I am going to slightly betray a confidence. I was in a teacher union meeting recently where we went “into committee”. That means no external reporting about what was said. So I will try to keep that confidence and just write about what was said afterwards.
Several young teaching colleagues were upset that the latest teacher pay round gives the highest percentage pay increase to teachers at the top of the scale. They felt they were ” sold out”. They were correct. The bulk of union members are at the top of the pay scale. So they voted for the latest government pay offer, despite the protests of younger teachers.
But what most teachers missed in the recent pay round is that performance pay for teachers is already a reality. A capable young teacher could attract significant extra pay for his or her performance.
A large element of the money that is spent on teacher salaries is allocated according to the discretion of school principals. Management units are a misnomer. They are allocated by principals on a largely discretionary basis. They are performance pay. A principal could use these units to reward and retain an outstanding young physics or maths teacher if they choose. Sadly, in recent decades, some secondary principals have used these units to create a plethora of fellow senior managers. The management pyramid of past decades has become somewhat inverted.
The Community of Learning initiative, of the previous government, has been rebranded as Kahui Ako. Despite this rebranding it is still a badly flawed policy. The tangible outcomes don’t warrant the huge amount of taxpayer money being spent on it.
Some principals are using the big money that this scheme generates to reward and retain those staff they regard as high performers. They would be foolish not to. They risk losing good staff to other schools that are part of the scheme and could pay more.
What grates is that these systems of de facto performance pay for teachers are not bring honestly acknowledged. There is some serious money being dished out at the discretion of school principals. There are many needless hoops and pointless meetings that are part of the facade that schools are required to jump through to access this funding.
Teachers and the wider public need to appreciate that performance pay for teachers is already here. So let’s be honest about it. This facade also makes teacher pay negotiations more problematic because the public fails to appreciate that there is already a large degree of performance pay in teaching. If teachers are unwilling to acknowledge this, how can we expect the wider public to appreciate it.
Funding for management units and Kahui Ako positions should not necessitate the pretences and facades that currently exist.
This funding should be given directly to all schools. There is also a nasty inequality here. Those schools that have not joined Kahui Ako are missing out on this lucrative source of funding for their staff. They are more likely to be low decile schools or rural schools that have struggled to tap into this initiative. These are the schools that could most benefit from this additional funding.
The stated outcomes of Kahui Ako are poorly defined or quantifiable. If schools do want to use these funds to implement cooperation and the sharing of data and strategies with other schools that should be up to them. They will do so if there are real benefits in it for them.
We already have performance pay for teachers in New Zealand , but in a poorly disguised and cumbersome way.
Peter Lyons teaches Economics at Saint Peter’s College in Epsom.