Teachers mark down performance-related pay

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The Independent Online
PUBLIC-SECTOR workers who are offered performance-related pay work harder but not better, a new study says. Research conducted by the London School of Economics found that such schemes failed to motivate most workers and threatened teamwork and trust.

If the schemes do not work in other public-sector jobs, they are even less likely to do so for teachers, said Ray Richardson, who carried out the evaluation, which was commissioned by the National Union of Teachers. The findings, which come on the eve of the Government's publication of details of performance-related pay (PRP) for teachers, say the changes may lead to a "darker possibility" in schools.

If pay is linked to exam results, desperate teachers may be tempted to fiddle scores by helping pupils more than they should with coursework projects. "This is unlikely to happen on a major scale but one might expect a number of scandals to surface each year," Dr Richardson said.

He predicted that the link between exam results and teachers' performance "may well be tenuous and will certainly be difficult to measure objectively. If so, try as they might, teachers could well see examinations outcomes as too much of a random variable, as yet another turn of the system's roulette wheel".

The research examined the effect of PRP in the Inland Revenue, National Health Service, Employment Service, the water industry and among headteachers.

Dr Richardson concluded that none provided strong support for the Government's proposals for teachers and only in the health service was there some evidence that the scheme motivated workers. Line managers, except in the health service, were scarcely more enthusiastic than employees about the effects.

In the Inland Revenue, managers "could see some signs of harder work, even if that lay in the dimension of quantity rather than quality". The same was true in the Employment Service. Headteachers were the only group to oppose PRP in principle. They said that it was divisive and unfair.

The study suggested that PRP had improved productivity in private industry but in the public sector it was rare for more than 20 per cent of employees to agree that it had given them an incentive to change.

That did not mean, Dr Richardson added, that a PRP scheme for teachers would be an outright failure, because it might be considered a success if it engaged the enthusiasm of 20 per cent of teachers.

However, he argued that the number of teachers who were persuaded to remain in the profession by rises linked to performance could be balanced by those who left because they were refused a rise.

"There must be a suspicion that the Government is really using performance- related pay for a somewhat different purpose than merely recruitment, retention and motivation," he said. "It is possible that the new proposals are really a way of rewarding a selective minority of teachers without incurring the wage-bill costs of extending benefits across the board."

The National Union of teachers is opposed to payment by results and is boycotting appraisals of teacher performance.