Performance Related Pay in Schools


  • NUT members oppose the use of PRP in schools - they think it is unfair and won't work. The evidence suggests they are right.
  • PRP will 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.
  • 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?’3sums up its conclusions in its title.
  • PRP undermines and disrupts 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.
  • 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”4
  • PRP distorts teaching and leads to narrower choices & opportunities for students. Research on PRP proposals for teachers in Canada concluded that teachers focus on matters relevant to their pay at the expense of other matters, “whether those are different subject areas or soft skills or relationships with students”5 As the Local Schools Network has argued, PRP will steer teachers towards the ‘best’ classes (the easiest to teach and highest achieving) rather than the hardest to help succeed6.
  • Quality of teaching cannot be measured, quantified or ranked in the way PRP demands.Teaching is a professional skill rather than an exact science. The Sutton Trust says that schools should rely on a combination of approaches to gain a full picture of teacher effectiveness and should never assess teachers on data from a single year7.
  • 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 number of teachers leaving the profession has been steadily rising. More than 50,000 teachers left the profession in the year to November 2016, more than 5,000 more than in 2012.  Some 10.5% of qualified teachers left the English state-funded sector in the year to November 2016, up from 9.5% four years before.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • PRP often leads to discriminatory outcomes.  The European Commission’s 2014 paper, Tackling the gender pay gap in the European Union8 recognises that PRP contributes to unequal pay between men and women – a link also identified by the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)9.  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.  Such gender inequality, as well as other forms of discrimination, is identified in the latest NEU survey of pay progression outcomes for 2017 (published February 2018).  This found that the teachers most likely not to have received a cost-of-living pay increase were female, disabled, LGBT+, non White British and part-time teachers.
  • Research conducted for the DfE10 published in October 2017 found that two thirds (66%) of teachers surveyed thought that their school’s pay policy (as adapted to fit the requirements of PRP) had increased their workload.
  • 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.
  • 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 outcomes11.
  • 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

3Paradoxes of modernisation: unintended consequences of public policy reforms, ed Hood & Margetts, OUP 2009

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

5Eight reasons merit pay for teachers is a bad idea, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, October 2010

6Performance Related Pay: The Problem, Not the Solution, Roger Titcombe, Local Schools Network, 2013

7Testing Teachers: what works best for teacher evaluation and appraisal, Sutton Trust, March 2013:  

8Tackling the gender pay gap in the European Union is available at ( (p5) EU Publications Office, 2014

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

10Evaluation of Teachers’ Pay Reform – Final Report; October 2017; NFER, IFS, Bristol Univ., Texas Univ.

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