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Primary Education News
News Secret Teacher: keep students and parents away from my pay
Students and parents are not qualified to determine teachers' pay. Plus, new pay guidelines will lead to a survival of the fittest mentality between colleagues, argues Secret Teacher
In October, I participated in an extremely bizarre job interview. It involved the obligatory tour of the school with students, a five-minute presentation to students and teachers and a student interview panel. My advancement to the next and final stage was dependent on how successful I was in this initial process. I didn't get the job.
I felt the day had gone very well but in my feedback I was told that, even though my application and presentation were both outstanding, I hadn't passed the student interview process. Why? Well, I had answered a question with a question. I was told that the student who had asked me the question didn't like that as it made him feel anxious. This was the same panel who had asked me earlier in the interview, if I was kitchen utensil what would I be?
I fully support and agree with students, and parents for that matter, having a greater say in schools. I don't think there is a teacher around who doesn't wish that parents got more involved with their child's education. I will go even further and say that schools and individual teachers should seek regular feedback from their student body. But this process has a line and the Department for Education is about to flop over it by allowing the hint of salary progression being determined by students and parents.
Earlier on this week the DfE released its advice on the measures that might be used for performance-related pay progression. If we consider the measures, there are two that sends shivers down my spine; the one that says headteachers and governors could look at a teacher's wider contribution to the work of the school and that schools could consider evidence from a range of sources, including self-assessment, lesson observations, and the views of other teachers and of parents and pupils. Going the extra mile at school has long been an informal measure of commitment to your job but now the DfE is suggesting that it can be used to withhold pay progression.
Furthermore, the cynic in me could suggest that heads could use this measure for nefarious reasons. I'm lucky to work in a school where this wouldn't happen but others are not so fortunate.
Just because you can't stay behind to coach a sports team or run the chess club doesn't mean you're an uncommitted teacher. You don't have to be in school to be working for school. The DfE argues that this measure is there to reward those teachers who are able to run these clubs. This, however, proves the point and is extremely divisive. It is also ageist, sexist and drives a further wedge between teachers and their already strained relationships with their families. We will see teachers falling out over who takes the most able groups, teachers working against, not with, one another. Our free-market promoting education secretary sees this as an inducement to success, we know this not to be the case. Education should not and cannot be run in this way. Appraisal is the new term of choice for the DfE. The survival of the fittest approach championed by Thatcher will now be embedded into the mentality of the next generation of teachers.
This brings me back to the over involvement of students and parents in determining the winners in this Darwinian approach to performance-related pay. Other than being taught in a school or having a child in a school what other qualification do students and parents have in determining salary increases?
Inevitably, if this measure is used, then teachers are going to be subject to the whims and fancies of disaffected children and disgruntled parents. The very best teachers don't always get on with every student or every parent. Let us suppose that a teacher falls out with a student of a school governor, the disproportionate power that that student has is frightening. Or as happens from time to time, a teacher has a class that he/she just doesn't get on with, what then?
A friend of mine teaches the son of a prominent and ardent critic of his subject; what would happen if this was used to deny a salary increase because of a pre-defined prejudice of the subject and consequently the teacher? The job of a teacher is varied and results can be nuanced they cannot and should not be subject to flights of fancy or personal opinion.
What can we do about it? Where does this leave us? The answers are unfortunate but true, nothing and nowhere.
Today's Secret Teacher works at a secondary school in the south of England.