What is Performance Related Pay?
Performance Related Pay (PRP) is the system applied since 2014 where a teacher’s progression up the pay scale is determined by their performance during the year against a set criteria and targets agreed in the autumn term.
1. Trust and value teachers
It is not a coincidence that since the introduction of Performance Related Pay in 2014, monitoring and so-called accountability regimes within schools have become even more stringent. NEU members often talk of a distinct lack of trust in their ability to get on with their job, as a professional, without overbearing scrutiny and the ‘stick’ of PRP to deal with ‘poor performance’. You are a professional and should be trusted as such. You are capable of working in the best interest of the young people you serve without the threat of your pay being frozen.
2. It doesn’t improve performance
There is no evidence that PRP actually improves educational outcomes. The Education Endowment Foundation’s research for their toolkit describes the impact of PRP as having “just above zero months’ [impact on] progress.” Research on the impact of PRP, conducted by the OECD concluded, “the overall picture reveals no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes.” So if PRP does not lead to improved educational outcomes, why are we doing it?
3. Not every school is applying it anymore
Some schools are finally seeing the light, realising that PRP does more harm than good and are scrapping it. The TEAL multi academy trust has done away with it and the E-Act MAT, which runs 28 schools around the country, has removed PRP; guaranteeing one point of pay progression for all teachers unless they are “subject to a formal capability process”.
4. It harms recruitment and retention
Last year there were 1300 additional vacancies for teachers than the previous 12 months. That was a 12 months when more people left teaching than joined it! In the context of a growing teacher recruitment and retention crisis, why are schools still forcing their staff to jump through so many hoops to achieve pay progression? A forward thinking approach would be to do away with PRP and use this as an incentive to attract staff and keep them in the workplace longer.
5. It increases workload
Every autumn term a huge number of hours of teachers’, senior leaders’ and governors’ time is spent in the PRP process. Of course, time should be devoted to genuine appraisal and evaluation but isn’t there a better way of doing this? PRP also generates workload throughout the year as individuals pursue specific initiatives related to their performance management targets. Even the DfE’s own survey in 2017 showed the majority of teachers thought PRP had increased workload. Removing PRP would mean that schools could ensure that areas to work on were agreed and tracked collaboratively and would allow for greater in-year flexibility if priorities change.
6. We need to work collaboratively and not in isolation
Even under PRP, teachers still strive to be collaborative and open to working with others but PRP can lead to a more atomised way of working as people concentrate on meeting their individual targets to achieve pay progression. The end of PRP would enable a much more collective and collaborative approach to school improvement. This approach was reflected in the success of the London Challenge and is echoed in the Mayor’s election pledge to institute a ‘Lewisham Challenge’ to improve secondary school performance.
7. Ending PRP would lead to more open and honest self-evaluation
The threat of being denied pay progression hangs over the head of any teacher who may be concerned about an element of their practice. You are less likely to open up about an issue or seek support if you think it could be used as evidence to stop you going up the pay scale. Removing that threat would allay some of the fear of reaching out and asking for support.
8. You need financial stability
London is expensive. A recent study showed that you would need to have a combined household income of £100,000 to be able to afford to buy a first home in Lewisham. How can teachers financially plan for these exorbitant costs if they don’t know if they will be receiving their pay progression or not? That financial stability would convince more teachers to stay working in Inner London and improve retention.
9. PRP can compound systemic inequalities
Studies conducted by the European Commission and the Equality and Human Rights Commission suggested that PRP contributes to unequal pay between men and women. If we want to close the gender pay gaps in our schools, then getting rid of PRP is a good place to start.
10. We need a united campaign for more funding for our schools
Savage cuts to school budgets since 2010 have led to as many as 1 in 3 council run secondary schools being in deficit. This has led many schools to use the performance management system and the denial of pay progression to save money. In an NEU survey, 17% of those who had been denied pay progression were explicitly told that the reason was financial. Many more will have been in this category but not aware. In 2016, staff at John Fisher School in Sutton fought bravely for the promise of their pay progression to be honoured. After three days strike action, the school agreed to their demands, backdating pay to September 2015. Rather than being pitted against each other to fight for the crumbs, we should be united in a campaign for the funding our schools desperately need.