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Education, education, education. A grammatically incorrect sentence, I am aware, and as much as I have qualms with the British education system, as I do with almost all areas in politics, I cannot say its education system has failed me to that degree. However, ‘education, education, education’ was a ‘top priority’ of Blair’s Labour and something I believe the coalition government has attempted to replicate.[1] Now, I am not here to critique the pros and cons of modern British education policy, however I think there are questions to be raised over Gove’s push for performance related pay for teachers.

The idea as it stands looks at placing more power into the hands of senior bodies within schools, with these bodies determining rates of teacher pay in relation to performance, with those achieving attainment targets in relation to grades, behavioural improvement and other areas of attainment receiving pay increases. There has been clarification that this will not mean pay deductions for those who fail to reach these targets, but will mean the eradication of the national uniform payment system. There are many advocates of this policy, teachers and politicians alike who see the policy as a great way to improve the education system, rewarding quality teachers and eradicating the link between time in service and higher pay, with increased salary moving from longevity to performance. This is an argument shared by the new Shadow Education Secretary Hunt, who is vocal in the support of the introduction of performance related pay to drive up teaching standards, something his predecessor Twigg, was not.[2] Thus it seems in the frontbench, neither the opposition of current government are opposing the initiation of such a policy, but does that mean we should not either? I propose not.

 

As someone who personally works in many deprived schools in Manchester, tutoring and mentoring both primary and secondary school children, I feel there are many issues that this policy overlooks. Firstly, the wellbeing of children is a fundamental factor when looking at attainment levels and general achievement and behaviour within schools. This is something that arguably shows a disparity in the interests of the Tories, with Cameron’s establishment of the National Wellbeing Project in 2010 arguably reflecting the importance of wellbeing to him being a far cry from Gove’s elimination of ‘wellbeing’ as a factor of Ofsted inspections within schools.[3] In my opinion, and from the children I have and do work with, a heavy emphasis on targets within schools sees wellbeing becoming a secondary factor as it has become to the Education Secretary, with there being a higher focus on those who can or are attaining to achieve, and less focus on improving the wellbeing of the children whose personal situations see them fall so behind that the reality of them reaching the necessary targets becomes almost impossible. In addition to this, such as policy change will put increased pressure on teachers to reach targets which could accelerate systemic unfairness, increasing problems for ‘challenging’ and small schools with their possibly being a large migration to, and increased competition for, teaching posts in schools with high levels of academic achievement.[4]  As much as these may seem like quite bold and far-fetched ideas, these are views that I have acquired due to my own work within schools. Countless times I have had conversations with teachers who will allow me only to work with their best and brightest or those with enough ‘potential’ to achieve the schools targets. They actively side-line those who are far behind but enthusiastic and need genuine extra support but, in recognition of their need to reach targets, see them as almost lost causes and to be a waste of my services, rather than using me to help close the ability gap between them and those at the top of the class.

 

Now there is no part of me that claims to be more of an expert on education than the Education Secretary or teachers but I feel this policy needs to look at the attitudes and ramifications of which it will install into teachers. Will they be more inclined to sacrifice those with ‘no hope’ of higher attainment to support those who are close to reaching their targeted goals? As a person who attended a secondary school which failed its Ofsted inspection due to poor attainment records and so forth and yet am a third year undergraduate student in a Russell Group university, I have seen the tendency for under achieving schools to push their best and brightest and be increasingly inclined to allow those falling behind to fall on the wayside first hand. Surely aligning pay with teachers’ performance will only further facilitate such behaviour? Surely the National Union of Teachers (NUT), would not be so active in their campaigns against the policy if its effects were overwhelming positive? Or maybe I am wrong and it will bring about a better, more competitive education system? Well, only time will tell.

 

 

 

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