Education: Pounds 500 for the staff with good marks: There are doubts about performance-related pay in schools. Diana Hinds visits one that backs the idea

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The Independent Online
BOB HELLEN, headmaster of Cecil Jones High, a grant-maintained school in Southend, Essex, is a passionate and unashamed advocate of performance-related pay.

'Why as a profession do we constantly worry about people's feelings, particularly people who are average or below average?' he says. 'Why run away from saying this person is a super teacher and rewarding them for it?'

Last year the school made performance-related awards of pounds 501 each to seven of its 70-strong staff, on the basis of a scheme devised by a staff working party and the governing body. The scheme laid down four key areas for evaluation and assessment: classroom performance - looking, for instance, at the ability to respond to pupils' strengths and weaknesses, and to help them fulfil their potential; administration; contribution to the team; and contribution to the ethos of the school, including work with the local community.

Applicants evaluated their own performances, and discussed them with their 'line manager' - for instance, the head of faculty for a subject teacher, a deputy head for a faculty head - who also made a separate assessment. Marks were awarded in each area, ranging from five for exceptional performance to zero for unacceptable performance, and the names of the successful teachers were published.

Only two applicants did not receive the bonus, according to Mr Hellen.' I think the reason more teachers did not apply is that they tend to be very self-critical,' he said.

The head of Humanities, Tim Moynihan, who won an award, said: 'It's difficult to say without sounding conceited, but given that the staff were involved in establishing the criteria for this scheme, I think it is a reasonable way of recognising good practice.'

Paula Stride, a geography teacher and another successful applicant, said it had been 'nice to have that bit of extra encouragement and recognition'. She had not detected any bad feeling among other members of staff, but added that if the amount of money had been larger, the scheme would have been more divisive.

Mr Hellen emphasised that performance-related schemes should never be allowed to replace pay schemes for all members of staff to cover increases in the cost of living. He hopes to run the scheme again in future, which is why Cecil Jones High is taking part in the Government performance-related pay pilot study. Under the Government's new pay and conditions document, the only way of rewarding the seven teachers would have been to raise them to the next point on the

salary scale, at a cost of about pounds 20,000.

'As a profession we need to get better at talking about performance - as a way of improving it. In the past we haven't been good at identifying and addressing the qualities of a good teacher, but we should learn to tackle these issues without embarrassment,' he said.

Bryan Darbey, a mathematics teacher and school examinations officer, who has been at Cecil Jones for 24 years, does not share Mr Hellen's enthusiasm for the scheme - despite having received an award. 'I was put forward for the scheme by my line manager, and although I've been pleased to have the money and wouldn't throw it back, I don't believe you can assess a teacher's performance in this way,' he said.

'I could pick out another eight or ten members of staff whom I would have thought were performing equally well. A teacher works very much in isolation, and anybody else only knows 10 per cent of what he or she is doing. Every teacher, I believe, does the best he or she can at the time.'