John is a Headteacher in York. This article originally appeared on his own blog page.
I have been a teacher of English for 24 years, a Headteacher for 9 years and, at the age of 48, this much I know about how to develop a new Teachers’ Pay Policy.
On 4 May I wrote a blog about Performance-Related Pay for teachers. I ended with this paragraph:
Hold on to what matters. I am going to return to our three values – Respect; Honesty; Kindness – and use them as the anvil upon which we forge our new pay policy. We already have a Teachers’ Pay Policy Working Party, comprising teachers and governors, and we will use our features of Truly Great Teaching at Huntington School, drawn up collectively by our teaching staff last month, to define what we expect of teachers at our school. And we will use wisdom and judgement in spades…
Six weeks later, what follows is what I now know about the best way to develop a new Teachers’ Pay Policy.
Think Pink. This is why Teachers’ Performance-related Pay is utterly flawed.
There is no money. Even Michael Wilshaw says that schools cannot pay teachers more without increasing class sizes. Don’t think leaping to the Upper Pay Range after a year of teaching will be the norm…
Set a timeline. Give plenty of time for Union reps to discuss the progress of the Working Party and allay staff fears. We have four meetings of the Working Party, union meetings, two Governors’ meetings and a whole staff meeting; at the latter members of the Working Party will present their proposed Teachers’ Pay Policy. We will adopt the policy on 16 July at an extraordinary Full Governors’ Meeting.
Nail down your “Appraisal” Policy and the Pay Policy follows on naturally.We have spent three times as many hours on the “Appraisal” document than we have on the Pay Policy. (BTW, we call Appraisal Performance Development rather than Management, and certainly would never use Appraisal).
Sort yourself a working party of volunteers including the school union representatives and communicate progress regularly with Governors. We have a group of 11 teachers, including the Union reps, on our Working Party. We have met three times and will be meeting for a fourth time next week to agree the final draft of the Pay Policy. The meetings have been characterised by honest discussion and much laughter. The genius elements of our policy have come from the union reps thinking honestly and clearly about the best way to shape a pay policy at our school, with our particular values-system. Developments are communicated to Governors regularly throughout the process.
Minimise the variables. Consistency is the key to making fair decisions about pay progression. Over a year ago we decided that the eight core members of SLT would be responsible for the whole Performance Development process, even though we have as many as 108 teachers. This removed the responsibility from Subject Leaders in line with our drive to support them with their main role of growing great teachers, and it has enabled them to focus on professionally developing their teams. It is very hard to be poacher and game keeper. Some Subject Leaders are close friends of those colleagues whose Appraisals they undertook; asking the hard questions is difficult, if not impossible. One colleague Headteacher accused me of emasculating our Subject Leaders, but I couldn’t agree and a year on some Heads are looking around for ways to ensure the rigour and consistency in their Appraisal process that we have established.
It’s the Teachers’ Standards, stupid! We began by exploring the confused structures which currently exist. We looked at the Local Authority’s model policy which identified three elements – The Teachers’ Standards, Performance Management Objectives and Lesson Observations – which all had to be “met” in order to be recommended for pay progression. After a messy meeting, where we made no real headway because we couldn’t identify a gradated way of making a judgement about pay progression, we realised that the Teachers’ Standards are the only element that matters; everything else is evidence against the Teachers’ Standards. And that includes the Performance Management Objectives which should target the particular Teachers’ Standards which a teacher has focused on to improve. BTW, we love our Features of Truly Great Teaching at Huntington School but the Teachers’ Standards are, sadly, the thing.
Be clear about expectations without trying to pin things down to fixed percentages. We have a general statement about the high expectations we have in our school in our context so there is no doubt about the level of performance required by our teachers, and the need to reduce performance measures to overly specific and inflexible numerical targets is obviated.
Use professional wisdom to make your judgements. Don’t spend hours of your life devising a gradated grid of each Teachers’ Standard and sub-Standard with descriptors of Exceeding/Met/Nearly Met/Might’ve met (but might not…)/Not; you will still have to use your professional judgement as there will always be circumstances for which your grid doesn’t quite cater. When you begin trying to pin down gradated descriptors the meanings of words begin to blur. And don’t ever hang on to a gradated grid of each Teachers’ Standard to illustrate the “rigour” of your Pay Policy to OFSTED!
It’s madness that we are all working on this issue in thousands of schools across the country. @realgeoffbarton commented last night on Twitter that, It’s depressing to think that thousands of leadership teams across the country are embroiled in such discussions instead of T&L. When we have shared the final versions of our new Pay and Performance Development Policies with all colleagues and Governors, we’ll share them with anyone else.
Culture is everything. I think Teachers’ Performance-related Pay threatens the very heart of the kind of school we are shaping. It is potentially corrosive and pits teacher against teacher. Anyone who has worked in a thriving school knows that one of the reasons it thrives is because of its sense of community. I have been determined to prevent the new policy damaging our school’s culture and so far, so good.
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