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Evidence check: Professional Measurement Metrics

Education Committee

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7 Contributions (since 18 November 2014)
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Valentine Mulholland (NAHT)

15 December 2014 at 09:22

The evidence check provided by the DfE on the evidence and rationale for the introduction of performance related pay progression for teachers highlights both the DfE’s strengths and weaknesses in relation to the development of this policy. It sets out clearly the objectives in developing the policy, objectives that NAHT supported as they allow schools to encourage and develop the best teachers whilst addressing the performance of those whose performance is poorer. The process by which policy change in relation to teacher’s pay and conditions is independently considered by the School Teacher’s Review Body also has much to commend it, creating objective scrutiny of all the evidence in relation to the subject and getting much closer to evidence based policy making, although the Secretary of State does have the option to ignore the recommendation made. Indeed when the STRB considered the issue of PRPP, they were also asked to consider the case for moving away from a national pay framework split into four areas to take into account London issues, and to move to a system of regional pay. The evidence against regional pay was overwhelming, with the strongest argument that it would work against those schools in the poorest areas who would potentially face the toughest challenges with the least paid staff, compounding their struggles. The STRB clearly rejected the concept of regional pay and it is interesting to note therefore, that in this ‘evidence check’, paragraph 6 of the DfE’s submission refers to this policy of PRPP as being able to address regional pay differences . This is misleading in two ways: firstly, it is not the intention of this policy to address regional pay differences as already made clear by the STRB and secondly, this would suggest that schools have the budgets to be able to pay what they want in areas where recruitment is most difficult. Indeed introducing PRPP at a time of increasing pressure on school budgets has meant that schools have had very little flexibility to differentiate between teachers of varying performance and the impact of the policy in September 2014 appears to be extremely limited. The evidence check from the DfE is also unhelpful in conflating the issue of PRPP with that of making savings to the school salary bill, as highlighted in paragraph 5. This is clearly not one of the objectives of PRPP, and indeed such an objective where aligned with PRPP would undermine it, and creates confusion about the intention of this policy. Whilst NAHT were supportive of PRPP, we do not support the erosion of the national pay framework which has been introduced with it, retaining only the minimum and the maximum of the pay scales for main and upper pay scale teachers and creating discretion for schools to create their own individual pay scales within these parameters, and with indications that even these parameters will eventually disappear so that we could see a situation where every school has a slightly different pay scale. The majority of our school leader members have no appetite to develop their own pay scales and there has been no examination of the evidence to suggest that local arrangements create overarching benefits. This is an ideological position that has not been properly examined and NAHT would welcome the Education Committee considering the issue of a national pay framework for teachers. On a final point, whilst we supported PRPP, we were also clear that it needed time to be introduced and bedded in, time for schools to carefully consider performance objectives and to enter into discussions with teachers. Instead, the policy was confirmed in January 2013 and the final detail was published in August 2013 for schools to implement weeks later. This put incredible pressure on school leaders and governing bodies, as well as making acceptance by teachers much more complex. It is unsurprising, therefore, that many schools have been very cautious in their initial implementation of the policy, and it is hoped that Ofsted will recognise this when they assess how well schools are differentiating between teachers, otherwise the DfE’s approach to policy implementation will have failed schools inspected in 2013/14. Valentine Mulholland Policy Adviser NAHT

Jose Coles

12 December 2014 at 11:16

This is yet another example of the Government basing their policies on poor quality research. All too often performance is measured by numbers - I am interested in children's self-esteem - their ability to be resilient, resourceful, reciprocal and reflective. Numbers can't communicate how a teacher impacts on such things!

Matt Perks

10 December 2014 at 20:01

As an evidence base, the DfE are citing a single study in a country with not only a different education system but also different cultural expectations to the UK. There is extensive research demonstrating that performance-related pay generally has a positive impact on low-skilled tasks but a negative impact on high-skilled tasks (of which teaching is clearly an example). Furthermore, as the outcomes from the Measuring Effective Teachers project have demonstrated, we are not yet clear about the extent to which we can accurately measure individual teacher performance. Nor are we clear how subject teacher performance is to random variation but my view is that it is generally agreed that a 'good' teacher can have 'bad' years - performance measures based on limited classroom observation and pupils' test performance demonstrate considerable year-on-year variation. I feel strongly that the DfE briefing falls very far short of anything that could be described as good use of evidence. It looks much more like a policy decision that has been made and then retrospectively backed up with selective research - this is the anti-thesis of evidence-based policy.

Nansi Ellis, ATL

10 December 2014 at 16:45

ATL has serious concerns about the 'evidence' presented in this paper. For instance, little evidence is cited to show that linking pay with performance 'works', whether to recruit and retain teachers, or to improve pupil attainment/learning. There is plenty of international evidence that suggests that performance related pay makes little difference, or indeed is damaging (see comments from others below). It is also not clear how pupil progress and results should be measured in a way that can objectively reward particular teachers with pay progression – particularly now that levels have been removed, but also because of the difficulties of disaggregating the role of any particular teacher in a child’s progress. DfE has chosen its evidence to support its policy intention. Surely evidence-informed policy should take account of conflicting evidence, and demonstrate how the policy takes this into account. Otherwise, this shows a lack of transparency. Although the document is intended to outline evidence, many of its statements are unevidenced claims - for example that 'we now have fairer pay arrangements for teachers' (paragraph 4). There is no evidence to support this, nor does DfE give any indication that it is monitoring appeals or discrimination claims for example. The statement that 'the reforms give schools greater autonomy over their own budgets and pay decisions' (paragraph 5) is also unevidenced. ATL members suggest that there can be little autonomy if the school budget is seriously limited, or if poor levels of teacher supply locally push up the 'market rates' for teachers. Paragraph 7 sets out an expectation (that it will improve performance management arrangements) but gives no evidence to support this expectation. paragraph 7 also confuses its terminology. Performance related pay is not necessarily the same as recognising and rewarding high performance nor providing incentives, and there is no disaggregation of the effects of effective feedback and development opportunities.

Miles Bacon

02 December 2014 at 17:19

The DfE evidence has a very obvious omission - any notion of what teacher "performance" might be, let alone how it might be measured. This is a well researched area - the HeyMcBer report of some 14 years ago, commissioned by the then government, is a good example. This was buried because the link between excellent teacher performance and high student examination results was not a straightforward one. The performance of schools is currently seen by the DfE as nothing more than the extent to which they inflate their data, and as a result, schools are treating teacher performance and exam results as the same thing. This is doing tremendous damage, and the combined effect at school and teacher level is the single biggest barrier to developing a world class system we face. This is the same effect that led to North Staffordshire and Colchester in the NHS - loosing sight of what a public service is for, and focussing blindly on statistical targets.

Hilary Povey

21 November 2014 at 17:38

It is surprising that the STRB and the Department did not refer to the meta-analyses published by the EEF (rather than one individual study from the US). The EEF found that there is not good evidence for introducing performance related pay in terms of enhanced pupil performance and that there is evidence of damaging unintended consequences.

Clare Newman

19 November 2014 at 15:35

At primary level I found the school very clicky. Staff, Governors and the PTA all trying to befriend the head and chair of governors. On the rare occasion an outside parent was appointed as a governor, within a couple of terms they would resign. The primary school was full of ineffective teachers handing out sloppy inaccurate work / revision guides - I have the evidence - and always the head and governor made an excuse. So I can see that in a school such as this one a lot of the pay increases would be allocated not on ability but friendliness, kindness etc. Which are important, but won't get my child a 4 or 5 in SATs at the end of year 6.

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