Tuesday 30 April 2013

He shall have but a penny a day - Payment By Results?

I'm old now - I feel it - I fight it - but I look it. I see my father in the mirror every morning staring back, demanding to be shaved. It  was his birthday last week. Born 1904 he started teaching in 1920, retired as head of a city school in 1966, died in 1995.  Horse drawn carts to men on the moon in a lifetime   I recall two things about him this morning; both allow me to see age as a  blessing when it offers a longer view. 

Arthur Pearce
I remember being jiggled on his knee as he sang, 

"See Saw Marjory Daw Johnny shall have a new Master
He shall have but a penny a day
Because he can't work any faster"  

Performance Related Pay?

See and Saw

This was far more than a nursery rhyme - it was misrepresentation of Keynesian Economics. It encapsulated a cultural belief I was having instilled in me. Ours was a busy household with people coming in and out with papers, bags and instruments and tools. We were taught by example that working hard led to good results. More significantly, we learnt that success was about more than money.   I grew to understand that wealth in the mind is more important than money in the bank. I don't link money to success. We were neither rich nor poor in financial terms but we were that cliché - a happy family.  Our happiness was about laughter with language, music, poetry, crafts, relationships and an outdoor life.

I also remember Dad telling me about The Geddes Axe. It sounded awful and was when PM Lloyd George asked Eric Geddes, in the 1920s to make huge savings in Public Service spending and teachers' pay was cut.

Eric Geddes

My father remembers his salary was massively and he recalls a phrase used at the time, "We are all in it together". Hmm...heard that recently?

As another set of financial constraints bear down on our Government public services and large workforces are viewed as places to save money. Now another George, our Chancellor is thinking, "cut the finance, cut the workforce and hope the fewer work hard enough to maintain production" and then Michael Gove leaps in Education adding, "And if we pay by results they will work even harder and we will get a more efficient system". They cheer, "Quad et Demonstrandum" and segway into,

"See-Saw Marjory Daw
Johnny has got a new Master
He now gets a bonus each day
Because he is working much faster"


You heard a big coming didn't you? But it doesn't work because their Quads are not Demonstrandumbed they are just dumb. These are shibboleths, a kind of double syllogism(*). Let me explain and then pass you on to the experts and then make your own (open?) mind up...

The first argument, for Payment By Results, reverses an incorrect assumption, "Successful people are richer (note success equals money) so, offer people more money and they will be successful!"  The second defines success, "Successful teachers get better results (note results equal exam results) so, measure the results data and you'll identify the best teachers!" This wobbly illogical pile leads to the dodgy conclusion, "Therefore, we can, identify the best teachers, pay them more and they will work harder!" (**)


There is good evidence out there that the core arguments driving Performance Related pay are both weak and unproven. I don't believe payment by results will work and I’m citing two pieces of research to demonstrate that our current New Master's thinking does not stand up to scrutiny. 

a) Money doesn't motivate workforces as we once thought it did. See this from MIT: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u6XAPnuFjJc&feature=youtu.be

b) The data on which "payment by results" is based is at best misleading and at worst illegal. See this http://epaa.asu.edu/ojs/article/view/1298/1043#comment-4795

Convinced, or maybe persuaded?  So what to do...


What can you do about this lemming like rush to payments by results? Well, I have a couple of thoughts and a request:

1. Of course we need to reward good teachers and ensure weaker teachers are supported first and moved on if incompetent - there are procedures in place to do that and they have always been (there are too many leaders unwilling to use them I fear) So, let's not invent solutions to problems that are already solved.

2. We need, as a profession to work and argue interdependently, for a professional development model of sustainable improvement based on thought through success criteria. So, let's not argue against ideas without coming up with better ways forward.

3. Above all, we must share effective practice on and about school improvement and publicise good research (not bad arguments and opinion) about what works and what doesn't work. So, please disseminate good practice, share ideas - build our communities of practice.

Yes, this an honest (first draft) attempt to disseminate positive thinking and decent research into a tough area so please comment and/or send on this link...

John  Tuesday 
30th April 2013

(*) I collect these educational syllogisms by the way - my favourite until now was... Inner City Comps are failing - which schools are successful? Let's move the heads from leafy suburban Grammars into the City Comps and all will get better.) It's like arguing that Manchester United players wear red shorts, white shorts and orange football boots. So, I'll buy the red shirt, the white shorts and orange boots and I'll be picked!"

(**) I'm leaving to one side (for now) the corollary that you risk alienating the majority of the workforce if you a) pay bonuses to the few and b) this is based on an incomplete and inaccurate set of success criteria.