Does Performance Related Pay Make You A Better Teacher?

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Headteacher Money


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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Does performance related pay make you a better teacher?

Part of the government’s thinking behind this was to attract more high performers to the profession – and retain them. But the reform deliberately came without a centrally mandated framework. Aside from some very general advice, schools were left to design their own pay schemes and choose their own performance measures (though many adopted union or LA recommended templates)” says Simon Burgess Professor of Economics, University of Bristol. (The Conversation)

Automatic Progression

As a classroom teacher of 24 years, financial incentives did not make me a better teacher. However, for at least 20 of those years, I automatically moved up the pay scale as I accumulated another year’s experience under my belt – moving steadily up the English teachers’ pay scale from Main Scale (MS) 1-6 and then applying for Upper Pay Scale (UPS) 1-3 every second year. This would take around twelve years before I could reach the top of my scale.

As a classroom teacher working in Inner London (another pay-band threshold) I could reach the dizzy heights of £40,000+ per annum with no leadership responsibilities. I became a head of department in my third year of teaching – in a startup comprehensive which grew year on year with its intake. As the school grew, so did my experience and my salary. For any middle leader taking on any kind of additional responsibilities, one could find their salary boosted by £1,500 per annum and up to £12,000. (Note, the salary thresholds are cited between a period of 2000 – 2007).

Away From Automatic Progression To Performance

In 2007/8, I left the comfortable world of classroom teaching and took on my first whole-school leadership role, jumping away from the responsibility of a small department to whole-school, all for an extra £3,000 (before tax) I recall at the time. But of course, it wasn’t just about the money – it was my first leap into the next phase of my career. Fast-forward 10 years and after some ups and downs and experience in three other large secondary schools in London, the government reformed teachers’ pay and conditions in 2013, introducing Performance Related Pay for all teachers. Throughout those ten years, I steered whole-school focus on appraisal and managed these financial decisions for 600+ staff between both performance-policy eras.

Determined pay scale  (known as “spine points”) were abolished and instead, pay increases were to decided by the school. What happened? Largely, every school regurgitated their local authority templates to avoid any legal headaches and at the same time, tried to incentivise those teachers at all levels who needed to be recognised or rewarded according to their needs, not the schools.


In the first of its kind to evaluate teachers’ pay reforms, a report published in October 2017 set out to identify what reforms schools were making, what influenced their decisions, and the perceived implications for staff and schools. I have shared the summary findings here. The implementation of pay reforms shares the most common types of evidence used by schools to assess teacher effectiveness were:

  • pupil progress;
  • classroom observation;
  • teacher standards;
  • measures linked to the school improvement plan;
  • and pupil attainment.

Most schools were using these measures prior to the introduction of the pay reforms. By contrast, fewer schools reported using the following three types of evidence to help assess teacher effectiveness: feedback from parents/carers; feedback from colleagues; or teachers’ additional responsibilities.The main challenges associated with the pay reforms, as reported by case-study interviewees, were: the additional staff time involved in collecting and reviewing evidence for performance reviews; the pressure on teachers to meet pupil outcome targets; and the challenge of applying a school’s pay policy fairly in certain situations, such as job shares.

The research suggest that teachers in England had mixed views on the desirability of pay reforms with only 34% agreed that it resulted in a fair allocation of pay for staff in the school with most headteachers feeling that the pay reforms had not had an immediate impact on teacher recruitment and retention. However, each cited it was too soon to gauge impact on teacher recruitment and retention.

A majority of teachers (66%) thought that their school’s current pay policy had added to their workload and 58% thought that it had made no difference to the way they worked.


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Key Findings

  1. The surveys with headteachers undertaken in spring 2015 revealed that almost all (99%) of LA maintained primary and secondary schools and a majority (62%) of academies had implemented pay reforms.
  2. The most common reforms to classroom teachers’ pay were: to relate all progression to performance; to enable teachers to progress at different rates; and to abolish automatic pay progression on the main pay range.
  3. The most common reforms to school leaders’ pay were: to base pay on school size, context and/or challenge; and that the changes would apply to future leadership appointments.
  4. The interviews with staff in case-study schools revealed that a number of changes had been introduced to schools’ performance management processes. The main changes related to objective setting, evidence use, and progression pathways. Performance management processes were reported to be more transparent, robust and rigorous as a result.
  5. Most headteachers (84%) reported that their policies were similar to, or the same as, other schools in their local area. Case-study headteachers in this position said that they had adopted their LAs’ policies primarily because they wanted their school’s pay policy to be in line with other local schools.

I think it’s safe to say, PRP is fueling teacher workload, attrition and mental health, and any major changes to school policy in the future should see PRP binned forever. What do you think?

Further Reading


6 thoughts on “Does Performance Related Pay Make You A Better Teacher?

  1. PRP has been studied to death by researchers across the world and across industries. For professional pay, where the financial reward is greater than the baseline required to meet c I St of living requirements, the recommendations have always pointed towards professional spine and away from PRP. Dan Meyer’s TED TALK covers the ground really well
    Performance review needs to happen, people need to be held to account for their work, but don’t relate it to pay. I run a large independent school, 400 employees, equal pay etc. For similar work. Extra pay can be gained for after school activities, and we run a holiday programme which staff can additionally opt in to. We also encourage staff to be markers, team leaders and some even reach the dizzy height of subject chair. Others are authors, professional referees, first aid responders. Whilst we have staff press for pay review, never for PRP. I can’t believe the strife it has in local schools, and now budgets are shrinking, expectations are dashed.

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