17/01/2013 13:21 GMT | Updated 19/03/2013 05:12 GMT

Performance-Related Pay for Teachers Is the Wrong Move


So Michael Gove, the education secretary, is "minded to accept the recommendations from the Teachers' Review Body". He was referring to the introduction of performance-related pay for teachers. Does he really think this is what is needed in schools to improve the performance of teachers?

Teaching in a school is not for the fainthearted. I should know, for I taught mathematics in a school, taught engineering in a university and worked in industry. School teaching was the most demanding, the poorest paid, and the least appreciated, and that was before government interference in the minutiae of education became fashionable.

It is an all-consuming job that requires your best endeavour at all times. Moreover, you need the support of your colleagues, particularly if you are just starting. Their advice, and possibly some of their teaching materials are invaluable.

Not everything can be measured, and any system you use to say teacher A should be rewarded and not teacher B will be flawed. It will be divisive, destroying the cooperative, collaborative dynamic among the teaching staff, which is at the heart of a good school.

This is a measure that at best will be a waste of time, a precious resource in teaching, and could well lower the quality of teaching. I can't imagine a headteacher who values the cohesion of his staff and their goodwill wanting anything to do with this.

So is this simply a ploy to reduce teachers' pay, and is this a way of selling that policy by sowing divisions amongst teachers, or between them and their headteacher? Education is far too important to be undermined by playing politics. At the core of good teaching is a motivated teacher who feels appreciated and respected to do the job. This measure creates uncertainty and anxiety that undermines the cohesiveness of the staff.

Here is Diane Ravitch, research professor of education at New York University, on the American experience of performance-related pay for teachers:

"School authorities in the US have tried performance pay plans for almost 100 years. They have never worked. They don't work because teachers don't want to compete with one another for cash prizes. They don't work because teachers are already doing the best they can, and the lure of a bonus doesn't make them work harder or better. Currently, the US has embarked on a scheme to pay teachers based on the rise or fall of their students' test scores.

The frequency and cost of testing are spiralling upwards, and teachers are greatly demoralised. In some districts, the teacher of the year has been fired as "ineffective", because scores on unreliable standardised, multiple-choice tests did not go up as much as the computer predicted they should. The most thorough examination of bonus pay was carried out by economists at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. They offered a cash prize of $15,000 (£9,000) to teachers who could raise test scores. They created a control group and an experimental group. At the end of three years, they determined that the bonus made no difference. Both groups got the same result."

The emphasis by successive governments on testing and inspections as a means of improving education has harmed real education. It has lowered the morale of our teachers, and has raised the levels of stress and anxiety of our children. Performance-based pay is yet another policy that will add to the stress of an already stressed and demoralised profession. It is the wrong move Mr. Gove.