Performance based pay – why not?
Performance linked pay and bonuses is one of two issues that has been brought under the spotlight as a result of the current campaign being led by the Australian Education Union against the Victorian government. The other issue is that Ted Baillieu lied or misled Victorian teachers at the last election by stating that Victorian teachers would be the best paid teachers in the country. Well, of course he did! Or did he? Never mind… that’s not the subject of this article.
The proponents of performance based pay, on the face of it, make a compelling argument: almost all industries utilise performance based remuneration to drive innovation, improve productivity and provide incentives for staff to strive toward positive outcomes, so why shouldn’t this apply to teachers? Indeed some private schools would point to performance linked remuneration as driving positive educational outcomes for their schools. So why not?
Mary Bluett, Victorian Branch President of the AEU, argues that performance based pay doesn’t work, that it has been shown in international settings not to work, that it creates conflict between colleagues, and that it undermines a team based approach to education.
The reality is that in many instances, and not just in education, Mary Bluett is right! In all industries performance based remuneration has positive and negative implications. The overall success or failure of an incentive based remuneration policy is not a question of principle, it’s a question of implementation.
Any remuneration policy that isn’t seen by its stakeholders to be equitable will fail, and will have potentially disastrous outcomes. To be equitable in the education system, a performance based remuneration policy must have a well resourced system for evaluating performance, it must be informed by a comprehensive and emotionally intelligent consideration of a teachers contribution to a school both in the class room and as a contributor to the staff and school community as a whole.
In the opinion of this writer, the principle of performance based remuneration is sound, but implementing this across the public education system in Victoria will require that the government puts sufficient resources into the system to support principals and executives in developing an effective system for mentoring, developing teachers and evaluating teachers performance, and then linking that evaluation to constructive feedback and remuneration. Otherwise it will fail, and it will undermine educational outcomes.