Performance Related Pay in Schools


  • NUT members oppose the use of PRP in schools - they think it is unfair and unworkable.  The evidence suggests they are right.
  • PRP does not improve educational standards or outcomes.  OECD research on the impact of PRP in teaching has concluded that “the overall picture reveals no relationship between average student performance in a country and the use of performance-based pay schemes.” 1 A wide range of other research including from the USA2and Portugal has suggested that it has no overall impact on achievement or may even reduce it.  If we are serious about school improvement, we should instead focus on the lessons of proven successes - such as the City Challenge model in London and the Midlands, declared by researchers to have produced school improvement which is not only “measurable and sustainable” but also “more cost effective than other strategies”.3
  • PRP does not motivate teachers either. Professor David Marsden’s 2009 study, ‘The Paradox of Performance Related Pay Systems: Why Do We Keep Adopting Them in the Face of Evidence that they Fail to Motivate?’4sums up its conclusions in its title.
  • The ending of pay progression based on length of service makes teaching a less attractive career choice at a time of a growing teacher recruitment crisis.  The Government has missed its teacher recruitment targets for the past five years in a row, whilst the number of teachers leaving the profession is the highest for ten years.  According to a recent NUT/ATL survey5, the proportion of teachers denied pay progression in September 2016 rose to more than a fifth of teachers eligible for progression.  There is a marked contrast between the uncertain and unfair PRP system used in teaching and the more clearly defined pay structures in place elsewhere in the graduate labour market.  Both potential and serving teachers are acutely aware of this, and it is damaging teacher recruitment and retention.
  • PRP is an unnecessary and bureaucratic burden.  It ties up school leaders and governors in lengthy discussions and time consuming appeals - diverting time away from the key challenges of securing improvements in teaching and learning.  This lengthy and complex process can lead to unacceptable delays in notifying staff of pay progression outcomes.  The ATL/NUT survey found that almost one quarter of those surveyed had not been informed of the outcome of the decision by the time of the survey (late November and early December 2016) creating additional uncertainty and anxiety for those teachers concerned.
  • PRP undermines effective school improvement.  It encourages teachers to work in isolation, rather than pooling their expertise.  Schools are learning communities - good teachers build their students’ achievement on foundations laid by other teachers and support staff.  Teachers work best when they work collaboratively.
  • PRP does not lead to "the best teachers being paid more".  Pressures on school funding mean faster pay progression for some can only happen at the expense of others.  In schools where every teacher is performing well, that makes no sense at all.
  • Worryingly, the NUT/ATL survey reveals that funding constraints have led to 15% of those turned down for progression being explicitly told that this was because of funding or budgetary constraints.  This means teachers are being denied progression despite meeting their performance targets.
  • PRP often leads to discriminatory outcomes.  The European Commission’s 2014 paper, Tackling the gender pay gap in the European Union6 recognises that PRP contributes to unequal pay between men and women – a link also identified by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)7. Whilst male and female teachers are both likely to be disadvantaged by PRP, the evidence suggests that female teachers are even more likely to be disadvantaged than their male counterparts.  The ATL/NUT survey found that less than half of women who had been absent due to pregnancy or maternity reasons received progression, with 53% of those being specifically told that they had been denied progression as a direct result of their absence – in defiance of equality legislation and DfE guidance.  Also, many more part time teachers (who are statistically much more likely to be women) were denied progression in September 2016 compared with their full-time colleagues – at a ratio of more than 2:1.  
  • The same survey also found that Asian / Asian British and Black / Black British teachers continue to lag behind their White / White British counterparts.  Evidence suggests that age too can be a barrier to pay progression - an NUT study of 2015 pay progression data from academy chains shows a clear correlation between rising age and declining pay progression rates.
  • PRP distorts teaching and narrows choice & opportunities for students. Research on PRP proposals in Canada concluded that PRP leads to teachers prioritising considerations which have a bearing on pay over other matters, “whether those are different subject areas or soft skills or relationships with students”.   The Local Schools Network argues that PRP steers teachers towards the easiest to teach/higher achieving classes rather than the hardest to help succeed.
  • PRP risks turning Ofsted into the Government’s pay police.  Ofsted inspectors are expected to look at the relationship between teaching in the school and pay progression, requiring school leaders to justify pay progression decisions – thus further undermining the already tenuous trust between schools and Ofsted.
  • Finally, teachers reject PRP, whatever the Government and its supporters say.  A 2015 NUT/YouGov poll conducted in October 2015 found that 67% of respondents were not in favour of PRP for teachers and 84% believed it was “not practicable” to match an individual teachers’ contribution to student outcomes8.
  • What does work is paying all teachers better.  Another study looking across OECD countries in 2011 concluded both that “higher pay leads to improved pupil performance” and that the highest performing countries have well paid teachers whose status in society is high.  This won’t be achieved by focusing on PRP for the few.
  • PRP in teaching is not about raising standards. It undermines professional co-operation and hampers school improvement. It promotes unfairness and inequality and makes pay determination costlier and more bureaucratic. It is actually all about cutting the pay bill for teachers - which is why the NUT continues to oppose it.

1 Does performance-based pay improve teaching?, PISA in Focus (May 2012 issue):

2 Does Whole-School Performance Pay Improve Student Learning? Evidence from the New York City Schools  Goodman et al, Education Next, v11 n2 p67-71 (Spr 2011); Teacher Pay for Performance - Experimental Evidence from the Project on Incentives in Teaching, Springer et al, NCPI Vanderbilt University, Sept

34 Evaluation of the City Challenge Programme, DfE Research Report DFE-RR215, Prof M Hutchings et al, Jun 2012

4Paradoxes of modernisation: unintended consequences of public policy reforms, ed Hood & Margetts, OUP 2009

5 NUT/ATL Pay Progression Survey – September 2016.  See

6Tackling the gender pay gap in the European Union is available at ( (p5) EU Publications Office, 2014

7 EHRC Advice and Guidance on Pay Systems (online); available at

8 NUT/YouGov survey on Government education policy (October 2015):

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