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Don't do it, Mr Gove: The Secretary of State shouldn't adopt PRP 

Show me a teacher who does his job for the money, and I'll show you a teacher who is mediocre. Any good teacher is motivated on the whole by the children they teach. They love them and the kids know it. That love is what bonds pupil and teacher, especially in the inner city. The more deprived the children, the more love matters. Teacher is motivated by pupils, and pupils by teacher: results go up, and everyone is successful. But make money the motivating factor, and everything goes kaput. 

Performance-related pay (PRP) seems like a good idea on the surface: reward teachers for a job well done. If the kids get excellent exam results, it means the teacher did a good job. Why not give her an extra £500 in her pay packet to say well done? Because, for the sake of £500, you'll turn your school into a place where that teacher won't want to work. By rewarding your best staff with financial bonuses you create a culture that will make them leave the school, and you achieve exactly the opposite of what you wanted. 

Private schools would use PRP if it worked. I have never heard of any that do. If you ask some of these old headmasters why, they won't tell you it is because teachers are above the grubbiness of money. They'll say that PRP would destroy the ethos of their school. 

Those who believe in performance-related pay for our schools are reacting against ludicrous claims coming from the extreme Left and the teaching unions, in support of the current incremental pay system. Some shout about how PRP will be used to discriminate against good staff who are hated by bad heads. Others say that PRP is about cutting all teachers' salaries. Others still believe deep down that any decent socialist education system must understand, at its heart, that all teachers are the same, and therefore must receive the same pay. 

But proponents of PRP are also reacting against a very real problem in schools: poor teachers who move up the pay scale at the same rate as teachers who work, day and night, to transform kids' lives. It just doesn't seem fair. It is bloody annoying for those excellent teachers who feel their work goes unrecognised. It is absolutely the case that even the best heads struggle to reward teachers as accurately and as well as they would like with the standard incremental pay scale. Presumably that's why Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, is backing PRP. What he may not realise is that while extra money in a teacher's pocket is always nice, and it may seem counterintuitive to question PRP, the implementation of a system of PRP is too pernicious and divisive to justify it.

First, let's dismiss the myths. Good teachers work all hours. They are not tutoring on the side to make more money. They simply don't have the time. Nor are they toying with the idea of leaving the state sector to go to the private sector, where they can earn more. State school teachers who leave do so because they are tired of the chaos, and crave some peace in their lives. Teachers earn relatively good money. Long gone are the days when teachers were genuinely struggling to live on their salaries. Leading Practitioner pay rewards excellent teachers who wish to stay in the classroom with salaries up to £57,520, or £64,677 if in inner London. Teachers leave not because of the pay but because their working conditions prevent them from changing the world, as they had imagined they were going to do.

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January 25th, 2014
3:01 PM
Why cannot teachers join the real world like every one else poor performance should lead to no pay rise. Why does the public sector think it is different to everyone else others work in teams and work hard. Get real

Charlie South
January 25th, 2014
1:01 AM
If reform Schools were brought back, where teachers were selected and trained to deal with difficult pupils , then it would make it much easier in comprehensive schools.

December 29th, 2013
1:12 PM
There is a wealth of research that proves the point Ms Birbalsingh is trying to make, but she does not quote any because this is professional knowledge and she seems to think that good teachers are only about "love". I like good professional teachers and doctors because they have professional knowledge and motivation that go beyond "the love for children" (and patients? or perhaps illnesses?). "Love of the profession and the children" leads to non-evidence based reasoning and emoting rather than reasoning and training, and the hilarious deduction that bad teachers are bad because they don't love children enough, as bad doctors are bad because they don't love patients (or illnesses) enough. That is what a degree in philosophy and French from Oxford gives you. At least she used to be a good French teacher. Senior management in a school are also in charge of professional development. As a teacher being told that I have to love the children more (and perhaps work longer hours for them?) does not help me improve in profession.

December 21st, 2013
10:12 PM
Having previously thought the author slightly bonkers, congratulations on a well-argued dismissal of PRP. It DOES pretty much back up what the teaching unions have been saying, and points I have made in letters to the TES. Of course, Katharine can't be seen to be somehow backing unions, hence the dig about 'ludicrous claims' in paragraph 3. PRP IS about saving money - George Osborne said as much in his budget statement. It WILL be used by some Heads to exercise personal dislikes and pursue vendettas against some staff, because this already happens, and this gives heads the means to do it so much more effectively. Teachers "earn relatively good money" - depends what it is 'relative' to. My take home salary and disposable income has gone only one way in the last few years - DOWN.

Malcolm McLean
December 19th, 2013
12:12 AM
I agree. It obviously depends on the precise details - who sets the targets, what they say, who determines whether or not they have been met. But performance-related pay is a likely to do harm as good. The sensible policy to to make all schools free schools. If a free school feels that some sort of incentive system is useful, they can introduce it, tailored to their own circumstances. But I don't think many free schools have done so, thinking, probably rightly, that it will damage staff loyalty, teamwork, school atmosphere.

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