How long is a piece of string, what is “good performance” and other impossible questions

So it looks like Mr Gove is going to get his way again and we are going to get performance related pay. Head Teachers and Governors will be able to make salary decisions based on how they perform in annual appraisals.

How do we apply worth or value to a teacher? If Head Teachers can reward “good performance” what exactly does this mean?

Let’s look at a typical (or not) school and some of the teachers who work within it-

Mrs White – solid, experienced, dependable teacher – her students achieve well, in line with their targets. A “good” teacher in the traditional sense of the word.

Mr Green – superb form tutor, develops strong relationships with his tutees – some with very particular and challenging issues – and works effectively with parents. Some of Mr Green’s students may not have made it through school without his efforts.

Mrs Brown – Amazing PGCE and NQT mentor. Works tirelessly to support and develop new entrants to the profession. Mrs Brown has helped the school develop a reputation as a good place to learn to teach.

Mr Black – Organises extra-curricular events and trips. Mr Black ensures that there are opportunities for students in every year group to experience something different and exciting during their time in school. In charge of the school prom – a consistently well organised and memorable event.

Miss Scarlet – teaches exciting, engaging lessons. Always interested in developing best and next practice in her school. Engages with colleagues on twitter, attends TeachMeets and does everything she can to stay on the “cutting edge”

Mr Pink – Subject Leader in a “core” department. Plans his department timetable to ensure that he takes his fair share of “challenging” and low-ability classes. Ensure that less experienced or less confident staff are given timetables that help them develop, without leaving them with classes they can’t manage.

All of these staff make valuable contributions to school life in some way or another. I feel sorry for the Head Teacher who may have to attach value to these contributions. Which of teachers above is the “good” teacher? The teacher who gets “results”? The teacher who coaches and mentors colleagues in those important early years of their careers? The teacher who inspires “awe and wonder” in their students? The teacher who provides the child with an experience that they carry with them for the rest of their lives?

It would great to think of a school where every teacher can do all of those things but that school doesn’t exist. No teacher can be “good” at everything. A school needs ALL of those people and the complex mix of skills and qualities that they bring.
Forcing Head Teachers & Governors to compare teachers in this way cannot be good. It will surely be divisive, impacting upon morale and teachers willingness to collaborate and share practice.

I suspect that Mr Gove’s definition of good performance involves results – the kind of results that can be quantified in nice statistics on bits of paper in the same way that he believes that league tables are the best way to judge a school’s performance. He wants to introduce an EBac which will stop teachers “teaching to the test” yet surely the opposite will happen with PRP.

He also believes that the new pay recommendations will make teaching “a more attractive career and a more rewarding job” How rewarding would it be to work in a climate where you are potentially judged against the person in the next classroom? Or where your gifts and talents aren’t deemed worthy because they kind of results they yield aren’t tangible or easily quantifiable?

Perhaps in Mr Gove’s ideal school, results are the only thing that matter. Teachers are there to get students through exams and nothing else matters – not relationships, not the joy of learning, not the experiences they have along the way –just like the “good old days”

That would make sense. He wants to send our curriculum back 40 years, why not send teachers back with it?

Gove Nirvana

Gove Nirvana


2 thoughts on “How long is a piece of string, what is “good performance” and other impossible questions

  1. An interesting post Jon. A good headteacher worth his/her salt would recognise the performance in each of those teachers listed. You have also listed quite individual roles – but what about a bad example of a protagonist in each? What about a teacher who fails to inspire, doesn’t run afterschool clubs, or take their fair share of workload – should these be rewarded in the same vain?

    • A good point Mark, thanks for the feedback. Good Head Teachers would reward those things, but should HT’s have to spend large amounts of time making these decisions. And sadly there will be some Heads who don’t fit this category. Just wonder if makes a hard job even harder. And as for those other teachers … Difficult to answer. I think all these things make PRP a hugely complex issue and I worry that it would implemented before being thought through..

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