Education and Politics

Policy exchange and the contradictions at the heart of their £70,000 a year teacher report

Policy exchange has just written a report suggesting that  teachers could be paid 70 – 90 thousand pounds, if Performance Related PAY (PRP) is introduced into schools and colleges. Written by Matthew Robb and Jonathan Simons, neither of whom have ever taught or worked in a school as far as I can tell, the report conforms to essential think tankery structure and format. It is wide ranging and quotes from a range of sources, some credible and others less so.

One of the problems reading reports of this kind is that they often make quite extravagant claims based on wafer thin evidence, which then proliferate in the media.

One example quoted in the Guardian today:

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Our performance-related pay reforms are designed so that good teachers can be paid more. This report shows that 89% of teachers support this policy and highlights why paying good teachers more is so important.

In this case the Guardian is quoting the D of E quoting from the Policy Exchange report. It is true that the figure of 89 per cent is in the report however it is not clear what questions were asked to elicit the response from teachers. It seems likely that it wasn’t “Do you support the governments PRP policy?” but something quite different.

The Guardian quotes Simons as saying:

.… teachers should be treated like professionals, and schools allowed flexibility to reward their best teachers. “That’s why we believe that performance-related pay is necessary in English schools, and why we think so much of the ideological opposition to the reforms is misguided.

The report itself says something similar describing teachers as often being treated like “widgets”. The picture of highly paid practitioners is attractive however the reality of the report is somewhat different. In fact what is being proposed are new models of teaching. The figure of 70 – 90k is plucked out of thin air and the example given is one where a master teacher teaches a 100 pupils at a time supported by 3 assistants.

However the sting in the tail is that the report advocates a reduced dependence on the quality of each teacher over time and places more importance on organisational models and systems. It also advocates an increased use of standardised technology-based curricula and the implementation of standard school operating models (for example: Edison Learning).

In many ways the report is a classic of the genre of “think tankery”, achieving high profile placements in national newspapers and saying pretty much the opposite of what the headlines generated purport it to say.

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