Performance-related pay for teachers

Performance-related pay does not improve educational standards or outcomes, neither does it improve achievement. 

Workload Reduction Taskforce recommendations on Performance Related Pay January 2024

As part of the settlement of last year’s pay dispute the government established a Workload Reduction Taskforce. It has recommended that the requirement for maintained schools to adopt performance related pay be removed.

This is a significant win, however, removing the requirement for schools to use PRP will not automatically end it.  Academy trusts, which are not statutorily required to follow the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), are already free to abandon PRP however most academy trusts have not done so. 

We should also note that the recommended changes on PRP were not due to its inherent discriminatory nature nor it’s undermining of teacher professionalism but due to the ‘administrative and workload burden’ it created, which leaves the door open for a similar, less burdensome iteration of PRP to be introduced. 

Further, while the link between appraisal and pay remains under performance management policies, then there will be an element of PRP that remains – particularly as teachers move to the upper pay scale. The NEU believes that progression should be automatic and annual on the nine point pay scale recommended in the STPCD.

What is performance-related pay?

Performance-related pay (PRP) is the system imposed without negotiation or evidence since 2014 where a teacher’s progression up the pay scale is determined by their performance during the year against criteria and targets set in the autumn term. There should be an attempt to agree objectives and targets between the appraiser and appraisee, but they can be imposed by the appraiser where agreement is not reached.

PRP for teachers is ineffective and unfair; it increases workload and stress while undermining collaborative working. It is also often used to apply unfair targets and to hold down pay, having a disproportionate and discriminatory impact on women and Black educators. Many teachers have been denied pay progression even when they met the targets set.

Many multi-academy trusts (MATs) have removed PRP. The result is happier teachers who feel more valued and have more control over their workload and greater motivation to focus on what improves outcomes for children. 

Why should Performance Related Pay be abolished?

Advice for negotiators, whether school reps, Lead Reps or Branch Officers, on moving away from Performance Related Pay (PRP) in their workplace and talking to members about it.

Read more

PRP does not improve educational outcomes

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) research on the impact of PRP in teaching has concluded that “the overall picture reveals no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes”.

The Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) found that the impact of performance pay is low (+1 month) in terms of student outcomes.

The Welsh Government scrapped PRP for teachers following the recommendation of the Independent Welsh Pay Review Body which found “little conclusive evidence to show that linking pay progression to performance has been effective in improving standards.”

PRP undermines supportive appraisal

The link between appraisal and pay deters teachers from being open about their development needs, for fear that this will be used as an excuse to deny them the pay progression they deserve.

Teacher performance cannot be measured in isolation

The quality of teaching cannot be measured, quantified or ranked in the way PRP demands. Teaching is a professional skill rather than an exact science and schools are learning communities – good teachers build their students’ achievement on foundations laid by other teachers and support staff. 

Pupil/student performance is affected by a range of complex factors including home environment and other issues outside of teachers’ control, so it is not fair to penalise teachers. Loss of pay progression even in one year has a significant impact on career earnings.

The Sutton Trust recommends that schools should never assess teachers on data from a single year and that any measure should allow “for the wide range of potential activity teachers provide outside of the classroom such as contributing to effective management and extra-curricular activities”.

This is a view shared by academy leaders who have ditched PRP. Jonny Uttley, chief executive of the Education Alliance, has questioned the metrics used to measure performance, warning that leaders have become “obsessed with individual scores and put too much weight on them”.

PRP leads to narrower choices and opportunities for students

According to the EEF, implementing performance-related pay can narrow the focus of teachers to particular groups or particular measures.

Where PRP is in place, this can lead to narrower choices and opportunities for pupils, as teachers tend to narrowly focus on achieving their own appraisal targets at the expense of other aspects.

PRP increases workload for both teachers and leaders

Every year teachers, senior leaders and governors spend hours in the PRP process – diverting time away from the key challenges of securing improvements in teaching and learning. PRP contributes to the excessive accountability regime, creating significant and unnecessary observations and bureaucracy.

In 2018, 47 per cent of teachers surveyed by the NEU said their PRP appraisal had caused them extra work. Among appraisers, 54 per cent reported that appraising others had caused significant extra work.

The only Department for Education (DfE)-commissioned study of its pay reforms found that most teachers (66 per cent) thought that their school’s current pay policy had added to their workload while only a minority felt the reforms encouraged them to achieve better results for their pupils.

Employers that are moving away from PRP regularly cite the unnecessary burden of workload generated by the system. The Northern Education Trust’s chief executive Rob Tarn said that “the formal process of lesson observation, numeric targets and the link to pay progression causes staff undue workload and anxiety, but there is little impact in terms of student performance”.

PRP harms recruitment and retention

Teachers are stressed, overworked, and demotivated by PRP and it is causing them to consider leaving the profession. Teacher recruitment and retention rates are a huge problem in England. The National Foundation for Educational Research Teacher Labour Market in England – Annual Report 2022 concluded that “teacher supply challenges in England are re-emerging after two years of having eased somewhat due to the pandemic”.

In 2021, 82 per cent of respondents to the NEU survey on pay progression said they had considered leaving teaching due to concerns about pay levels or PRP. This was up significantly from 60 per cent in the previous year and 63 per cent the year before.

The DfE-commissioned evaluation of its pay reforms found that most teachers (80 per cent) felt that the pay reforms would lead to some good teachers leaving the profession and 56 per cent disagreed that the reforms would strengthen the quality of teaching for the profession.

PRP contributes to discriminatory outcomes

PRP was imposed on teachers without an equality audit. The DfE has failed to produce details on the equality impact of PRP, despite regular calls on it to do so from the NEU and even from the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB).

The NEU’s survey on pay progression revealed alarming trends including that Black and Asian teachers were almost twice as likely to report being turned down for pay progression than white respondents. Of those who were eligible for progression and knew the outcome of their application, almost a quarter of Black and Asian teachers were rejected.

Older teachers were also significantly more likely to be turned down for progression.

The Government’s evidence to the STRB for 2022 included analysis which found that the decline in progression rates was “more pronounced” for part-time teachers, most of whom are women.

Given that women make up a larger proportion of the primary school workforce than men and are four times more likely to work part-time, the analysis warned that the “negative impact on the progression of part-time workers could have served to disproportionately disadvantage female teachers”.

Ending PRP would enable a much more collective, collaborative, and effective approach to school improvement. 

Paying all teachers better works. A study across OECD countries in 2011 concluded both that “higher pay leads to improved pupil performance” and that the highest performing countries have well paid teachers whose status in society is high.

Teachers deserve pay progression to reflect their acquisition of experience and expertise.

If education employers are genuinely serious about school improvement, they should look to proven successes such as the City Challenge approach used in London which resulted in “measurable and sustainable” school improvement. The evaluation report of this project recognised that “school communities tend to thrive when they feel trusted, supported and encouraged” and that “if teachers are to inspire pupils, they themselves need to be motivated and inspired”.

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