Mr Gove’s Brilliant Idea!

Paul Bernal's Blog

Mr Gove Brilliant Idea

Mr Gove didn’t like teachers.

Mr Gove had never liked teachers, not since he had been a child himself. His teachers hadn’t liked him. His teachers had always thought they knew more than him. But they hadn’t.

Of course they hadn’t. No-one knew more than Mr Gove. No-one understood things like Mr Gove. Certainly not the teachers.

That was one of the reasons Mr Gove had been so happy when Mr Cameron made him Secretary of State for Education – though of course Mr Gove would have been a far better Prime Minister than Mr Cameron. Because as Secretary of State for Education, Mr Gove could tell the teachers what to do. That would be wonderful, thought Mr Gove.

Mr Gove Close up

And it was wonderful. Mr Gove enjoyed telling the teachers what to do.

But it wasn’t quite as wonderful as Mr Gove had hoped. The teachers still wouldn’t always obey him…

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Performance related pay for teachers

I have spent a very long time in the last week or so thinking about this subject as I knew that the BBC wanted to interview me about it. Admittedly, the producer did emphasise that she wanted my personal experience of PRP rather than a theoretical discussion about its merits.

I knew from being interviewed before (about pensions that time) that a lot of time is spent to produce a very short clip but I was a little bit frustrated that my contribution to the programme was reduced to:

I did not get UPS 2 first time around. This made me sad.

So, here is what I would like to add

  1. Pay progression can be denied for reasons which are unfair. Such as introducing a stupid timetable whereby every child gets taught by a different teacher every six lessons – purely hypothetical naturally.
  2. Safeguards such as ‘no surprises’ and the appeals process will not rectify these.
  3. These injustices can poison relationships within schools. 
  4. You can not ascribe a monetary value to the different interventions a teacher makes
  5. Pupil progress (or lack thereof) is not always as attributable as you might think. Private tutors, previous teachers, etc. 
  6. Performance related pay was introduced into English and Welsh schools in 1861. 30 years later the experiment was judged to have failed. We now look like we are going to repeat the experiment.
  7. In the 1860s PRP led to the birth of teacher trade unionism in England and Wales. It radicalised and organised the profession. 
  8. My unhappy experience of PRP radicalised and organised me – up until 2005 I was a very inactive trade union member. Once I realised my professional relationship with the head was going nowhere I became a rep and then local officer of the NUT.
  9. Parents and governors like me should be concerned at the potential PRP has for discouraging the sharing of good practice within schools. This potential is massively increased when there is no extra money to fund the extra money for ‘excellent’ teachers. To spell this out. If one teacher shares good practice with another there is a risk of her bonus diminishing or disappearing.
  10. PRP will encourage grade inflation, otherwise known as lying.
  11. PRP  encouraged  ‘teaching to the test’. It will do so again.
  12. PRP encouraged schools to be more selective about which pupils to admit. It will do so again.
  13. PRP will encourage slavish obedience to head teachers and diminish professional judgement. You want VAK in my lessons with six brightly coloured hats? Coming right up. You want me to readmit this disruptive pupil back into my lesson? Why, of course! Can I take any more?
  14. If you think PRP is about rewarding excellent teachers, you are deluded. It will be about rewarding compliant teachers.
  15. Heads like Ms Philips should be challenged every time they come up with the line about awarding teachers pay rises ‘just for turning up’ If there are teachers that ‘just turn up’ to schools then that says as much about the effectiveness of the head as it does about the quality of those teachers, frankly.
  16. I recently had a look at one proposed pay policy in which teachers who taught a class where more than one pupil failed to make expected progress were deemed ‘inadequate’. I wonder if the head who drafted the policy had a similar clause in his pay policy about heads who have more than one inadequate teacher being deemed ‘inadequate’. I doubt it, somehow.
  17. Have heads got time for all these pay determinations and then the appeals that follow – ensuring that employment law is being followed with particular attention to equalities legislation. Really?
  18. Then there’s the question of evidence supporting the claim that PRP raises pupil achievement. Or lack of it – because there isn’t any.