Why I’m against Performance-Related Pay

April 17, 2013

There is no shortage of reasons to be against performance related-pay for teachers. The video which I have shared here is a good starting point. Another might be the brief summary of its history and general ineffectiveness as a method of raising results given here by Diane Ravitch or an evaluation of the research can be found here.

However, my opposition to performance related-pay for teachers is not based on whether it can be empirically established if it would raise grades or not. I object to it for more fundamental reasons.

1) I do not want to compete with my colleagues.

If the best teachers are to be rewarded with extra cash, particularly if it is to be distributed by schools, then it would be foolish to try to help your colleagues get better at teaching. A teacher who did so would risk losing money to those they helped. It would be better to surround yourself with weak and inexperienced teachers and let them flounder.

2) I do not want to be formally judged.

Attempts to assess teachers through observations, results, performance management interviews, inspections or student feedback are already a nightmare. Rarely do they actually judge the right things. SMT or OFSTED are not better teachers than those who stay in the classroom. There is little reason to think they are good at judging teachers or interpreting data. All they are good at is generating tick-lists for teachers to comply with. This creates more work for teachers and actually reduces their effectiveness. Why make a bad situation worse by making money depend on it?

3) I do not want to chase money.

If I cared about the cash that much then I wouldn’t be a teacher in the first place. The only people who are in teaching for the cash are usually those who are too incompetent to have ever made a career in a more lucrative profession. This will not reward the competent, it will reward the greedy. The system will be gamed like every other system in education by those who have the time and the inclination to do so, meanwhile those of us who just want to get on with the job will stay out of it.

4) It’s insulting.

Seriously. I really want my students to learn. That’s my motivation. Giving me a cash prize when that happens would actually make me feel like it was an added extra, like doing a lunch duty or private tuition, not the reason I joined the profession in the first place. Being paid for what you do out of love (here I refer to the extra effort to make sure students do well, not the whole job) can only diminish it. If a teacher lacks the motivation to do the job then they are better off leaving the profession than having money thrown at them until they reacquire it. I find it rude to suggest I need to be offered money to work as hard as I do. It’s not that I don’t want teachers to get what they deserve, it’s that a cash bonus is not it. In teaching, respect for being good at your job is in short supply, but it is not the lack of rewards that damages motivation. The real problem is the way the system obstructs good work and good teaching. That is what needs to change. It’s the disincentives that are the problem for teacher motivation, not a lack of incentives.

Ultimately, performance-related pay is the technocratic outsider’s solution to poor teaching. Those of us in the system know that the solution to poor teaching is to stop encouraging it. Classroom teachers are still a better judge of good teaching than anyone else in the system, any attempt to manipulate them from far away will undermine, rather than improve, their effectiveness.

Update 20/4/2013: This post also appears on the Labour Teachers website.


  1. Reblogged this on Things I grab, motley collection and commented:
    3 relevant points and one that could be debated. Enough?

  2. The inescapable tragedy is, of course, that ‘PRP’ depresses and does not stimulate performance.

    The people who will get the increases will be the ‘on message’ types and the senior school managers’ favourites… who, funnily enough, are often regarded by their colleagues as pretty hopeless. So “performance” becomes irrelevant and those who are pulling their weight and doing a good job (and who have – however naively maybe – bought into the idea that rewarding “good performance” is an attractive idea) actually become demotivated.

    The point is amply made here… good teachers don’t teach because they motivated by greed and scoring points at the expense of colleagues. If Gove gets his way, the classroom reps have to get in and ensure that the criteria for performance awards are drawn as explicitly and objectively as possible. It will be hard work, but it’s possible and well worth the effort.

  3. Very cogent. Performance related pay is never a useful instrument (in, or outside education), in my opinion. As you rightly point out, within the professions it just encourages the greedy, not the dedicated; and promotes behaviour with no long lasting positive outcomes. One point you missed, I think, is that it offers one more way for SLT to promote compliance. Overall, a very unwelcome development.

  4. You express exactly how I feel about it- every point is spot on.

  5. […] You may also wish to look at other commentary on performance related pay eg: Scenes from the battleground (Andrew Old) and the Teacher Development Trust (David […]

  6. I know we disagree on many things, but I’m totally with you on everything you say here. A teacher’s motivation can never really be about money, or they are in the wrong job.

    This is something I talk about a lot with teachers when I go into schools – what is it that truly motivates them? (never ever is their answer ‘the pay’, often they will say they would do it for nothing if they were financially independent). This is why I still go into the classroom to teach whenever I can as a volunteer, and also help run my local preschool, again for no financial reward.

    • “A teacher’s motivation can never really be about money”. You mean “should”. Obviously it CAN be.

    • “never ever is their answer ‘the pay’”. If it was about the pay, they would, of course, tell you, wouldn’t they, even knowing full well it is politically incorrect to say so.

  7. Stefaan – I admire your attitude but you only talk about good, effective teachers. My concern is from the other end. In the current auto-increment system, there is no incentive for lazy teachers to wake up in the morning. They do the minimum, set a low common denominator for things that everyone has to agree, don’t support broader activities, fail to excite pupils and generally make the motivated staff wonder why they bother. The only thing these staff are really good at is understanding how to keep clear of a capability review which is about the only threat to their comfortable existence. The teaching assistants have to work twice as hard to balance their deficiencies for half the pay. New young staff have very limited mechanism to progress fast, however good they are. They have to watch stuck-in-a-rut senior staff doing the minimum for 50% higher pay. Is this really the best recipe for encouraging and rewarding success? I was a bursar paying teachers and TAs for 5 years so I am not talking theory.

    • You identify a problem which no one is especially challenging, however it does not follow that PRP is the answer in fact as OA has already indicated at the start it does not. Please an end identifying a problem and then just doing something, anything but with no connection between the two (problem and proposed solution).

  8. Hear hear. If we can’t block this nonsense we really are lost as a profession.

  9. […] related pay has certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons. @oldandrewuk‘s excellent blog post gives some well explained reasons why the plan is not a good idea. These are my thoughts on the […]

  10. […] I’m not sure I particularly appreciate this description. I hardly agree with Gove on everything. […]

  11. […] are many reasons to reject PRP (Andrew Old's convincing argument against PRP can be found here) and it is difficult to see how Gove's rhetoric about school hours is little more than […]

  12. […] Why I’m against Performance-Related Pay […]

  13. “If I cared about the cash that much then I wouldn’t be a teacher in the first place.”
    Fair enough, but saying so can turn all to easily into an excuse to underpay teachers.

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