Should teachers embrace performativity?
It has become a new orthodoxy that introducing performance-related pay to schools will drive up teaching quality and force underperformers to 'improve or exit the profession'.
It has become a new orthodoxy that introducing performance-related pay to schools will drive up teaching quality and force underperformers to ‘improve or exit the profession’. ‘Performativity’ is now part of the educational language in all school types and English education’s new pay structure embodies this through the termination of automatic pay rises for teachers. Instead, school leaders have more freedom to make salary decisions based on performance in a new context of ‘accountability’ and revised national standards. Indeed, many new teachers entering the profession have not experienced any other way of doing things.
However, critics point out that linking teachers pay more closely to performance will have little impact unless schools are prepared to make ‘difficult decisions’ - and deny pay rises to some staff. In contrast, a survey commissioned by the NUT teaching union found that 81% of respondents thought that performance-related pay would not actually improve outcomes for students. Teaching is just not that kind of profession, they argue. Research on the topic points both ways. Supporters of performance-related pay point to studies which show improved test scores and reduced teacher absenteeism. Yet other studies appear to show no demonstrable increase in pupil outcomes.
How do we really measure a teachers performance? Are exam results too crude a measure? Is it morally acceptable to distinguish between high performing teachers and their under performing (lazy?) teachers when it comes to pay? Is performance-related pay worth supporting to confront the widespread feeling that some teachers need to ‘move up’ or be ‘moved on’? Or is there still a space for collaborative work between different colleagues based on education as an end in itself? And is it time to face the new reality: performativity is actually delivering on standards in a way that ‘teacher autonomy’ never did.
Kevin Rooney, head of Social Science and deputy head of Sixth Form at Queen’s School, Bushey.