Following the introduction of Performance Related Pay (PRP) in 2013, in many schools there appeared a tendency to link teachers’ performance targets with numerical targets such as exam results – targets which a teacher may have little ability to influence since there are many other variables that impact on student achievement. It is well-documented that this approach to performance appraisal had a detrimental effect on teacher morale, which in turn impacted on recruitment and retention in the profession. Additionally, the Education Endowment Foundation found no evidence that PRP improves teaching standards.
Although regular opportunity for pay progression is an important factor in career choice, it is worth noting that it is not the only factor that influences job satisfaction, nor, for that matter, incentivises professional performance. The NFER’s Teacher Autonomy report revealed that job satisfaction in teaching is primarily related to an individual’s sense of self-efficacy (their ability to apply their knowledge and expertise to the role), agency (being able to take active decisions) and impact (the ability to influence and deliver outcomes).
At the same time, it is appropriate that teachers’ pay progression should be linked to an appropriate measure of responsibilities, capabilities and performance in their role. As the STRB states:
“The pay system for teachers should provide a clear, coherent framework that supports, rewards and incentivises teachers at all stages of the multiple pathways that teachers may take in their career.”
Many schools have already moved away from PRP as a tool for performance management and appraisal, placing a greater emphasis on strategies that are proven to improve the quality of teaching in schools – such as continued professional learning and ongoing, developmental dialogue between teachers and their reviewer or coach.
A shift away from numerical performance targets has been welcomed by many in the profession, but it is important to remember that school appraisal practices still need to ensure accountability to the needs of the organisation (the school or trust) and its stakeholders (the students). As former teachers, we understand that all teachers want to do the best for their students and deliver a high-quality education. However, some may find it difficult to adjust to the emphasis on continued professional development, due to a perceived increase in workload, or because progression into leadership is not their career goal. The challenge for any school or trust leadership team will be to ensure that all staff understand that ongoing development is a matter of professional accountability: it is not simply about enhancing their own careers, but also developing the necessary skills to meet the changing needs of their students.
For example, an increase in students with special educational needs or with English as second language, could have a significant impact on classroom dynamics and the learning opportunities for all students in the class. A good leadership team should be able to foresee the impact of such changes to the school context, and recognise where skills need to be developed to adapt classroom practice, and use professional development goals to hold teachers to account for ensuring good outcomes for all students.
Ultimately, we believe that linking teacher’s professional objectives to personalised continued professional development programmes, in the context of the school’s strategic plan, has multiple benefits. Not only does this improve quality of teaching – which directly influences student outcomes – it also enhances a sense of self-efficacy, agency and impact, delivering job satisfaction in their role that encourages teachers to stay in the profession long term.