One of the criticisms of yesterday’s announcement is that this is performance pay by stealth. Have a look here, here or here for examples.
It’s reasonable to be wary of this, from a Minister who said in the past that it something she’s considering.
PPTA’s position on performance pay is clear. In 2012 the Executive affirmed a long held stance rejecting “discriminatory performance pay for teachers”. Nothing has changed since then.
The word ‘discriminatory’ is significant. To some extent teaching, like any other profession, already has elements of performance pay. And I don’t think anyone would argue with that. At the most basic level, if you don’t perform at all, i.e. turn up, do what is required like finish your reports and keep your classes gainfully occupied, then you lose your job.
But there is a lot more to it than that. When performance pay is used, in teaching or other jobs, there various ways performance is measured. And in actuality, piece-work type employment, like apple picking, where the outputs are easily quantified, and the work is generally menial and repetitive is the only area where ‘pure performance pay’ happens regularly.
In most other professions there are some sorts of more or less subjective judgements made about how well someone is doing their job, or how much of it they are doing, which help determine whether or not they keep it, or get paid more or less.
And teaching is not that different. Except that one advantage teaching has, thanks in part to the strong collective agreement that covers our employment is that those judgements tend towards being less subjective and more transparent than in other workplaces.
The three areas in which teachers’ performance already impacts on their pay are:
- Their qualifications – a proxy for ‘quality’ – not always the best, but certainly a reasonable indication of a level of skill and knowledge that will enable you to be a better teacher. Teachers with lower level qualifications earn less.
- Attestation that teachers are meeting standards. There are two sets of standards that teachers need to meet – professional standards in the collective agreement to get pay increases and registered teacher criteria to continue to hold a practising certificate. Teachers have to show that they are meeting these standards – which are broad and reasonably holistic, and were collaboratively developed.
- Pay for extra duties or responsibilities. Teachers who ‘do more’ - whether it’s leading a department or taking responsibility for some significant extra-curricular activities can get more money – this is what units are for. This is clearly a performance related pay – more work leads to extra pay.
So, hardly a ‘soviet car factory’ as some would suggest.
The second and third of these three areas are clearly where these new roles of ‘Expert Teacher’ and ‘Lead Teacher’ fit. They will have standards that teachers will need to meet to get the job – standards we’ll be involved in developing and which won’t (because we’ll make sure they don’t) place undue weight on reductive ‘measurables’. And these roles have extra duties and responsibilities attached – for sharing good practice, leading collaboration and encouraging innovation. Like the Specialist Classroom Teacher, which we fought for the in the 2004 Collective agreement round – they are a career pathway for teachers who have something else to offer their colleagues and the system as a whole, and in a role that is not simply ‘management’ of the school. And ideally – we’d like to see the third of these – qualifications be introduced to give them a further degree of objectivity and removal from school management control.
Performance pay becomes ‘discriminatory’ when it is competitive and rationed, and that’s where we have concerns. The position that we took in 2012 was that, if a performance pay system would pit teachers against each other in competition for a limited number of bonuses or recognise one type of easily quantifiable contribution to the school more than another less easily quantifiable one, then it would be resisted. At the time the Executive agreed that
“Discriminatory performance pay is a tool to control teachers and minimise the costs and responsibility of government for delivering equitable and high quality education to all. Some of its implications include:
- Changing the motivation of teachers from the intrinsic reward of seeing students learn to the extrinsic reward of a better pay packet
- Breaking down collegial and collaborative relationships, and replacing them with competitive ones
- Increasing the recruitment and retention challenges for low decile schools
- Ensuring that some students are taught by teachers to be deemed less effective, but remain teaching on a lower pay rate
- Forcing schools into bidding wars for teachers in areas of subject shortages
- Making it easier for inadequate educational leaders to command superficial compliance from teachers, at the cost of genuine motivation and buy in.
- Undermining the morale of the teaching profession”
The new roles of ‘Expert Teacher’ and ‘Lead Teacher’ (the names are naff, I don’t know many teachers who will put their hands up and say, “Yep, I’m an expert”) don’t come with bonuses – but with extra pay for actual an actual job. There are always a limited number of positions – whether Principal or Head of Department. Roles that are focussed on mentoring other teachers rather than managing them, and sharing good teaching practice rather than developing it in isolation are fantastic – and in stark contrast to simply giving extra cash to a teacher who wrings the most ‘value added’ out of their students.