Schools losing teacher goodwill over performance-related pay


Teachers are giving up running extra-curricular activities and leaving the profession after being denied pay progression because of issues outside their control.

A union boss this week also warned of an “increasing groundswell of opinion” against performance-related pay (PRP), as teachers spoke of how being passed over for pay rises demoralised them and their colleagues.

I’d worked incredibly hard over the year they were reviewing, so to have my achievements unacknowledged was very frustrating and angering

Introduced in 2014, PRP allows schools to give rises to staff if they meet certain targets or benchmarks.

Proponents say it provides an incentive for teachers to do well, but critics say it is harming the profession, and evaluation of the policy shows it has little impact on outcomes.

Speaking at the New Voices conference in London on Saturday, Joanne Jukes, a business teacher, said it was “unfair” that teachers’ pay was dependent on their performance against targets “which we already have a very small impact on”.

One teacher who spoke to Schools Week on the condition of anonymity, said they were denied progression after moving schools “as the head concluded that the targets from the school I left were incompatible with the new school’s targets and thus I couldn’t be passed.

“Professionally, I felt undermined and underapp

Joanne Jukes

reciated. I’d worked incredibly hard over the year they were reviewing, so to have my achievements unacknowledged was very frustrating and angering.”

At Saturday’s event, Jukes said she had been contacted by a languages teacher “who would run trips at weekends and in holidays”, but was denied pay progression because an A-level class she shared with another teacher did not meet the outcomes target set by the school. As a result, she stopped running trips.

“It’s just so short-sighted,” Jukes said. “That amazing teacher doing all of those things is now saying they’re not going to do them, and it’s the kids that get impacted.”

Jukes said she was also contacted by another teacher who left the profession after her classes received GCSE and A-level results below the national average.

Andrew Morris, assistant general secretary of the National Education Union, said there was “an increasing groundswell of opinion against PRP, with several major academy chains dropping it or considering doing so”.

It is not just academy trusts that are moving away from performance-related pay. Huntington School, an LA school in York, has decoupled progression from performance targets.

“We begin with the assumption that everyone gets the pay rise due to them,” Headteacher John Tomsett told Schools Week. “They have to un-earn their pay rise by teaching poorly.

“We are down to one objective, which is about accepting the professional obligation to improve your teaching.”

The Education Alliance academy trust has made a similar change. Its staff automatically receive a pay rise unless they are subject to a live capability assessment.

“Effectively, you’ve got to un-earn your pay rise,” said Jonny Uttley, its chief executive. He had found “no evidence at all that performance-related pay works in schools”.

The Education Endowment Foundation agrees. It says that the average impact of performance pay schemes was “just above zero months’ progress”.

John Tomsett

“It makes you ask the question: why are we making great teachers jump through hoops for a £2,000 pay rise that frankly they deserve?” Uttley said. He added that teachers could not “reliably isolate” the factors that controlled the performance of students in any given year versus another.

He also questioned the metrics used to measure performance, warning leaders had become “obsessed with individual scores and put too much weight on them”.

Analysis of PISA questionnaire data by Education Datalab shows that almost 90 per cent of headteachers use pupil testing data to judge teachers’ effectiveness.

A DfE spokesperson said reforms to teacher pay “have given schools more flexibility to recognise and reward staff for their hard work, allowing schools to keep their best staff and recruit the brightest talent”.

“We expect schools to be setting and reviewing achievable performance targets, in partnership with individual teachers, whilst ensuring that effective teachers are rewarded appropriately.”

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  1. Should stop most malpractice as some teachers have been tempted to over support students in their coursework in order to achieve a pay rise. I was denied progression due to two students getting a lower level 1 grade for a BTEC as I played by the rules and they did not get enough points for their exam and coursework to combine to earn a level 2 pass. Could have easily improved their overall groups if I had led more “intervention “ and improved their coursework to a merit . The whole PRP is a joke and I welcome this move from it.

  2. Mark Watson

    Let me offer a perspective from a non-teacher …

    This is why the rest of society looks at the teaching profession with incredulity. Some teachers are better at their jobs than other teachers. Like it or not that’s going to be the case, even if those at the bottom of the ladder are still objectively good. What the rest of us can’t wrap our heads around is that there seems to be an actual debate about whether we should reward people more who are better at their job.

    You want to encourage the best people into the profession, encourage them to stay, and encourage them to put in more than the minimum they have to? Well then you link performance with recognition/reward.

    What I’m getting from the article and the comments above doesn’t change my opinion one little bit. What it does make me think is that the metrics are wrong. I’m fully in favour of pay being linked to performance, but it sounds like whoever’s determined what constitutes ‘good performance’ has got it wrong. If that’s the case then of course the outcome is going to be unhelpful. It’s like a sales company (the ultimate example of performance related pay) who decide how much to pay their employees based on what time they get in in the morning, rather than how much product they sell.

    So rather than rail against PRP, why not start a debate on what everyone can agree should be used to measure performance?

    • What you all say is rapidly becoming irrelevant anyway, so perhaps some informed suggestions on metrics to use would be good and emailing your MPs. Otherwise just more comments and no action just like our government. Countless soundbites and strategies with little impact. On the plus side my head of department is emigrating because she’s so sick to death of the teaching accountability, behaviour etc and I’m looking to retire 4 years to soon. So we are doing something about it.

    • I’ve worked both as a teacher and currently as a non-teacher in the private sector, and I would argue that the metrics for performance related pay in the private sector are often equally poorly targeted at what is actually good performance, often going to people who are simply good at trumpeting their achievements or who have access to particular tasks that are more likely to meet performance objectives.

      Even in sales, there are many people hard done by because other colleagues are in positions to access the best leads and leave the more challenging leads to other colleagues.

      Of course in all these situations the argument can be made that better metrics/ better management could lead to a ‘fair’ system but in the real world it’s almost impossible for this to be the case for every company and in every department of a company.

      To get back to teachers, there are very few teachers who are not going above and beyond their job descriptions on a daily basis, giving way more than the hours they are contracted to in order to make a difference for their charges. As an individual teacher there is little control over the circumstances of students, wider school structures that have an impact on learning, and factors external to school which are usually the most significant determinant of student progress.

      It is reasonable to conclude that the complexity of creating an ideal system for PRP and the resources that need to be sunk into managing it are needless waste in a largely motivated workforce, and so the assumption that everyone gets a rise unless performance has been identified as problematic seems to be the most realistic approach.

      It is hugely problematic and disrespectful for people who have no insight into the realities and complexities of education, other than having once been to school themselves, to opine as to what works best for the management of teachers and their pay progression…

      • Mark Watson

        I wonder how much traction and sympathy politicians would get if they started going on about how “problematic and disrespectful” it is when non-politicians start opining about how much money they’re paid?

        I am a governor and try to help that school do even better than they’re doing. My taxes pay for teachers salaries. My child’s future is hugely influenced by teachers. The society I live in is shaped by what teachers do in class. So yes, I think I have a right to take part in this debate.

        Self-regulation and self-management doesn’t work for any sector of the workforce. Leaving it just up to teachers to make decisions on their pay based, it seems, on “that’s how it’s always been” and “it’s too difficult to do anything else” doesn’t sound like a great idea to me.

        (Also interesting to see you refer to “a largely motivated workforce” when we’re being told constantly by the teaching unions that’s there’s a motivational crisis in the profession.)

        • I suspect most people who complain about how much politicians get paid would be equally horrified if only those of independent wealth were able to become MPs resulting in a system even less representative of the makeup of the country than it already is…

          re: ‘a largely motivated workforce’, teachers are incredibly motivated to work hard for the benefit of the students in their charge, they do this despite working under demotivating conditions and the lack of respect from sections of the wider public bought about by the attitude and tactics of politicians towards them. Much of the reason why teachers leave is because it ultimately becomes impossible to work under those circumstances, they give everything of themselves to the students until the point they leave the profession. The idea that teachers are in large numbers treading water and require a financial sword of Damocles to make them act professionally is pretty insulting to them. Look at the research on teacher hours e.g. This has not happened because of a big PRP stick, its because teachers care that they do a good job and their students succeed.

          Teachers are largely very bad at self regulating, not because they do too little but because they do too much, and I’ll finish with a personal example that plays into this (although I left the profession shortly before PRP was brought in) I was a Maths teacher but throughout my career I volunteered my time after school and at lunch to run sports clubs as I had a coaching qualification, I also volunteered to lead DofE expeditions on weekends through the year. By the end of my career I could no longer give this time to students because of the burden of collecting data either through an increasing quantity of assessments that required marking, or simply data reporting tasks, as well as revision interventions that were increasingly expected of staff outside of timetabled teaching time. The unintended consequences of the constant demand to ‘demonstrate progress’ was that opportunities for students were reduced outside of the narrow subject requirements. It is clearly the case that if there is a burden of collecting data and evidence to meet PRP requirements teachers are faced with an even more stark choice of whether to prioritise creating broader opportunities for students or their own financial progression, which surely has to be wrong!

          • Mark Watson

            But this is my point.

            If you were a good (better than average) teacher, and on top of that you volunteered your own time to run sports clubs / lead DofE expeditions on weekends, then as a parent at your school I would want that recognised and you rewarded as a result.

            What I wouldn’t want is a system that perversely disincentivises real commitment and added value by setting unhelpful targets and draining time.

            Like the principle, don’t like the current process.