What will pay competition mean to teaching?

Sir Michael WilshawSir Michael Wilshaw, the Chief Inspector of Schools at Ofsted, recently suggested teachers needed to work past 3pm to earn any kind of promotion. Alongside this he also told his Ofsted inspectors that schools should be considered for a lower grade if teachers are moved up the teacher pay scales without justification. Provided there’s a robust system for these justifications, that’s fine by me. However, what will pay competition mean for the teaching profession? I had a great discussion with a friend about this, and I’ll simply leave you with his comments:

“I think the way they are going is this – Schools will be given free reign to pay teachers whatever they want [like academies]. Schools will work teachers harder to earn their pay increase so they can maximise their profit by reducing teaching costs [and not everyone will go up the scale and will have to work harder to ‘prove’ themselves] and increasing output [which won’t actually happen because teachers will achieve less well as they will be too tired. We have to be fresh to meet the challenge of 320 kids a week, you know]. Pay will go higher for managers because they want to get the best managers for those jobs [Tory concept of competition and historically paying more to the top]. But pay will be more limited for teachers lower down the scale [they already think we get paid too much]. Schools will then be in pay competition with each other meaning that the schools who manage their finances well and who have the best training to support teacher skills and move them up the scale and who get good ofsted money saving reports as well as other ofsted standards, will attract good teachers looking for more money. Then we will get other schools, not so well managed, who will go to ruin, since teachers will get paid less [it’s hard to achieve as a teacher in a poorly managed school since a successful teacher needs a whole range of other support] and be less motivated knowing they are getting paid less well than elsewhere. Schools [academies] are in competition now to get money as we have to bid for it. We are in competition with other schools for results. And now they want schools to be in competition over pay. This is the Tory dream and societies nightmare. Running an institution requires good business acumen, as does any institution dealing with millions of pounds of public money. But there is a difference between balancing the books and providing good education. The two need to be considered separately to a greater extent. Teachers WANT their kids to do well. Nothing pleases them more. Nothing. Seeing student achievement inspires teachers to work harder. Seeing the results, not on the exam paper, but in the developing mind and skills of the student. This does not mean teaching is a charitable act. It is not a mission. It is a job. But there is a phenomenal amount of humanity in it which society can’t put a price on. It is far more than delivering a lesson. It is, through one’s professional presentation, one’s verbal intellect, one’s moral code and one’s continuous life-coaching of young people that makes teaching such a valuable profession, when it is done right. It is all those things and more that mean we work on average, for me at least, 67 hours per week during term time. That’s a 7.30 start in work and a 6.30 on average go home time. Adding only two hours a night for extra work you could have done at school but just wanted to get home. And two hours a day at the weekend [minimal, I know teacher friends]. There is about 15 mins at lunch I could take off, but I’m also with students at lunch and usually running around doing something for them. That is why, when we get to holidays, we are dazed and exhausted. The pay competition will not work well, since it will create a great amount of inequity as schools are not equally managed well or equally fair and OFSTED will have to spend more time managing managers or the profession will suffer from the hells of poor management, or at least a strained management trying to whip an already hard working profession to work harder. Given national guidance on teacher pay, it must be assumed that, if a teacher is on a certain pay scale they should be doing more or less the same job for that money. However, if schools all set their own pay scale, this incredible inequity will ruin a profession not obssessed with money, but with education, not obssessed with capitalist Tory competition, but with the constant progress of humanity filled within thinking, moral, well trained and well rounded individuals ready to contribute to society in their own way, and able to do so because of their teachers. No matter what school you work in, teachers should get equal pay for doing the same job. This should not rely on the incompetence or spendthrift/miserliness of a school’s management.”

What do you think?


2 Replies to “What will pay competition mean to teaching?”

  1. I became a teacher because I wanted to give something back to society. I work in a tough area of the country where learning is often low down the social agenda. Aspiration is low and most people live on benefits or minimum wage levels. I would like to think I work as hard as any other teacher in the country. I don’t always succeed at what I do for a lot of reasons out of my control. In this model, I should go and work in an easy school where I can guarantee to get results and be properly paid for my hard work. Shame for the kids I currently teach but I guess under the Tory model they don’t matter. This will be a massive blow to social mobility.

  2. Thanks for your comment Paul. It certainly looks gloomy, doesn’t it? With regards to moving up the pay scales, it would be difficult for the Government to set robust criteria that fits every single school. Akin to what you’ve said, working in an easy school where you are more easily able to get good results would – presumably – mean you’re more likely to progress compared with that of a more difficult school.

    Perhaps that wouldn’t be the case? The criteria for pay rises could be linked to skills shown as a teacher, student intervention strategies attempted, well-planned lessons with clear opportunities for progression built in. The key to any pay progression criteria is that there is built in scope for ‘failure’; for students to not hit their targets, for results to not be as expected. There are so many factors that can get in the way of these being achieved. If a teacher was to have their pay levels determined without these considerations would be an outrage.

    Then comes the Management factor. How does your specific school’s Senior Team actually perceive the criteria?

    Tricky one!

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