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Pay Policy

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A Silver Lining to the PRP Cloud?

The final day of Summer Term, the students have been waved on their happy way for the summer holidays, staff leaving speeches, with a few tears shed, have been completed and there is now a few cleaners, the site supervisors and myself left in the building.  Time to write a Pay Policy me thinks.

Over recent weeks I have been meeting with staff, from both St. Mary’s Catholic College & Christ the King Catholic Primary School, to try and shape our new Pay Policy.  We are part of a hard federation and this was my first real challenge as an Executive Headteacher to bring together a primary and secondary perspective into one document.  I’m gratefully particularly to John Tomsett whose blogs on Performance Related Pay were particularly useful and who was generous in sharing the policies and resources developed within his school.  I used the Daniel Pink video, from one of his blogs, as the start of the process and it took any potential conflict out of the process – we were all on the same page, but had a job to do.

Very quickly we agreed that there was little point in changing things, this year, that we were not required too.  This was felt to be a sensible way forward as we could then spend more time thinking about the implications.  So pay portability, retaining M1-6 and ignoring the new TLR3 and Lead Practitioner Role, for now, were the first decisions made.

On big pieces of paper tablecloth I drew a quick mind map with three questions for groups of staff to consider:

  • What do we value?
  • How will we measure these?
  • How will we differentiate these?

This led to really rich and fruitful discussions, an extra meeting, and over a period of about two hours a general consensus about the importance of:

  • Standards and children making progress;
  • Good quality teaching;
  • Professional development for teachers;
  • Being true to our ethos including the development of the whole child and
  • Differing expectations for teachers at the start of their careers, once they had gained three or four years’ experience and again once they had moved onto the upper pay range.

Common sense abounded and some interesting perspectives from staff who had spent time in industry or commerce about the expectation of an annual pay increase irrespective of performance were openly expressed.  The discussions, which I just sat around and listened to, gave me a clear framework of staff’s thinking.  I showed the groups some documents I had been given which broke the Teachers’ Standards down into their sub-clauses and then gave the expectation at five or six different stages of experience and ran to about six sides.  I hated them but wanted a perspective from others – their view was “liked the clarity” but they were concerned the process would end up as a simplistic tick box approach.

Here is my first attempt, subject still to consultation with staff at both schools, to give some clarity but avoid a total tick box approach:

Pay Policy Table 

The full Pay Policy based on Blackpool’s Model Policy is here.

Instead of a table stretching over six sides it sits on just over half a page and hopefully reflects the discussions with staff.  The key is whether it has sufficient clarity.  Sometimes less can be more as people can actually grasp the whole.  Also, in reality, there will always be an element of judgement and hopefully wisdom in decision making and there needs to be space for this.

The part that potentially is the “silver lining” in this PRP cloud is the expectation that teachers will increasingly be expected to share their good, best and next practice with others and take an increasing responsibility for the outcomes beyond their own classroom.  “Opening the Door on Our Craft Knowledge” by Alex Quigley (with a link to an article by John Tomsett around a discussion with an experienced and expert teacher) just emphasises the importance of building “Professional Capital” within and across our schools.

Hunting English Blog Response

Over years good teachers increase their “decisional capital” (the ability to make discretionary judgements) in their classrooms and interactions with students, parents and colleagues.  If we don’t find explicit ways to share this wisdom and develop it in colleagues then every summer those staff retiring from the profession or moving to new schools will deplete a school’s professional capital.  We cannot afford for this to happen and so through our new Pay Policy we have reinforced the need to develop practice, share it and work beyond our own classrooms as we gain professional experience and expertise.

More changes to Pay Policies you feel are inevitable but as leaders we need to ensure they actually address issues that need solving and are congruent with the values we hold.  I’ve blogged before about this in “PRP: We’re in the Wrong Jungle!” as it needs to be a national not individual school response to attracting and retaining the best people in education.

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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.

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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.

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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.

THOUGHT ONE

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.

THOUGHT TWO

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.

THOUGHT THREE

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.

“IT’S A SYSTEM THING”

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?”

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