As if exams; weren't enough of a lottery...

Performance-related pay is one of the most; controversial issues in education. Can teachers be rewarded according to pupils' results?
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PAYMENT BY results: it is the subject on the lips of every teacher. In a West Sussex staff room I overheard one complain to another about how unfair it would be: "My results are going to plummet this year - and that's because of the quality of kids I've got."

This is a common fear. Nobody knows exactly what will be in the Government's forthcoming Green Paper on performance-related pay for teachers, but it seems highly likely that test results and pupil performance will play a part in it.

Teachers, on the whole, do not like the idea. They have had to swallow the Government's Standard Assessment Tests (SATS), despite initial opposition, and many are still uneasy about the publication of examination league tables. The prospect now that their pay could depend, to some extent at least, on how well their pupils' perform is more than many will tolerate.

Payment by results was first imposed on the teaching profession in 1861. The country was in financial trouble at the time, in the wake of the Crimean War, and looking for economies. Elementary schools had only been recipients of state-funding since 1833, but the Newcastle Commission in 1861 proposed that schools should earn their grants by demonstrating efficiency.

This idea was linked, in 1862, with the New Revised Code - a kind of three-Rs national curriculum - and resulted in a system whereby government inspectors visited schools to test pupils on their reading, writing and arithmetic. Truancy figures were also taken into account: if your pupils failed to turn up, you earnt less money.

The system was not a success, according to David Crook, lecturer in the history of education at the London Institute. Teachers would stand behind the inspectors as they administered the tests, trying to signal the right answers to their pupils. Matthew Arnold, the poet and one-time school inspector, noted how curious it was that pupils appeared to be able to read the page of a book even when it was upside down.

He and others argued that payment by results was rendering education "mechanical and lifeless," because it forced teachers to teach to the test. The National Union of Elementary Teachers, founded in 1870, opposed the system on the same grounds. By 1898, payment by results had petered out.

"One hundred years later, we must not be in the business of reinventing payment by results," says John Dunford, chairman of the Secondary Heads Association.

A year ago, as head of Durham Johnston comprehensive in Durham, John Dunford refused a pay rise by not implementing a change in regulations by the Pay Review Body, whereby heads and deputies could receive performance- related pay rises subject to assessment.

"Teaching is all about team work, and I am against the principle of performance pay for some and not others, I was well aware that the success of our school was due to the work of a large number of its staff, not just the head and my deputies."

John Dunford would, however, be prepared to consider a system of performance- related pay "which was open to everybody, and capable of rewarding all the teachers who are performing really well - which could be as many as 60 per cent."

Pupil results - in terms of the progress that children make under a particular teacher - could be part of such a system, he believes, provided that the wider contribution which a teacher makes to the life of a school was also taken into account.

"On the one hand, a system of performance-related pay must not be too simplistic, because that would be unfair, and on the other, it must not be too complicated, because that would create a massive bureaucracy," he says.

Forms of performance-related pay have long operated in industry, and since the 1980s models of individual and variable pay have become widespread. Competency-based pay, which companies use to reinforce and reward the particular competencies and skills that they need, is now used in 60 per cent of businesses, according to Nick Page at the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). It measures what an employee puts into a job, rather than results, and is, therefore, based on an essentially subjective judgement.

"Although competency-based pay is widely accepted, it has to be very carefully managed because staff might see some decisions as biased or unfair. It can also demotivate staff if they feel they deserved a pay rise for competency and then didn't get it," he says.

The CBI stresses that performance-related pay can be a valuable tool in reinforcing certain skills and giving incentives. However, that it is no substitute for good communication with employees, and making sure that they feel involved.

A recent survey by the National Union of Teachers found that nearly 80 per cent believed their pay should depend partly on their ability to demonstrate particular skills, compared with 30 per cent who said they were in favour of performance related pay.

An NUT spokeswoman said the union would promote a form of pay that was based on professional development, but would "totally reject" anything that was linked to pupils' performance in schools, "because that assumes that each child is the same as the next - and they're not.

"Performance-related pay will not work, according to David Hart at the National Association of Head Teachers, if it rewards teachers "teaching in leafy lanes, and deprives those in the most difficult schools in the country." Pupil results should only be included, he argues, as part of a value-added system, focussing on children's progress.

"But if head teachers are going to make the judgements, they are going to want as much flexibility and freedom as possible in interpreting the criteria," he says.

David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education, will need to tread extremely carefully if he is to produce something workable for the teaching profession. Steering too close to a system of payment by results will, it seems, cause nothing but trouble.


I AM not in favour of having enhanced salaries right across the whole teaching profession, simply because it limits the freedom of the school to reward good practice.

To give someone who is performing badly an increase is nonsense. There's a feeling in some schools of putting up with mediocrity for the sake of peace. But we can't afford that.

We have brought in certain kinds of performance-related pay in the last few years, which have not been divisive or demotivating.

If a teacher volunteers, for instance, to design and implement an extra course in Spanish, they receive an "honorarium" payment for that work.

We also use accelerated promotion for good performance, which moves teachers up the pay scale without changing their job. There is a rigorous annual appraisal for all teachers: this draws on classroom data, test results, pupil feedback, classroom observation, consultation with other staff and an appraisal with me. We also look at "value-addedness": how much teachers have brought pupils on.

It is quite a lot of extra work, but 83 per cent of our budget is spent on staff, and we need to know what's happening. The system has worked exceedingly well and the motivation in school is super. It means that teachers don't have to wait for their turn in the hierarchy. It gives them the feeling that their careers are moving forward.

It seems harsh to say, but the present national pay structure pays teachers for being there, not for what they do. I want greater flexibility to reward teachers who are the driving force in school, to reward good performance, energy and ideas.

Sir Bob Salisbury

The writer is the head of the Garibaldi School, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire


TEACHING IS all about teamwork, it's about a vision that everyone shares. But performance-related pay is going to set teacher against teacher. It's going to mean lots of presents and bottles of wine for the head teacher. And you can imagine the scene in the staff room when someone gets a performance- related pay rise...

Performance by what criteria? Are you rewarding the teacher who takes a group of children expected to get As who then do get As? Or are you rewarding the teacher who takes a less academic group, who demand from the teacher more energy, more preparation, more communication skills, and who don't get such good results? How do you sort them out?

I am very worried that performance-related pay would set up a smart band of children coming into secondary schools, who would be concentrated on and pushed on to get the next set of good results. What about the poor ones who didn't quite make it?

You can't just track 30 children out of 240. But with performance-related pay, the temptation for some schools will be just that.

We are a school in an outer-ring estate area, and we have children with problems with reading, with comprehension, with numeracy. The pastoral work that is so essential in a school like ours would not get recognised in a system of performance-related pay.

We are looking at the development of the whole child: at making them good citizens, who will be well informed about the environment, who will be kind to others. Education is not about teachers getting better results - although that's the way things are going. It is about creating a better society.

Roger Perks

The writer is the head of Baverstock School, a grant-maintained comprehensive in Druids Heath, Birmingham