It does seem strange, doesn’t it?  I mean, the notion that, the better you are at your job, the more you get paid.  Surely it seems pretty fair to me.


Perhaps then it was no surprise then that there was a bit of tutting and sighing when I read that teacher’s unions were planning to strike because of government plans to introduce performance-related pay.

I’m not totally sure what teachers were expecting when it comes to pay – perhaps they believe it doesn’t matter how well they perform in the classroom, so long as they get their pay. I am certainly not saying that it’s an easy job (I’ve recently covered pay and conditions for Superprof) but there has to be a stage where you’re viewed on how well you’re actually doing your job.

You don’t pay a teacher churning out a classroom full of A*s from a group that should be getting Cs the same amount of money as the teacher with a class of kids not living up to their potential.  It seems to me that performance pay is clearly the way forward.

Or is it?

Let’s be balanced about this, shall we?  I mean, there would be several pitfalls to a performance-related pay system for teachers, so I’ll look at both sides of the argument.

  • How exactly do you work out what achievement actually is? Let’s face it, we appear to work out our best teachers based on predicted grades.  There are two methods that are frequently used by schools to work out what a student ‘should’ get for a particular subject.  The first of these is the predicted grades given by a teacher for their student.  From my experience these tended to be accurate and fairly-well thought out, even if I ever really saw them at A-Level.
  • For the rest of my years, I had to put up with the National Indicator (NI), possibly one of the most pointless ideas to be used by schools, local authorities and the government. NI is basically an average, what you would ‘expect’ from a child.  The system is fraught with pitfalls, including one part of the algorithm that actually puts weighting on where you live (they believe that living in a more expensive area of town means that you will in some way perform better) and another that even considers how many parents you have – the theory of that being that two parents will be able to support you more.
  • Now, I’m not totally sure if that is fair, seeing as a one-parent child living in a poorer neighbourhood arguably could have more of a drive than a two-parent child living in the most exclusive area of town. All the NI does is use stereotypes – not the best way of operating. End result?  Some potentially noticeable inaccuracy.  Suddenly there will be some teachers who end up lucky and others who don’t.  Not so much a measure of achievement as a measure of the norms.
  • Money is a powerful motivator – To quote W.C Fields, “anything worth having is worth cheating for.”  Offering a performance-based pay scale potentially opens up the doors to people being less-than-honest.  In shorthand, teachers have been known to cheat too.  If you offer people more money if they do a good job of it, human nature says you’ll find an easy way around it.   The government would have to make sure that teachers don’t resort to underhand tactics to get more pay.

Ultimately though, there is a fine balance to maintain.  We need to keep our teachers motivated at a time when changes aren’t always proving popular and we are being told teacher morale is low.  Then again, do you want to risk a problematic new system of bureaucracy and petty fighting over who is really doing the work?

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