Government finds support for linking pay to performance in Teacher Voice survey – but does it mean what the Government implies? And why did Mr Gove overlook the survey’s other findings?

Janet Downs's picture
Secretary of State, Michael Gove, is a strong supporter of performance-related pay – he says so in his submission to the School Teachers’ Review Body – and a recent Sutton Trust Teacher Voice  Survey revealed that three-quarters of teachers agreed that pay should be linked to performance.

52% of teachers agreed that Main Pay Scale teachers should have annual increments “apart from those judged to have performed badly.” 23% said annual increments should be restricted to teachers “judged to have performed well”. However this performance is not judged merely by exam results. Teachers favoured a mix of methods including assessment by headteacher (48%) and/or more senior staff (66%), peer assessment (24%) and considering the progress and results of pupils currently taught by the teacher being assessed (46%). Only 8% thought performance should be graded by Ofsted.

The survey wasn’t just about performance (although the Government describes it so). Teachers felt there should be a professional body for teachers but Mr Gove has already abolished the General Teaching Council and replaced it with the Teaching Agency. The Sutton Trust said it was unclear whether the Teaching Agency would have the type of supportive role that is offered by other professional bodies.

Most teachers were satisfied with their jobs which contradicts recent concerns about teacher morale. However, the survey found that large numbers were dissatisfied. This had four causes: relentless change from new policies; time pressure; amount of paperwork; and pressure from benchmarks and inspections.

The Sutton Trust is keen that more state-educated pupils enter Oxbridge. The survey found that secondary school teachers underestimated the proportion of state pupils already there. The figures for 2010 show that 55% of Oxford undergraduates and 59% at Cambridge are from state schools. However, 79% of teachers underestimated the proportion. Just under a half of teachers said they always or usually advised academically-gifted pupils to apply to Oxbridge and just under a fifth said they never did so. Senior teachers were more likely to suggest applying to Oxbridge – the Sutton Trust thought this might be because they are more involved with university applications or careers advice.

The survey questioned teachers about their attitudes to academies and free schools. A large number of teachers were not in favour of academy conversion especially when it was enforced. The majority did not agree with the establishment of free schools. The Trust noted that a large proportion answered “don’t know” to these questions which suggested there was “confusion or a lack of information among teachers”. The survey didn’t ask for reasons behind teachers’ opinions but repeated previous research which found that teachers were concerned that academies and free schools could increase social segregation and may not advantage less privileged pupils.

Mr Gove should take note of these results and not just choose those answers which seem to support his policies.

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Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 21/05/2012 - 12:37

Hopefully this will evaporate in a cloud of impossibility when it touches consultation. The only reason most of Gove's policies have seen the light of day is because he completely shut down all scrutiny and consultation designed to ensure they would work in reality.

The report seems to assume that 50% is less than half which is a bit worrying:
Table 12 shows that eight out of ten (79%) teachers underestimated the proportion, thinking it was less than half.
(That's in the section on Oxbridge).

Janet Downs's picture
Mon, 21/05/2012 - 15:16

Rebecca - the confusion about "less than half" may have been caused by my wording. I was discussing two questions about Oxbridge. One asked teachers what proportion of state pupils went to Oxbridge - this was underestimated by 78% of respondents. The second question asked whether teachers "always, "usually" or "never" advised academically-gifted pupils to apply to Oxbridge. Just under a half said they "always" or "usually" offered this advice.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Mon, 21/05/2012 - 17:29

I copied that quote from the report - not from you Janet - so unless you wrote the report it's not your fault. :-)

To be honest I don't see much insight into Oxbridge access coming from these statistics. I think you actually need substantial experience of the kids involved and the system to understand what's going on rather than figures.

eJD8owE1's picture
Mon, 21/05/2012 - 16:11

"The survey found that secondary school teachers underestimated the proportion of state pupils already there"

I've been told, however, that Oxbridge does not have the lowest rate of state admissions, and that there are Russell Group and similar universities where there is a higher incidence of private education that ~45%. Unfortunately, when then attempting to find the numbers, they turn out to be rather hard to get hold of, and such numbers as I could find were meaningless figures about individual courses. By prejudice and guesswork you'd suspect Bristol and St Andrews, but I really have no idea. It would be very interesting to see a table of the rates of private education amongst undergraduates at a variety of universities.

Oxford's response to accusations of racism last year was to state that course by course BME applicants were accepted at, or above, the rate expected based on their qualifications, but that applications from BME candidates were disproportionately for the more competitive courses (ie, if a particular demographic only applies for Medicine and Law, it will appear as though it's discriminated against on a pan-university basis). It would also be interesting to know if the rates of applications for the less competitive courses are higher from private schools, where perhaps students have more opportunity to consider those subjects.

andy's picture
Mon, 21/05/2012 - 18:24

In terms of the Teacher Voice sample I am not persuaded that 1600 (I saw 1700 on a BBC report) is a truly representative body when set against the total number actively in the profession. On my travels around schools in my area get the impression that on the one hand many like the idea of performance related pay but on the other hand they are rather more fearful/dubious/skeptical about (a) how it will be funded (b) whether it will be sustainable and (c) the basis of the assessment criteria. Indeed, there have been some high temperature discussions around how pupils evolve as learners (e.g. slow, late developers through early developers to pre-exam burnout pupils) and the impact as groups move through school. Let alone the issue of schools who use all mixed ability in KS3 v full or partial setting (e.g. in the core only or across the curriculum) etc, etc. Setting this against the Sutton Trust Report, I would urge a much bigger survey be conducted with questions covering wider issues.

As a cynic I cannot help but wonder how performance pay will play out alongside the other issue of regional pay. That is to say, might there be a hidden agenda that the latter is used to fund the former ...?

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 07:36

andy - you raise a good point about the number of teachers surveyed. This is a problem with all opinion polls - is the number large enough to reveal true opinion? The Sutton Trust says, "The sample was weighted to ensure that it was representative. The sample included teachers from a wide range of school governance types and subject areas." The full report gives detailed information about the sample.

The survey addressed the question of assessment of performance. It found that teachers wanted a range of assessment methods. Basing performance on results was chosen by less than half the teachers. This raises the question about how results are measured. The simplistic answer - and I suspect the one favoured by Mr Gove - is raw test results.

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 23/05/2012 - 10:57

I cannot help but wonder how performance pay will play out alongside the other issue of regional pay. That is to say, might there be a hidden agenda that the latter is used to fund the former …?

One would hope so.......

andy's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 08:10

The 2010 figures for full time teaching staff across the maintained sector in England (including CTCs and Academies) was 448,000. Therefore, and no matter how finely tuned the representative spread was, that means the survey covered a risible 0.36 - 0.38%. On that basis alone I would contend that the report is meaningless.

I accept that my perception from discussions in several staff rooms is not hard evidence but it nonetheless raises questions about the breadth of the issues touched on in the Sutton Report. I would also float in that their is a further split along the age range, with the younger inexperienced colleagues being more open to the idea of performance related pay and the older experience colleagues being far more wary and cynical.

Bottom line is that a survey based on less than 0.5% of the workforce simply isn't credible. Indeed, I would argue that it is not worth discussing other than to discredit it as being less than a flyweight ...

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Wed, 23/05/2012 - 11:02

Why on earth would one hope so? It flies in the face of all the established wisdom of management?

andy's picture
Wed, 23/05/2012 - 18:46

Ricky, there are times when pragmatics are simply inappropriate and the joint issues of PRP and Regional Pay are two of them. The latter is riddled with too many vagaries to make even a quarter hearted attempt at an acceptable process. It is also true to say that the structure for performance managed (related) pay already exists. The prevailing situation is progression through the pay scales (Main and Upper Pay Scales) is automatic by custom and practise plus union pressure in the past but the truth is that it doesn't have to be. The process can be linked to annual performance management. This is the case with AST, Excellent Teachers and the Leadership Group Pay Spine. It would therefore be much easier and understandable within the profession - irrespective of its unpopularity - to harmonise all pay scale progression to annual performance management assesment. The latter is well known and practised across school - albeit unevenly.

For me the issue of Regional Pay is simply wrong. We already have the London Inner, Outer and Fringe allowances to compensation for the alleged extra costs of living in those areas. To suggest therefore that a teacher in Newcastle or Dewsbury should be paid on a lower main scale than a colleague in Birmingham or Buckingham for doing exactly the same job is abject nonsense and extremely divisive. The same can be said of other professions e.g. Nurses and Doctors.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 09:24

andy - as I said, sample size is a problem with all opinion polls. I'm not a statistician but sampling is supposed to be a process of selecting a subset of a population for the purpose of making inferences about the whole population. This subset is chosen so its composition can be said to represent the population as a whole. For example, the British Social Attitudes Survey had a full sample of 3,297 respondents - this was deemed sufficient to discover UK attitudes.

Whether the Sutton Trust Survey is credible or not credible isn't really the issue. Mr Gove is using one part of the report, which the DfE misleadingly describes as being about pay and performance alone, to justify linking teacher pay to performance (which in his view is probably raw results). If Mr Gove is using this report as evidence, then it is justifiable, even essential, to discuss it. (page 185 onwards describes the methodology)

Ricky-Tarr's picture
Wed, 23/05/2012 - 13:52

Because there's no new money.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 09:35

Janet I don't know if you realise that there is no link between evidence and what people with credibility and ability tell Michael Gove is told and what happens.

I have friends in many areas of life beyond education and they are all now avoiding him and Nick Gibb. They get invited to meet them but don't want to go because they know the deal is that they will not be listened to and then some ludicrous policy will be linked to a misinterpretation of something they've said.

They will only listen to people who tell them what they want to hear and they will mishear those who tell them anything that sounds like it might be what they want to hear.

Sigh. How they heck has this been allowed to happen?

andy's picture
Tue, 22/05/2012 - 14:14


Permit me to reaffirm how I closed my comment:

"Indeed, I would argue that it is not worth discussing other than to discredit it as being less than a flyweight …"

I am clearly saying that for me the report should be discussed to "discredit" it. That is not the same as saying it should be ignored.

Rebecca Hanson's picture
Thu, 24/05/2012 - 23:18

So continue to cap pay rises and run inflation. And start running education coherently and efficiently instead of pushing money into ludicrous pet projects.

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