Schools fail to reach target set by head – will they receive their Performance Related Pay?

Janet Downs's picture
“I would expect my Year 6 teaching team to be aiming to get 92 per cent of their pupils to at least level 4 in reading; 49 per cent to level 5 and 15 per cent at level 6.”

Amanda Phillips, TES, 4 September 2013

Amanda Phillips, one of the education secretary's "Magnificent Seven", is executive headteacher at Old Ford Primary School and Culloden Primary School, two converter academies in Tower Hamlets. She believes performance-related pay (PRP) would improve teaching and sets “measurable objectives” including the target above.

So, how did the two schools perform in Key Stage 2 Sats in 2013?

Old Ford Primary just missed it. 91% reached Level 4 in Reading and 47% reached Level 5.

Culloden Primary School didn’t fare so well. 78% of Year 6 pupils reached Level 4 Reading and 33% reached Level 5.

Both schools were over the Tower Hamlets average of 80% for Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling: 92% of Old Ford pupils and 81% of Culloden pupils reached Level 4. In Maths, the proportion was 93% and 91% respectively (Tower Hamlet average: 88%).

So, based on results alone, perhaps Old Ford staff will be on target to receive their PRP bonuses. But Culloden teachers might miss out on the promised pay rise of £3,068 or £5,511 rather than the £1,495 automatic annual increment (up to the top of the pay scale, of course – increments don’t get awarded indefinitely).

There are, however, other “measurable objectives”: all teaching must be “at least good” and “large numbers of their pupils are making above average progress”. The article didn’t clarify how large was “large” but the progress for this “large” group must be “above average” not “average” which is, of course, where the majority of children will be.

Another target for teachers in Ms Phillips’s schools is to manage a teacher-training student effectively. But that could only be possible if there’s one student per teacher. Teachers who aren’t allocated a student would miss out.

But most primary teachers don’t teach Year 6 so they couldn’t be measured on the Level 4 target. And Year 6 teachers depend on teachers lower down the school. How are teachers of Year 5 and below going to be rewarded? Ms Phillips says there will be “robust, on-going assessments” to ensure pupils are on target to reach at least Level 4 in Year 6. But children’s learning isn’t a continuous, upward climb. There are peaks, troughs and plateaux. Last year’s climbers may be this year’s consolidators. So should this year’s teacher be refused a pay rise on the grounds that the pupils didn’t make as much progress as last year?

Suppose the system works and all teachers meet the targets and can expect the bonus. And it works again next year. How will the school’s budget cope with all teachers receiving pay rises larger than annual increments year-on-year? And what happens when teachers reach what would have been the top of the pay scale? Would s/he continue to receive PRP if s/he hit the targets?

Suppose a teacher who hit targets last year didn’t this year. Would s/he lose the PRP awarded last year? And what if the reasons s/he didn’t hit the targets were because of external circumstances: a sudden influx of pupils who can’t speak English or a large group of previously low-attaining pupils?

Supporters of PRP say it is motivating. But good teachers can be demotivated if there is the slightest whiff of it being applied unfairly or if they are penalised for factors beyond their control.
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