Debate: Michael Gove says performance-related pay for teachers will improve education. Is he right?

 

What's going on?

The education secretary Michael Gove today confirmed that as of September, teachers will have their pay decided on the basis of perceived performance rather than length of service. The new system will give headteachers more power to decide staff pay, rather than allowing automatic progression up the pay scale.

This is the latest in a series of Whitehall "attacks" on teacher's pay, conditions and pensions that have made Gove increasingly unpopular within the teaching profession. The unions accuse him of undermining the profession and have reacted by threatening strike action.

Case for: The best incentive

Teachers - like other public sector freeloaders - have been getting an easy ride for too long. All the evidence from countless international studies suggests that one of the biggest determinants of a pupil’s educational success is the quality of their teacher(s). Separately, we know that performance-related pay acts as an effective incentive; to argue that it doesn’t flies in the face of business practice around the world. It therefore follows that if we both want the best talent to come into the teaching profession, and want those already in the profession to raise their game, we should create a causal link between the quality of their teaching and the salaries they receive. Given education is a public good, all taxpayers would benefit from this.

Case against: Respect the profession

If the ultimate goal of the education secretary is to ensure high quality in the teaching profession, this is entirely the wrong approach. Heads will now have to waste time negotiating pay deals, while teachers who dare to dream of being paid in line with inflation, will be forced to re-prioritise appearing to do a good job, over actually doing their job. For a vital profession, already struggling to recruit, this will be a heavy blow.

Most irksome of all, this is policy based on the simplistic, insulting and debunked assumption that problems in education are based on lazy teachers who need the motivation of a pay rise to do their jobs. Really? If that was the case, wouldn't they all be in banking? An industry in which performance-related bonuses have a proven record of creating a healthy workplace culture with widespread benefits to society at large...Oh wait...

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