Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Performance Related Pay

Performance-related pay will arrive, unwanted, in September – like a train full of dead cows pulling into Winchester.  There is seemingly nothing we can do about this, and no way of making our voices heard.  Reasonable doubts aired by the cautiously pro-cause NAHT, and serious misgivings bellowed by the NUT and NASUWT are being entirely ignored as Michael Gove pushes the idea through.

I am not about to get too riled by this; like I said, there’s little we can do.  Instead, I’m going to have a think about the ramifications of this move.  How is it going to work? What will the short- and long-term effect be?  How will I be affected? 

Little detail has been released regarding the machinery of this new system.  In fact, Gove has admitted that there is “further work to be done” to get the thing working.  This, of course, implies that he hasn’t the foggiest idea how it will work, and I think we should all be sceptical of any major policy change that hasn’t been thought through carefully enough to actually have its inner workings planned and decided upon.  This means we have next to nothing to go on when trying to assess how we will all be affected.  All we can do is ponder, speculate and wonder.  So here we go.

            1.       What will the pay scales be?

It seems that this is unknown.  We do know that the existing wider pay boundaries will be maintained as reference points, but that the various levels between will go.  So, Main Scale teachers will still be working within the established 21,000-31,000 bracket.  UPS will remain, presumably, but again without any set intermediary figures.  TLR will still put you somewhere within the next big chunk, and so forth.  One thing that has not been mentioned is altering the pay scales entirely, or opening them up.  It seems a classroom teacher is still going to be limited to £36,756 (U3), rather than able to climb up and up without taking on responsibility that removes them from the classroom.

2.       What will happen to pay?

Based on the above, we can make some quite clear guesses about what is likely to happen.  As things stand, teachers wait 6 years to hit M6, and can then go through to the UPS.  Their yearly pay rise is around £2,000 pa, year on year.  With the new system, these increments vanish.  Thus, teachers could be awarded any (or no) amount of money, within the wider band.  Yes, it means an excellent new teacher, ostensibly on M2, could be awarded with a huge salary increase, all the way up to £31,000 in their second year.  If this happens, good for them.  However, it also means that an experienced teacher in a school struggling with a broken budget could be awarded a smaller sum – say £500 – for the next year.  This could be a reward for excellent work – a real incentive – but if the money isn’t there, the raises wonj’t be great.

It seems schools are being made able to award much smaller yearly increments, slowing down the wage inflation that all schools have to contend with if they have a settled and happy staff.  Thus, pay awards for great work in the classroom could easily turn out to be much worse than the old level increments.

Similarly, there is no room for incentive for established, excellent classroom teachers.  The idea was that this plan would help keep outstanding teachers in the classroom, rather than in an SLT office.  This isn’t going to happen if the old wide payscales are kept, as we’ll still be capped at £36,000.

3.       What is the effect going to be?

I was going to move up to M6 next year, and was mightily looking forward to breaking the £30,000 barrier.  Now I am concerned that it may not happen.  I may only go up by a small amount, despite any incredible teaching I may deliver this year.  I may not go up at all.  If a school has serious budget problems, as many of them do, what’s to stop them halting payrises for a few years?  What safeguards will be in place to stop governing bodies using this new system as an exercise in budget cutting?  At the moment, there is no word of anything like this.  Instead, we get bland, vague statements with no real substance.  It’s like pasty taxes all over again (apart from the fact that pasty tax made some sense, though it was horrifically cold-hearted and evil).  Still, we must try and make a balanced analysis.

Let’s imagine that schools are able to really reward great teachers.  How will it be decided?  There are a few ways this could go:

a)      Target-based.  For this to be fair, it would have to be based on value added.  However, there are so many variables in student performance that it seems dangerous to base any pay increases solely on this.  Why should my pay be stalled because I have a class of students whose parents aren't interested in their children?
b)      Holistic.  This would depend on SLT knowing their teachers really well.  It would depend on very rigorous CPD and would probably require more observations than are currently allowed to be truly indicative.  It would take into account extra-curricular stuff, curriculum development, assemblies and everything else that teachers get involved in.  This would benefit teachers who work hard, but would not be dependent on results.
c)       Mixture.  This seems most likely, and is probably the most realistic.  It will be a huge extra workload for SLT and could cause intra-department resentment, and even then can only work properly if the money is there.

            But even if it is decided that a teacher deserves a pay-rise, there is still the problem of how much will          be awarded.  This alone questions the idea that there will be improvement in motivation and output after the introduction of this system.

In all the whole thing seems rather slapdash and ill-thought-out.  The professed aims of inspiring good practice and motivating teachers who are stuck in a rut, along with keeping excellent teachers in the classroom don't add up.  Most teachers won't get much benefit from this scheme - the most they can hope for is to be early enough in the career to speed up the scale faster that before, getting to the cap a few years before others.   Established teachers will see little difference, and it is they who may best benefit from some extra pay rises if they are outstanding.  It is not going to make the career attractive - I agree with the unions when they argue that "predictable pay scales are one of the main attractions for new entrants to the profession" - and it has too much scope for corruption.  What do others think?

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