Education, Policy Apr 8 2013

Performance related pay – don’t believe the spin

Today I have written my Guardian column on the issue of performance related pay for teachers which the Coalition government wants to introduce from this autumn. You can click on this link to read the full text of the article. Before I started writing it, I put out a request for opinion and evidence on Twitter and received a huge number of responses from people in this country and in North America. I thought LSN readers might be interested in the four pieces of evidence that cropped up again and again.

The first was a research review from the Education Endowment Foundation , a charity funded by the government . The EEF assesses the value of particular interventions in schools, in particular relating to narrowing gaps. Its conclusion on PRP was “Low or no impact for moderate cost, based on very limited evidence”.

The second piece of evidence came from PISA. Again the evidence was scanty and the results inconclusive. To quote the report: “Performance-based pay is worth considering in some contexts; but making it work well and sustainably is a formidable challenge. Pay levels can only be part of the work environment: countries that have succeeded in making teaching an attractive profession have often done so not just through pay, but by raising the status of teaching, offering real career prospects, and giving teachers responsibility as professionals and leaders of reform. This requires teacher education that helps teachers to become innovators and researchers in education, not just civil servants who deliver curricula.”

The third link I was sent referred to a paper Eight Reasons Why Merit Pay is a Bad Idea  by Ben Levin, the Canadian academic who was part of the turn around of Ontario’s school in the last decade. I have written before about Ben’s book “How to Change 5000 Schools”. His conclusion on merit pay is that it won’t work to improve student outcomes and may even damage them.

Finally watch this little RSAnimate film by American management guru Dan Pink about what motivates professionals. Guess what, it is a bit more complicated than just money.

No-one provided firm evidence that PRP does work to improve performance and as one academy head, who felt PRP would be an  “unmitigated disaster” in his school, pointed out :”There are already many systems in place for dealing with poor performance (and we use these rigorously at our academy) – I don’t think we need any more.”

He felt PRP would lead to wrangling over “who deserved what” when teaching needed to be a team effort.  It will certainly be divisive, as the teacher unions are also planning to strike about it, but for what would appear to be little reward. In other words a very Gove-ian policy and unnecessary in the current climate.

Leave a Reply