“Teachers 'back pay link to results’”. Really?

Janet Downs's picture
Teachers 'back pay link to results'

Press Association headline on article repeated in the media*.

“Many teachers are in favour of linking their pay to pupils' results and progress in the classroom, according to a poll,” the first line says.

But how “many” is “many”? And can “results and progress” be reduced to just “results”?

It’s not until about half way down the article that the reader discovers “many” is actually 53%. This is nearer to the original headline from the Sutton Trust which commissioned the poll.

“Just over half of teachers back ‘payment by results’”

But even the Sutton Trust’s headline is misleading because the survey asked teachers whether consideration should be given to pupils’ results and progress when assessing pay. Results and progress are not the same thing: a pupil can make good progress and still do poorly in a test. Similarly, a bright child can coast along but still shine in exams.

We don’t know from the answers to the question how many teachers are in favour of assessing pay by pupil progress alone, test results alone or both. That’s because the question was badly worded. A GCSE statistics pupil would know that giving two options in one question will not yield a reliable answer.

The Sutton Trust who commissioned the poll should have known that. The National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) which did the survey should have known that. But the answer to this badly-constructed question will no doubt be seized upon by supporters of performance-related pay as a sign that teachers agree with the policy.

So, do “teachers ‘back pay link to results’”?


Based on this survey, not really.

*See here and here for two examples. For an incomprehensible article based on this story see here. It quotes a Department for Education source as saying: “This shows clever support from teachers via England for a skeleton to let faculties compensate glorious lecturers extra” and describes NUT’s Christine Blower as “ubiquitous secretary of a inhabitant Union of academics”.
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