The NEU opposes the use of performance-related pay (PRP) in schools - it is unfair and ineffective.
PRP does not improve educational standards or outcomes. 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.” A wide range of other research, including from the USA and Portugal, has suggested that it has no overall impact on achievement or may even reduce it.
PRP does not motivate teachers. Professor David Marsden’s 2009 study, The Paradox of Performance Related Pay Systems: Why Do We Keep Adopting Them in the Face of Evidence that they Fail to Motivate? sums up its conclusions in its title.
PRP undermines and disrupts effective school improvement. It encourages teachers to work in isolation, rather than pooling their expertise. Schools are learning communities - good teachers build their students’ achievement on foundations laid by other teachers and support staff. Teachers work best when they work collaboratively.
If we are serious about school improvement, we should instead focus on the lessons of proven successes - such as the City Challenge model in London and the Midlands, declared by researchers to have produced school improvement which is not only “measurable and sustainable” but also “more cost effective than other strategies”.
PRP distorts teaching and leads to narrower choices & opportunities for students. Research on PRP proposals for teachers in Canada concluded that teachers focus on matters relevant to their pay at the expense of other matters, “whether those are different subject areas or soft skills or relationships with students”. As the Local Schools Network has argued, PRP will steer teachers towards the ‘best’ classes (the easiest to teach and highest achieving) rather than the hardest to help succeed.
Quality of teaching cannot be measured, quantified or ranked in the way PRP demands. Teaching is a professional skill rather than an exact science. The Sutton Trust says that schools should rely on a combination of approaches to gain a full picture of teacher effectiveness and should never assess teachers on data from a single year.
The ending of pay progression based on length of service makes teaching a less attractive career choice at a time of a growing teacher recruitment crisis. The number of teachers leaving the profession has been steadily rising. DfE figures show that in the 12 months to November 2017 (the most recent year for which statistics are available) over 50,000 qualified teachers in England left the state sector, which equates to one in ten teachers. The number of teachers leaving as a proportion of the total number of teachers in service, known as the ‘wastage rate’, is 10.5 per cent.
PRP is an unnecessary and bureaucratic burden. It ties up school leaders and governors in lengthy discussions and time consuming appeals - diverting time away from the key challenges of securing improvements in teaching and learning.
PRP risks turning Ofsted into the Government’s pay police. Ofsted inspectors are expected to look at the relationship between teaching in the school and pay progression, requiring school leaders to justify pay progression decisions – thus further undermining the already tenuous trust between schools and Ofsted.
PRP often leads to discriminatory outcomes. The European Commission’s 2014 paper, Tackling the gender pay gap in the European Union, recognises that PRP contributes to unequal pay between men and women – a link also identified by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC). Whilst male and female teachers are both likely to be disadvantaged by PRP, the evidence suggests that female teachers are affected even more. Such gender inequality, as well as other forms of discrimination, is identified in the latest NEU survey of pay progression outcomes for 2017 (published February 2018). This found that the teachers most likely not to have received a cost-of-living pay increase were female, disabled, LGBT+, non-White British and part-time teachers.
PRP does not lead to "the best teachers being paid more". Pressures on school funding mean faster pay progression for some can only happen at the expense of others. The NEU survey of pay progression outcomes for 2017 found that almost a fifth (19%) of those eligible for progression, and who had been notified of the outcome of the pay decision, had been denied it. Seventeen per cent of those turned down for progression had been explicitly told that this was due to funding or budgetary constraints.
Research conducted for the DfE published in October 2017 found that two thirds (66%) of teachers surveyed thought that their school’s pay policy (as adapted to fit the requirements of PRP) had increased their workload.
Finally, teachers reject PRP, whatever the Government and its supporters say. A 2015 NUT/YouGov poll conducted in October 2015 found that 67% of respondents were not in favour of PRP for teachers and 84% believed it was “not practicable” to match an individual teachers’ contribution to student outcomes.
What does work is paying all teachers better. Another study looking 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. This won’t be achieved by focusing on PRP for the few.
PRP in teaching is not about raising standards. It undermines professional co-operation and hampers school improvement. It promotes unfairness and inequality and makes pay determination costlier and more bureaucratic. It is actually all about cutting the pay bill for teachers - which is why the NEU continues to oppose it.