s aim in introducing performance pay for teachers is to raise the standards of teaching and learning.  Ministers believe the move will help schools reward and retain the best teachers.

The scheme has been a long time coming and is nothing new.  It has been existent in industry.  Senior school managers (headteachers, deputy headteachers and assistant headteachers, who are on the leadership scale), since the turn of the millennium, have been on performance pay.   Also, those who considered themselves excellent practitioners had to apply to an outside body to be appointed Advanced Skills Teachers (ASTs).  Teachers within a school who wished to – had to apply and provide evidence that they excelled before being eligible to cross the threshold and progress onto the upper pay spine.  So why is it that there is such a hullabaloo about subjecting all teachers to a similar system?

(a)        Legal experts predict a rise in sexual and racial discrimination claims from teachers, which will create an administrative nightmare.   The DfE has already advised school headteachers and governors that it will be up to them to decide on criteria to tie salaries to performance. Criteria could include test scores, self-assessments, peer reviews and the views of pupils/students and parents.

Complaints can lead to appeals and add pressure to the work of governors.   Mark Leach, an employment partner at the law firm, Weightmans, warned that schools must be consistent (I would add, and fair and just) in how they award pay rises.    In the absence consistency and fairness, (and sometimes even with them), allegations can arise such as: “He received a rise only because he is white, heterosexual and pushy.”

(b)        There is a potential for fraud, where self-assessments and pupils’ achievements and progress are concerned.  Teachers could well over-egg their performance data puddings.  In the early spring of 2013, in Atlanta, Georgia, in the USA, an investigation found that educators in 44 schools had told students the answers to test questions and/or even changed their answers after the papers had been handed in.  In this state, schools with good test scores receive extra funding to spend in the classrooms or as bonuses for teachers.

However, there has always been potential for fraud when people are charged with the control of public money.  We have seen a number of high-profile cases already, without teachers being on performance pay.  MPs have been more culpable than most with their expenses – in the absence of performance pay.   There is an onus on all headteachers and governors to operate transparently and with probity now that teachers’ pay will be linked to teachers’ performance.

It will also be important for headteachers and governors to award pay rises on a range of quantitative and qualitative performance measures, pupil progress being only one.

(c)        Headteachers and governors are going to be at the sharp end of the exercise. The teacher unions are already gearing up with their plans to strike but also developing a bank of potential criticisms such as, “You can’t trust the headteacher to decide on an individual’s pay as she/he will always have favourites.  And, what is worse is that the governors are in the headteacher’s pocket.”

In my experience, headteachers and governors are struggling to establish systems – in record time – that are rigorous, fair and transparent to make performance pay work.   Inevitably, there will be some who will abuse the scheme. They will be found wanting and given short shrift. But this is not to say that the scheme should necessarily be condemned.

(d)        Some aver that performance pay is divisive.   Well, nothing has been more divisive than seeing mediocre teachers receiving similar increments to high-performing ones, a scheme that has been grossly unfair and causes massive under-the-surface resentment in staffrooms.

(e)        Purists claim that the teaching profession is not motivated by money.  If that is the case, it is difficult to understand why the unions are taking strike action in regard to their pensions.

According to Abraham Maslow there are five levels of needs.

(i)                 At the base are the physiological needs – such as a desire for oxygen, food, water and a relatively constant body temperature.   Having these needs met is the first aim of a person who is searching for satisfaction.

(ii)               When the physiological needs are met, the need for security becomes active.   Children display signs of insecurity and need to feel safe.

(iii)             The next class concerns a need for love, affection and belongingness.   People overcome this state by giving and receiving love and affection to secure a sense of belonging.

(iv)              When these three categories of needs are satisfied, the need for esteem becomes dominant.  I would suggest that performance pay, when it is administered well, will assist teachers to attain a modicum of satisfaction in meeting this need.

(v)                Finally, the need for self-actualisation becomes manifest, self-actualisation being described as doing what a person was “born to do” (according to Maslow).  This enables a musician to make music, an artist to paint and a poet to compose verse.   Ideally, teaching should be about meeting this final need.  However, this is not always so.

(f)        Lastly, the jeremiads moan that performance pay is all very well, but this is not the time to introduce it as there are more pressing issues.  However, there is never a good time to introduce change because there will always be more pressing issues.

The criticisms must be heeded if we are to make teachers’ performance pay work and where matters go pear-shaped, fine-tune arrangements to make them better.  There is no better way of learning to swim in the performance pay pool than by jumping into the water and flapping around initially.

Meanwhile, across the Atlantic pond, research co-authored by an economist from Harvard University saw that the threat of having to return a part of the performance pay had led to improved teacher performance.

In Illinois in 2012, a small-scale trial was conducted to see the impact of what our American friends called “loss aversion” on teachers.   The research, Enhancing the Efficacy of Teacher Effectiveness through Loss Aversion, focused on 150 teachers in the city of Chicago Heights.  Half were eligible for bonuses of $8,000 based on very good performance – at the end of the school year. Each of the rest received $4,000 in advance.   They were required to return these allocations if their students failed to meet exam targets, but received the remaining $4,000 (each) if their students performance exceptionally. Students of teachers in the latter group did significantly better at the end of the pilot.  Should we, in England, experiment with something similar by giving teachers part of their increases (with conditions) in advance?

In a survey of teachers’ pay in the UK published at the end of July 2013, 43% said that performance in annual appraisals should be the most important factor for setting their pay.   This was followed by students’ examination performance (29%), professional qualifications (11%), length of service (8%) and parity with other teachers (7%).

The saga of teachers’ performance and pay will continue to unfold.  No doubt, we will have more on which to reflect and learn in the coming months and years.

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