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Teachers 'may accept performance pay', says think tank

By Judith Burns
BBC News education reporter

image captionA poll of teachers suggests more could be won over to performance-related pay, Policy Exchange claims

Teachers in England and Wales could be won over to performance-related pay but need reassurance about its fairness and efficiency, a think tank claims.

The right-leaning Policy Exchange has published a poll of teachers on the eve of regional strikes over pay, conditions and pensions.

Members of the NUT and NASUWT unions will strike on Tuesday in the Midlands, East of England, Yorkshire and Humber.

Teaching unions said the survey detail did not support Policy Exchange's view.

Performance-related pay (PRP) came into force for teachers in England's schools this term, giving heads more flexibility over salaries.

Unions say the changes are really about cutting most teachers' salaries and most parents want schools to follow a national pay system.

'Change of heart'

But Jonathan Simons, head of education at Policy Exchange, claims the poll suggests "that teachers could easily be won round to the idea of performance-related pay but more needs to be done to explain how the system would work".

Pollsters YouGov questioned a weighted sample of more than 1,000 teachers in England and Wales.

The main question on performance-related pay received a broadly negative response from teachers, with only 16% saying they would like to work in a school where pay was "more explicitly linked" to their overall performance, 40% saying they would not and 44% that it would make no difference.

However, Policy Exchange claims that answers to other questions may indicate the possibility of a change of heart if teachers could be convinced that performance-related pay would lead to less paperwork.

Some 55% said they would be more likely to want to work in a school with performance-related pay "if it also resulted in a reduction in your administrative, reporting and bureaucratic workload".

Some 12% said they were less likely to want to work in such a school, while 33% said it would make no difference.

'Concerned about workload'

Teachers said they spent an average of more than 48 minutes a week on reporting their own performance, with over half (54%) saying it was the least valuable use of their time.

Some (79%) complained of too much bureaucracy, target-setting and inspection.

Christine Blower, of the NUT, said the survey showed that "a clear majority of teachers are far more concerned about workload than any apparent benefits of performance-related pay.

"According to this survey, only 2% said that it would make them significantly more likely to want to work in a school where pay was more explicitly linked to overall performance.

"Far more said it would make them less likely. Even under the proposal of PRP being offered in return for an imagined reduction in bureaucratic workload, only 13% said that it would make them significantly more interested in working in a school with PRP.

"Yet in many schools the introduction of PRP will lead to a much greater bureaucratic workload as head teachers introduce new forms and evidence gathering.

'Creation of unfairness'

"Teachers work in a collaborative fashion. Young people's success depends on the interplay between the work of all their teachers.

"There is also every scope in linking pay to performance for the creation of unfairness."

Policy Exchange said the poll also suggested that most teachers (60%) were against pay being driven by years of experience in the profession, preferring measures such as students' progress (66%) and teaching quality (89%).

A third of those polled said they were dissatisfied at having to work with lower-performing colleagues, while more than half (52%) said performance pay would make it easier to dismiss poor teachers.

Mr Simons said: "Policymakers should make huge efforts to talk to teachers up and down the country, even if that means bypassing their union leaders, and answer any questions they might have about the new system."

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