Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT blogs about his thoughts and passions and the work of the National Association of Head Teachers.
A question of balance
A move to performance-related progression needs careful planning
I find it hard to argue with the principle of performance-related progression – the idea that people should move up a pay scale not automatically, but on the basis of good performance. It is not so much that performance-related progression will ‘get more out of people’ as that it will respond more fairly to what they are already doing.
The system is certainly challenging. It demands robust performance management and courageous leadership; it contrasts with the egalitarian nature of the teaching profession. And this is hardly the most auspicious moment for implementation, given a darkening climate of industrial relations.
Yet the pressure is on school leaders to manage and raise the quality of teaching. Performance management is at the heart of the new inspection framework and the evidence of its impact on standards is strong. Every tool to develop teaching should be evaluated and, if appropriate, used. ‘Appropriate’ is the watchword. There is structure for leaders to use to the extent they wish, and I expect many will wish to make much use of it. There is enough work to do without calculating your own set of pay points and grades.
While many heads will make growing use of performance-related progression, I expect that variation on the pay points and scales will be more cautious. Our advice to schools, as part of a long-term plan, is to assess what you need and what you can cope with. There are no deadlines to meet here, so you choose your own pace.
The first step is a robust performance-management system, used by skilled managers. Indeed, in many ways, the value of performance-related progression is that it forces rigorous performance management.
When progression is changed, you will want to be clear on the criteria. I suggest that you triangulate with a variety of methods, including observation and progress data. Perhaps the most straightforward approach is to connect progression to the attainment of objectives, which will have quantitative and qualitative elements. You will need to draw a clear line of sight between the school-improvement plan and the individual objectives – so you can show Ofsted that you have a firm grasp on the quality of teaching, and action plans to raise it where necessary. You will also need procedures for appeal, and for oversight through the governing body. Many organisations find it useful to bring line managers together periodically to calibrate and moderate their judgments.
For most schools, I recommend retaining and using the intermediate pay points, for now. I’d be surprised if schools did not want to pass on cost-of-living adjustments. However, the new, fixed-term teaching-and-learning responsibility options will be useful for rewarding project work. Some schools might consider different pay rates for different subjects – to deal with recruitment shortages, for example. But paying different rates for the same quality of work could be problematic internally.
Perhaps the biggest barrier to implementation is the ongoing ‘action short of strike action’ by two of the teaching unions. Every school will need to make a judgement as to what is in their pupils’ interests. You can expect NAHT to back your judgement and offer advice, where required.
However, it is worth reflecting that there are more ways to assess performance than observation and appraisals. The ends, rather than the means, of performance management must be preserved.