How to measure and manage a successful strategy for performance related pay

Keith Wright

Keith Wright is managing director of school information management specialist Bluewave.SWIFT. He has worked with hundreds of schools during in the past decade supporting institutional leadership and management. For the past six years Keith has worked with Leeds City Council to develop their quality standards framework for adoption by schools in the UK and overseas. He has also advised overseas education ministries on raising school standards through the effective use of school improvement support systems.

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The performance management process is starting in most schools over the next few weeks.

It’s a crucial time for senior leaders who are responsible for performance related pay (PRP) - they need to be ready to make it clear to their colleagues what targets they will be measured against, and what they need to do in order to achieve a pay award in autumn 2014.

It sounds simple, but in fact it is a complex process with big implications for the running of our schools. The fundamental problem is that schools are being expected to lead on the processes and procedures of PRP when old frameworks have been replaced by vague national guidelines and shallow local guidance. All this – while the clock is ticking.

This lack of advice on 'how to do' PRP may partly explain the worrying statistics from a recent survey of governors carried out for the National Governors’ Association and the TES. A fifth of those surveyed said that their school had not yet established how it will determine pay rises. A similar proportion said they were "unsure" whether their school's pay policy had been revamped.

Three key factors to measure PRP against

There are two key stages to this. The first point is not to do it alone. Don’t try a ‘homebrew’ spreadsheet that limits you to clumsy, ‘thereabouts’ measurements of progress against the current, vague professional standards.

Instead, look for tailor made tools that that intelligently connect three key elements against which an individual should be measured in a fair and transparent PRP process: career stage expectations (where an individual is expected to be at a particular stage of their career), performance appraisal (the evidence gathered by an individual to show progress against targets set by their performance manager) and the professional standards.

This ‘triangulated’ approach gives a school the most accurate and full picture of an individual’s performance which can be used to decide whether they merit a pay award. It also empowers the individual, giving them a powerful mechanism for recording their progress against performance targets and career stage expectations – evidence which can then be used to make a clear case for pay progression when appraisal time arrives.

Four key steps to manage a successful PRP system

The second stage is to ensure that the use of such systems is supported by a leadership and management strategy that gives everyone a clear understanding - and a proper stake - in the performance management process. This entails the following key steps:

1. Before you roll out a new performance and pay strategy write and agree a PRP policy. Guidance on how to do this is generally available from local authorities. Make sure that all those who will be affected by the policy are informed.

2. Have time to take everyone through the PRP process. Make sure they know about the relationship between career stage expectations, performance appraisal and professional standards. It really is quite amazing the assumptions that are made at government level about the understanding of these issues.

3. Encourage your colleagues to look at the process as an enabler, rather than a blocker, of career development. A benefit of a well implemented PRP process can be that it establishes a clear career pathway in which teachers are always provided with the opportunity to grow into the next career stage.

4. Make sure that whatever you ask of your staff, you make it as easy as possible for them to engage in the process and to provide evidence of their achievement. Give them access to an advanced online school improvement management tool and encourage them to reflect upon and record snippets of experience as they go. This ‘little and often’ approach will create a very rich picture of evidence that will help both the school and the individual.

Performance related pay might seem like an ominous cloud for schools that have yet to address it in detail, but I can assure them that it can be turned into an opportunity rather than an issue if they act quickly and decisively.

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