Based on my contribution to IPEG 2013 Roundtable Depression and Critical Pedagogies
What has changed? Why does Michael Gove think that his new Performance Related Pay (PRP) scheme, rolled out across schools in England this month, will be more effective than the Payment by Results (PBR) scheme introduced by Robert Lowe in 1863? This historical scheme, based on the recommendations of the Newcastle Commission report in 1870, ran for nearly 30 years. Rather than resulting in the improvements it was intended for, however, the PBR resulted in the significant reduction in people interested in entering the profession; in the rise in students’ learning without understanding; and was understood to be the reason for the suicide of demoralized school teacher Elizabeth Forshaw in Parliament in 1885.
Education Commissioner at the time, Lowe had no experience in education but had instead been Vice President on the Board of Trade and influential in the redesign of company law. Lowe had made it clear that his commitments were to free market economic principles whilst serving on the Board, commitments to classical economic theory he then applied to his self described innovative Revised Code of 1862. Seeing teaching at school level as an unintellectual exercise and teachers as lacking in motivation and incentives, he was happy to apply an industrial piece-rate payment system to the PBR model. If teachers work more, the rationale went then pupils should perform better. He also used the principles of supply and demand and technical efficiency to justify the following transformations.
The Revised Code introduced three changes to policy. The first was that there would no longer be a guarantee of teacher salaries or retirement pensions, meaning that schools would be responsible for deciding teachers’ salaries. The second changes would be that funding for schools’ buildings and furniture would no longer be direct but would become reliant on inspectors’ reports. A third change was to place focus on the three R’s in education. This is curiously reminiscent of Gove’s recent drive to change the GCSE systems to mirror baccalaureate certificates and change testing in core subjects. To his credit, Gove abandoned these final proposals in February after a range of incredulous responses from education providers and trade unions. However, the first two changes reflect some of the rationale given for the current coalition government’s legally binding policy on implanting the PPR system.
Commissioner Lowe in the 19th century wanted to see a direct result between students’ performance and teachers’ work. However, similar to the scheme being rolled out this month in England, the emphasis is not placed on teaching as a profession, skill or craft but as a task only existing to produce a required outcome. The policies work to undermine the practice of teaching, to reduce the social value of education and to dehumanize students. The Cross Report was commissioned to reinvestigate English education in 1888 after Ms Forshaw’s suicide. Based on a range of interviews with school teachers and other research, this document reported that the PBR scheme had resulted in extreme demoralization of teachers, cheating on score reporting, and in several cases to have resulted in school’s implementation of a fixed pay system and the failure to result in raised salaries while schools used funds received simply to purchase much needed teaching resources. So, on its own terms, the system failed.
So again, what makes Gove think that a PPR system will have any better results than this first attempt? He reasons that there had been very little pay progression opportunities to the higher levels of pay for school teachers outside of the sciences and that teachers need more opportunities to be promoted. While this may be true, it is difficult to trust the same government to have placed a pay freeze on teachers for two preceding years, a significant incision in events after a series of improvements for the profession including incremental pay and some job security brought about by the previous government. The OECD report ‘Does performance-based pay improve teaching?’ published in May 2012 (PISA In Focus, OECD) indicates that there is little evidence that this employment relationship results in better student results in all cases. The report notes that while the system might promote public support for spending on schools, those who do not support it point out that ‘fair and accurate evaluations are difficult to achieve because performance cannot be determined objectively, cooperation among teachers is reduced or teaching becomes narrowly focused on the criteria being used’. While neither Lowe nor Gove has stated that these changes are designed to cut costs on spending in education, the report notes that governments who believe they cannot afford to pay teachers often have attempted these schemes and in these cases there have some improvements in pupil’s scores. After recent attempts to reverse what had been seen as grade inflation in the UK, it is not clear how PPR would immunize an already disrupted system. This often cited OECD report notes overall that there is ‘no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes’.
Nonetheless, the independent School Teachers Review Body (STRB) published its 22nd report on June 2013, answering a range of questions the Secretary of State put to Dame Patricia Hodgson’s team. The government is interested in moving from the national framework to case-by-case salary schemes and market facing pay, the logic for which was not fully justified in the STRB’s report. Only in limited areas in the UK was there seen to be competition for salaries across the private and public sectors, so this is not seen to be a defensible move. The next point the government wanted comments on was the idea of linking pay to performance. The system is seen as one that can reward teachers who add the most value to pupil performance and specifically who can demonstrate the following in annual appraisals and via an increased number of teaching observations and annual appraisals:
-Impact on pupil progress
-Impact on wider outcomes for pupils
-Improvements in specific elements of practice such as behaviour management or lesson planning
-Impact on effectiveness of teachers or other staff
-Their wider contribution to the school
Teachers, as is stated in the Teachers’ Standards document revised in June 2013, must ‘establish a safe and stimulating environment for pupils, rooted in mutual respect’. In order to promote good progress and outcomes by pupils teachers will ‘be accountable for pupils’ attainment, progress and outcomes’ and will demonstrate a ‘correct use of standard English’. Overlooking both the concept of villages required to raise a child and vernacular specifics that make these villages a home to people historically, this could allow for discrimination against teachers with working class backgrounds. The accountability clause individualizes responsibility for student scores. These pressures have no basis in education research or social scientific rationale and could feasibly result in the types of failures resulting from the PBR system of the 1900s.
Looking through the model pay policies found on the Department for Education’s website it looks very much like the obligations will lead to work intensification as the responsibility is placed on teachers to ensure that they keep up with any changes to expectations set forward by the Department, for keeping track of all evidence of the expectations made clear in employers’ school specific pay policies and in the Teachers’ Standards document and for ensuring appraisal meetings take place. Head Teachers are now solely responsible to determine teachers’ pay after annual appraisals are held after this first year of implementation 2013-14, giving increased responsibilities to and promoting increased expectations for integrity in Head Teachers’ roles. The Teachers’ Standards document is particularly interesting as it states that ‘teachers must uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behavior within and outside of the school by… not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs’. This of course raises possibilities for surveillance outside of the classroom. The next expectation is stated, that teachers must uphold public trust by ‘ensuring that personal beliefs are not expressed in ways which exploit pupils’ vulnerability or might lead them to break the law’ (Teachers’ Standards p. 10). This kind of securitization of policy is seen in other recent coalition government policies such as is seen shifts in DfID development policy I have commented on in previous blog posts.
It will be interesting to see whether the new scheme works, considering both the failure of the PBR system in the late 1800s and the lack of support it meets from the people directly impacted. The scheme has met widespread disapproval from the sector and the teaching trade unions. National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) will be striking across England over the course of the next few months. Plans are in place for a national strike. The Welsh Government rejects adequacy and legitimacy of the policies, stating that market facing pay would ‘adversely impact on the low paid and women and create recruitment and retention problems particularly for schools in deprived and rural areas’ (STRB p. 21). Wales’ position on PPR is that their existing performance management systems already provide teachers’ progression (STRB p. 41).
The commodification of education, the forcing of concrete to abstract labour using new public management and Taylorist techniques and the oversight of the value of education to produce thinking people rather than an assembly line mentality have been demonstrated to be ineffective, showing once again that private sector ideologies should not be transplanted to public services such as education.