Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Performance Related Apple For The Teacher?

That the Education Select Committee’s proposals regarding performance related pay for teachers have been described by the National Union of Teachers as “total nonsense” is not entirely surprising. That they were suggested in the first place sadly isn’t either.   
MPs should be aware of the common complaint from business leaders that the annual crop of graduates they are gifted, have grades where their brains should be. And the current tendency to teach to the test, where it exists, at the expense of a thorough grounding in any given subject, could hardly be improved by a system that links a pupil’s exam results, to whether their teacher’s next holiday will be Margate or Mauritius.

The discussed direction is allegedly aimed, on the one hand, at encouraging quality graduates into teaching. If so, it is a depressing deduction to conclude that the only inducement that exists is financial. If you want a sales bonus, sell stuff. What of job satisfaction? What of the vocational calling to impart wisdom and knowledge to the next generation for the general betterment and benefit of the population? Ok, I’m overstepping the marker pen, but if those entering education, or healthcare for that matter, do so under markedly different motivations than the graduates gliding into investment banking, then why plug the same pay structure? And if they don’t, why do we want them to?

 I applaud the idea of rewarding teachers that are “adding the greatest value” to the education of their pupils. However, when your eyes glaze over and you reminisce fondly on forgotten school days, you tend to feel most thankful to the characters that entertained and inspired, not raised your predicted grade average by 22%. They may be the same person, they equally might not.

 A stated aim of the new policy would also be to discourage under performing teachers from continuing in the profession, by preventing them from benefitting from the same advancement as their more successful counterparts. Under ancient practices, staff would automatically progress up the pay-scale, but this process was doctored under the last government towards a points based system which is already performance determined.

 Having your tonsils out does not make you a healthcare expert, and though most of us have been to school, few would think we could run one, let alone all of them. The government is right to seek to safeguard and improve the quality of public services, but there are lessons from the Health and Social Care Bill that have clearly not been learnt. Rewarding a decent nurse or teacher with fair pay, and the freedom to do their job without the threat of constant upheaval from the rolling whims of successive governments should not feel like radical thinking, but it’s starting to.  

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