Staff performance

Staff performance

Each year, I research and tackle an education issue to refine and broaden my thinking. Back in 2014, I started investigating the negative consequences of graded lesson observations on professional relationships and as one contributing measure to Performance Review (PR). It would be a five year pursuit, until I was a Headteacher and in a decision making position to show that there were better ways to measure staff performance.

This coincided with the introduction of pay progression linked to performance, Performance Related Pay (PRP). This meant, that henceforth, annual pay progression would be based on a performance review against agreed objectives and teachers’ standards. For more senior teachers, on the Upper Pay Scale, this meant a reinvigoration of a link with performance that was judged to have declined since its introduction in 2000, with the additional aim of giving school greater flexibility to manage pay. Flexibility not taken.

Performance-related pay (PRP) has not resulted in a substantially higher variation in the pay of teachers.

My research then refocused on seeking evidence for the positive impact of Performance Review processes on student outcomes. I could find none.

…the overall picture reveals no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes.


Teachers reporting that the appraisal system had not really led them to make any radical changes in their teaching practice, although several acknowledged small or moderate changes.
Thus, the impact to date on pay and incentives appears to be minimal.3

Marsden (2013)2

What I did find worried me. Inherent gender bias, the corrosive consequence of poorly managed review practice and increased workload. Moreover, three of the four most common types of evidence used to assess teacher effectiveness are questionable, unreliable at best.

  1. Pupil progress / attainment – who contributed to the progress of that class, those students, certainly not just the examination teacher. Is that attainment measure reliable and accurate? Self reported? Set against targets? Also noting that setting targets is not statutory practice.
  2. Classroom observation – since PRP was introduced, lessons grading flaws have been well documented.
  3. Teachers’ Standards –  Though I see value to providing professional standards for staff to review, these are open to bias and misinterpretation.
  4. Measure linked to the school improvement plan – plausible, if generalised.

Next, teachers consistently show strong opposition to merit pay schemes (70% marker). Since improvement in education depends critically on teachers’ commitment, anything that reduces commitment is likely to be unhelpful to better school outcomes. Which leads me to question the return on investment ROI of PR practices. How would school repurpose the time spent on PR. What other desirable traits are displaced by the investment in PR?

That is why I continue to challenge system leadership, government departments and regulators to review their thinking on this flawed management process. That is one of the corrosive practices I aim to challenge working with the Education Support Partnership.

Does performance-based pay improve teaching?, PISA in Focus (May 2012 issue): Link here

Teachers and Performance Pay in 2014: CEP Discussion Paper No 1332. February 2015. Link here

Do teachers matter? Measuring the variation in teacher effectiveness in England (2009) Link here