Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Many Losers in This Lottery

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Many Losers in This Lottery

Article excerpt

Offering my children extra pocket money to do work around the house usually ends in an argument over who's got the hardest task and deserves the greatest reward. "How does washing the dishes compare with walking the dog?" grumbles my eldest. "It takes me 10 times as long and I always come back muddy." His sister is quick to counter: "At least it's not pairing socks." She realised from an early age that sock-pairing, like teaching English, is a godforsaken occupation that extinguishes the soul. The youngest keeps very quiet. Since his last attempt to tidy his room resulted in a broken radiator, a stained carpet and his clean clothes being recycled into the laundry basket, all he has to do to earn his cash is make sure his PlayStation games are out of sight.

Performance-related pay (PRP) sparks similar discord among teachers. Until we know exactly how management is divvying up rewards, we eye each other suspiciously, wondering who's getting extra cash for chucking things under the bed. The old system may have been flawed, but at least it was fair. A teacher's progression up the pay scale mirrored the pocket-money rites of puberty: a few pound coins at 12, a tenner when you hit 14, then straight on to the upper pay scale once you learned to shave. Compared with that, the new PRP policy seems open to abuse.

There is no meaningful way to compare teachers' performance. They utilise a wide range of professional skills, some far more measurable than others. But I suspect the national trend will be to predicate reward on exam results; a measure that would be reliable only if every contextual variable was taken into account. …

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