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PRP – “We’re in the Wrong Jungle!”

I once read that part of the art of leadership is making sure you’re in the right jungle.  The analogy goes that, whilst people may be working hard chopping their way through the jungle and transversing difficult terrain, it is the job of the leader to climb the tallest tree and not simply check that people are travelling in the right direction but that they are in the right jungle.


The current discussions, debates and arguments about Performance Related Pay is “wrong jungle”.  I don’t want to just measure teachers, I want to help them improve and collectively we should be focused on improving the system.  I’ve blogged about this before, “Improving Teaching Not Just Measuring It”.  We must manage the tension between holding people accountable and developing them – it was always thus.  Too much of one without the other becomes attritional or easy street.

So instead of simply focussing on PRP we need to stand back and look at how we could use the new flexibilities in pay policies to help shape an even higher performing profession – increasing the professional capital must be the key driver in our decision-making.  The latest STPCD lays down the law but to borrow a biblical flow we need to move from the law, to the prophets and gradually introduce wisdom.  It’s time for some prophetic voices.

If you want to read a great post on PRP look at John Tomsett’s “This much I know about … Performance Related Pay for Teachers.”

In terms of the challenges for September 2013, the writing of a new Pay Policy is at the front of many people’s minds.  The main changes seem to centre around:

  • Teachers moving up the pay range based on performance rather than experience with annual assessments of their performance
  • Pay ranges being introduced rather than nationally agreed pay points
  • Removal of threshold
  • No longer needing to match a person’s existing salary when a member of staff moves from one school to another
  • Introduction of Leading Practitioners

Underpinning the PRP approach is the belief that offering individual schools or hard federated schools/multi-academy trusts greater flexibility to use a “carrot & stick” approach will improve education.  My view is that this is simply “bonkerooney”.

Pay ranges rather than nationally agreed pay points won’t deliver World Class education.  The process of isomorphism will tend, over a very short time, to move all things back to a point.  There is no value in being out of step for long just watch how petrol prices in an area move up and down together.

The ability to remove threshold assessment is misleading as we now have threshold every year.

Not recognising the experience teachers have developed and the enhanced professional capital, which is gained exponentially in the early years, undervalues them significantly.


The one nugget of gold in the whole sorry mess is the introduction of Leading Practitioners.  How many leading practitioners do you want on your staff – one, five, ten or every teacher a lead practitioner?  For me it’s a no-brainer but how do we help all teachers became lead practitioners?

There are a number of different paths we could travel but here’s a few to give you some food for thought.


Hargreaves & Fullan (2012) stress the importance of increasing the human capital within the profession by attracting the top graduates with high emotional intelligence and moral commitment.  These graduates will soon be coming out of university with debts in the region of £50,000.  We should remove M1 from the main scale and start all new staff on M2 with them staying on M2 for their first two years.  The cost would be £2,105 over two years including on-costs.


Between three to five years after colleagues join the profession far too many increasingly capable and highly committed people leave the profession.  Same again but remove M3 and M5 but when a teacher moves from the proposed M2 to M4 s/he remains on it for two years and likewise when moving from current M4 to M6.  The costs are £2,384 and £2,484 respectively including on-costs.  Simply offering slightly more pay won’t necessarily stop this but it will indicate how much we value people.  There is an added bonus that the required PRP decisions only need to be made every two years:

  • More time to collect the requires evidence for senior leaders
  • Half the number of PRP decisions each year and give leaders time to do things that have a greater impact
  • Halve the number of times anxious and worried staff wait to receive news about whether they have met their PRP objectives or not.

I know budgets are squeezed but managing a budget of £6 million each year the opportunity to find approximately £1,000 per annum, for each member of staff on the main scale, is not beyond our ability.  Imagine the cost of not doing this – failing to attract the best staff and not retaining those we have.  The cost will be part offset through savings on adverts at the very least.


If we are going to use the principles of highly effective summative assessment we need to ensure that are assessments are distributed, synoptic, manageable, trusted and extensive.  The later, extensive, requires that all important aspects are covered – the obvious list has already been given by the Department for Education but what about a teacher’s contribution to his/her own professional development (required to move from M2 to M4), contribution to another person’s development (required to move from M4 to M6), involvement in research & development around pedagogy, work as a form tutor or engagement in extra-curricular provision.  The contribution teachers, and other staff who work in schools make, is both extensive and varied.


Decisions about what to include and what not to include in Pay Policies for September 2013 will give staff a very clear message about are underlying beliefs and how much you value teachers.  Are you a buy them cheap, stack them high or you get what you pay for kind of leader?  Teachers aren’t daft, they know that these freedoms are not going to lead to massive pay rises but they will expect to be treated with fairness, justice and valued for the knowledge, experience and expertise they bring.  I’m sure certain people reading this blog would categorise me as a liberal, lefty, guardian reading softy who just wanted to pay teachers something for nothing.  I’m not but I do want the absolute best staff to work with the young people at St. Mary’s and I wonder whether we will be bold enough to put together a radical element in our policy to make this happen.

I’m not sure whether my “thoughts” are particularly good or bad but in some ways that is not the key issue.  The worrying thing is that we will soon have a fragmented approach to pay, terms and conditions.  If we want every child, in every class, in every school to have a fantastic education then we need to act as a system.  Be wise when putting this year’s Pay Policy together and make sure it speaks of your values and beliefs – remember I cannot hear what you say because what you do shouts so loudly in my ears.

The follow up blog post, with the College’s draft Pay Policy in, is “A Silver Lining to the PRP Cloud?”



6 thoughts on “PRP – “We’re in the Wrong Jungle!”

  1. If you are in the jungle care for every part of it and make sure it grows green and lush. The fruit and rich soil will enable all the animals to live rich, rewarding and healthy lives. As for chopping down the jungle throw the invaders out as the destroy the lungs of the earth. The future.

    Posted by Mick | May 12, 2013, 9:37 am
  2. I really enjoyed reading this, thanks.
    I don’t envy head teachers right now but you are clearly trying to find the best and most equitable way to approach this really tricky subject.
    I hate the notion that we should pit teacher against teacher and pay the one who rises to the top, because perhaps not all heads will be as fair minded as you and the judgements are surely horribly subjective.
    Good luck with writing your new pay policy, hope it doesn’t take over your summer!

    Posted by suecowley | May 24, 2013, 7:31 am
    • Thanks for the comment Sue. I wasn’t sure whether to use jungles or minefields in the post. PRP won’t have an impact on standards and so just seems an unnecessary diversion and waste of time.

      Posted by headstmary | May 24, 2013, 7:39 am


  1. Pingback: A Silver Lining to the PRP Cloud? | Leading Learner - July 22, 2013

  2. Pingback: PRP – “We’re in the Wrong Jungle!” | Leading Learner - July 26, 2013

  3. Pingback: Performance Pay: It’s About to Hit the Fan | @LeadingLearner - November 1, 2014

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