Support for Performance Related Pay Grows with Teachers

25 Aug

September 2014 will be the end of the first full-year cycle in which teachers’ pay is tied to their performance.   The experiences of school teachers, headteachers and governors have been varied.  However, what is especially significant is that a survey by the National Foundation for Educational Research  (NFER) (see here) commissioned by the Sutton Trust revealed that there is a growing head of steam among teachers to support the link between performance appraisals salaries than when the policy was first introduced by the former secretary of state, Michael Gove.

Teacher appraisals were introduced by the Labour Government in 2000.   Performance reviews had a sharp edge for all staff on the upper pay spine and the leadership scale in that increases were predicated on good, if not outstanding, appraisals.   This was extended to all teachers in September 2013 to take effect a year later.  It replaces increases given to teachers who perform at least satisfactorily – based on their lengths of service.

Altogether, 1,163 teachers were surveyed by the NFER.  Of them, 55% primary and 52% secondary teachers favoured the criteria of good pupil progress and achievements being deployed to determine salary increases.

When asked which criteria should be used to decide on pay progression, the three most popular were the following.

(i)            Assessment by more senior staff – such as line managers. This was supported by 60% of teachers and was more popular among secondary staff.

(ii)           Assessment by the headteachers. This was supported by 54% of teachers and was more popular among primary staff.

(iii)          Consideration of the progress and results of pupils currently taught. This was backed by 53% of teachers.  

Altogether, 47% of teachers, wanted to keep the old criterion for pay progress, i.e. the length of service – provided that staff had performed at least satisfactorily.   Also, 37% wished their own self-assessment to feature in pay decisions.  Interestingly enough, one in 10 teachers wanted pupils’ evaluations of their performances to be factors in the pay-increase equation. In secondary schools, the figure was higher at 14%.

Teachers were asked the following questions: In your opinion, which criteria should be used to decide on progression along the pay scale?  (The aggregated responses were as follows.  Please note that every teacher surveyed could give more than one response so the percentages will add up to more than 100.)

  All Teachers Primary Secondary
Assessment by the Headteacher 54% 71% 36%
Assessment by more senior staff 60% 56% 65%
Peer assessments 16% 13% 19%
Progress and results of pupils 53% 55% 52%
Ofsted inspectors’ grading of lessons 9% 10% 8%
Self-evaluation of their performance 37% 40% 33%
Evaluation by pupils 10% 7% 14%
Length of service so long as performances are satisfactory 47% 49% 44%
Other means 6% 4% 7%
No response 1% 0% 0%

Despite the increased support that teachers have given to the initiative, the school-based unions – i.e. in particular, the National Union of Teachers (NUT) – are not well pleased.  Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT had a unique spin on the survey stating it that gave “yet more proof that performance-related pay measures are not welcomed by teachers. There is no evidence worldwide that linking teacher pay to performance leads to improved education standards”.  The NUT joined other unions on 10 July 2014 in a national strike protesting on pay and conditions of service.   The Department for Education, however, is resolute and intends to remain immovable on the issue because of a conviction that performance pay raises standards for pupils.

Policy Exchange, a right-of-centre think-tank, has urged schools to adopt a balanced approach to assessing teacher performance taking account of a number of factors and performance over more than one year to make judgements.    Sir Peter Lampl, chair of the Sutton Trust, added his voice in support of schools relying on a combination of approaches to gain a fuller picture of teacher effectiveness, adding that teachers should be assessed “on their cumulative performance over several years”.

This would be rather difficult given that the system this autumn would have been in operation for only a year.  However, with the passage of time Sir Peter’s advice can be used to good effect.

Ten features of effective headteacher performance management

Meanwhile, a group of nine academics commissioned by the National College for Teachers and Leaders (NCTL) published their report – Effectively managing headteacher performance following a detailed and enlightening study.  One of the report’s key messages is that structural changes in the system of schooling in England have strengthened the need for a governing body to put into place effective approaches to headteacher performance management for external accountability and to use headteacher performance management as an important tool in improving internal accountability within a school. At the same time, these changes in the system of schooling have added to stress and uncertainty, contributing to the burden of oversight for both governors and headteacher.

However, in summary, the researchers discovered effective headteacher performance management to be characterised by 10 features. They were as follows.

(1)          Effective headteacher performance management is integrated with the school development plan.

(2)          Effective headteacher performance management has a secure annual cycle of objective-setting and review together with interim monitoring.  The cycle follows clear procedures and is tailored to the needs of the school.  Objective setting and the monitoring of objectives make use of appropriate sources of information.

Interim monitoring consists not only of monitoring progress against school performance objectives but provides a time to take stock of the individual performance of the headteacher on the full range of her or his objectives. The external advisor can play an important role in mediating between individual needs of the headteacher and organisational goals, as well as working to help the governing body develop its capacity to carry out effective performance management.

(3)          Effective headteacher performance management is underpinned by sound relationships, characterised by openness, trust and integrity, among all those involved.

Headteacher performance management hinges on mutual respect, trust, candour and a willingness to challenge and to be challenged. Of particular importance are the relationships among the headteacher, the external adviser and the chair of governors.

(4)          Effective headteacher performance management involves the setting of meaningful and challenging but achievable objectives for the headteacher.

The breadth and precision of the headteacher’s objectives, the quality of performance information and productive engagement of stakeholders reflect the experience, maturity and quality of overall management processes within the school.

(5)          Effective headteacher performance management strikes an appropriate balance between internal and external accountability, development and reward.

External accountability and visibly demonstrating progress against objectives serve as important tools to set ambitious objectives and for constructive uses of performance information throughout the organisation.

Providing recommendations for performance-related pay is an important outcome of the process that is among the most challenging, even for governing bodies and headteachers with well-developed performance management processes. The challenge will increase as performance-related pay becomes the norm throughout schools and across the educational system.

(6)          Effective headteacher performance management makes use of a wide variety of data from a range of sources to inform and underpin decision-making.

Data are regularly used as part of the ongoing monitoring of school performance. The use of clear, consistent and timely data of a range of kinds is an important input into the headteacher performance management process. Typically the external advisor ensures that the headteacher performance management process is underpinned by sound data and appropriate data use.

Performance or attainment data are most prevalent in providing evidence of achievement. Condensed data displays, such as the ‘data dashboards’ produced by Ofsted, are not yet widely adopted and offer governing bodies ready access to a range of indicators that might be useful in monitoring school performance and raising questions about and/or praising individual performance.

(7)          Effective headteacher performance management is evaluated and adapted over time to meet evolving requirements of individual circumstances and shifting organisational needs within a dynamic context of governance.

Effective headteacher performance management evolves with the needs of the headteacher and the school. This entails regular reflection on how objectives, the process and its outcomes are meeting the needs of the individual headteacher and the school.

(8)          Effective headteacher performance management is appropriate for the stage of development of the school and the headteacher.

The link between headteacher performance management and holistic approaches to performance management throughout the school become clear when examining the connections between performance management and other management processes in the school. The external advisor has an important role to play in making these connections explicit.

(9)          Effective headteacher performance management is viewed as part of an on-going and wider process of working with the headteacher and all members of staff to ensure high levels of performance.

Managing the progress of the school as an organisation and managing the headteacher are ongoing and intertwined processes for intelligent internal accountability.

(10)        Effective headteacher performance management is integral to the development of overall governing body capacity to meet the needs of the school.

The case studies and the research evidence from sources make clear that effective headteacher performance management is an attribute of highly-effective governing bodies.

A focus on developing the governing body’s capacity for effective performance management of the headteacher can serve as a fulcrum for improving the governing body’s overall efficacy. Effective oversight of the headteacher is the most important part played by the governing body in the overall governance of the school. The challenge is to ensure that all school governing bodies are in a position to play that part.


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