Performance-related pay will solve teacher retention crisis

To keep talented teachers from quitting, you have to pay them according to how well they do, says Lee Miller

In almost all walks of life, employees are rewarded for excellent work. It motivates them to stay with their employer and continue to perform well, which in theory, leads to even higher pay in future. It is a virtuous circle.

Teaching, however, does not usually operate like this, and it is no secret that we are in the throes of a teacher recruitment and retention crisis. Thirty-one per cent of the teachers who qualified in 2011 had quit within five years. Over 27,500 teachers who trained between 2011 and 2015 had already left their job by last year. This is not just down to pay, but getting the pay framework right will help.

It is therefore imperative progressive pay structures are developed to reward teaching talent. The current national pay framework is no longer fit for purpose. At the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, we have developed a new structure to transform the way teachers are paid.

The current national pay framework is no longer fit for purpose

At its heart is a simple aim – we want to properly reward teachers for their hard work, so they are incentivised to stay in the profession and, yes, stay with us. It’s very encouraging that the National Education Union has endorsed the new framework, with some 93.5 per cent of members voting in its favour earlier this term.

So what does it look like?

Firstly, newly qualified teachers get a stable financial platform for the beginning of their career, guaranteeing a minimum starting salary of at least £25,000 from September 2018 – more than £2,000 above the national average.

All progression, including at the upper pay levels, is based solely on performance, so teachers move up the main pay-scale based on excellent teaching.

It rewards teachers at the top of the pay-scale, recognising those who exceed performance objectives through a three-per-cent non-consolidated pay award – in short, a bonus. This protects the financial viability of the structure while establishing a reward-based culture for those who otherwise would not benefit from exceptional performance because they are at the top of scale.

It provides a financial incentive for teachers to continue delivering the best standards of education, giving great teachers a reason to remain as teachers rather than taking the management roles which come with larger salaries and less classroom time. This chimes with what the education secretary spoke about earlier this month.

We want to properly reward teachers for their hard work, so they are incentivised to stay in the profession

We are also removing the bureaucratic barriers to teachers receiving these rewards. Whereas those in the national system have to go through the arduous process of submitting an application to access the upper pay-scale, TSAT’s teaching staff will be automatically entitled to these rewards from 2018, so long as their performance merits it.

All of our staff are set objectives on pupil progress, teaching standards and professional development, and this is checked against our performance management cycle of meetings that happen throughout the year. The criteria for meeting these goals have been approved by the National Education Union. And while teachers on the upper scale working in the national framework have to wait two years before their pay is reviewed, we are introducing annual incremental increases, to recognise teacher performance in the year it has been achieved.

We acknowledge that teachers in their first three years of teaching, at NQT +1 and NQT +2 level, are still developing their skills, we are therefore introducing different, still stretching, objectives for them, as well as offering targeted support to guide them.

By providing an environment in which teachers can be financially secure, our new pay model directly benefits students through the excellent standard of teaching they will continue to receive.

TSAT’s model may not be the exact path other academies choose to go down. Different academies face different circumstances and need to adapt their practices as a result. But a system based on financial security, reward and fairness will provide immediate and tangible benefits for both teachers and students.

Lee Miller is deputy chief executive of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust

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  1. The recruitment and retention crisis followed the latest iteration of performance-related pay (PRP). The current crisis wasn’t caused by seniority pay and yearly increments based on doing your job.

    PRP was tried in the mid-19th century (See Revised Code) ostensibly ‘to drive up performance’, but really to save a few pennies. It didn’t work then – it was eventually scrapped – it isn’t now.

  2. Performance related pay in teaching is never going to work – as it will always be connected to either conscious or unconscious bias. Which subjects do we want, where does the extra money come from, where is there a shortage of staff…

    Performance pay based on volume of work done can work, as seen in FE etc. where there are extended hours and staff can choose to stretch their teaching hours.