I have had to make a new rule in my household: no one must tell me how long it is until the summer holidays. Why? Because if I actually stop and think about all the things that need to happen before the end of the year I am worried that my head will explode like that bloke from the film ‘Scanners’. Every year I try and think about how I can make Term 6 less crammed and better timetabled: desperately seeking to achieve the utopian vision of the last day of the year ending with everyone happily skipping off, full of energy ready to embrace their summer holiday. But, every year, it gets to the last three weeks and the school is on its knees and I end up thinking: ‘I really must plan term 6 better next year?’
This year is no different except for one teeny-tiny additional thing I need to do before we break up. As well as: sports days, reports, end of year data, heart attack inducing return of SATs papers, Year 6 leaving, the end of year show, deciding where to put teachers next year, planning an inset for the last day that no one will take anything from because they’re too tired, planning an inset for the first day back that no one will take anything from because they’ve been away too long, discos, summer fair, final string of governors, staff leaving dos, trying to keep staff morale up whilst simultaneously insisting that we can’t have golden time every afternoon because you’re tired and finally getting around to tidying my office….there is the ever so slightly important issue of writing a new pay policy.
At a recent Heads meeting I was slightly glad that I wasn’t the only person in the room who:
- Hadn’t yet given it a lot of thought.
- Didn’t really know what to do about it.
- Was secretly hoping we could leave it (not because we’re particularly weak but because the list mentioned above is the minimum amount of stuff that every head is trying wade through right this minute)
Having not received any guidance from the local authority we have been visited by a million private HR companies who have given us a seemingly unlimited number of options of how to use pay as a consequence for performance. A selection of these has been:
- Even out the size of incremental increases along the main pay range (it’s a range now not a scale) and split each one in two. Thus giving the illusion of a ‘better than expected’ pay rise for good performance (look you’ve gone up two increments!) whilst actually giving you less in ‘old money’.
- Once you’ve determined the sizes of the incremental increases along the main pay scale sorry range, create relative performance measures. So if I had five teachers all working at MPR4 they would be in competition with each other as only the top three performers who had met all their targets would be eligible for a pay rise.
- Create a target specific Upper Pay Range system: UPS is not for life but could be up until Christmas if performance is weak. Also, the entire jump from MPR6 to UPS1 would be reset at the end of the year and would only be paid the following year if performance targets are met. (A bit like a bonus…actually a lot like a bonus; basically a bonus.)
Now before you report me to the unions I have to say these were only ‘options’ presented to us as a way of showing us how wide open the ‘freedoms’ of the new pay policy are and some, maybe all, could ‘improve’ performance but could equally create a horrible corporate atmosphere that no one in their right mind would want to be a part of if they also want to be a part of education. But there are some important lessons to take away from it.
If schools are going to drastically change the way in which pay progression is used they must ensure that their appraisal process throughout the year is really effective. It will not be good enough to implement performance related pay and leave it as a trap for the end of year performance review. An appraisal process must be set up to identify and support teachers who are under-performing ‘now’ and could be in danger of not reaching end of year targets.
Of course this should be in place anyway but how swiftly have schools reacted to the early signs of under-performance in the past? How often has a slightly rubbish teacher continued to work and progress along the main pay scale seemingly unaware that the only really consequence of their under-performance is that next year’s teacher has to now work twice as bloody hard? How many schools only offer support in terms of capability when the rock bottom has been reached?
Schools survive with poorer teachers because of the fantastic teachers that insulate them. Don’t get me wrong; the problem here is leadership not teaching. A change in pay policy is not going to scare a teacher into teaching well but it might just make the Head Teacher slightly more pro-active in nipping under performance in the bud.
I don’t know any Head who wants to stop a member of their team from getting paid or even wants to have that conversation! But by putting the idea of levels of performance affecting levels of future pay into all educators’ consciousness it will hopefully develop a more rapidly supportive culture in schools that need it.
And just because I always try to link my end of a blog post with the start of a blog post because that makes me feel that I’m a cleverer writer author guru than I actually am:
So as I try to get to the end of the year without my brain actually melting, I have decided to make sure that when I do find ten minutes to write the school’s pay policy, I will set the review date for Christmas…as that tends to be one of the quieter terms.