December 2013


  • Education's five key aims
    Every parent wants their child to go to a good school and politicians and policy makers share a s similar ambition to ensure that all schools are good. So how do we make it happen? More
  • Expanding horizons
    Bill Lucas explores the concept of expansive education and what it means for teaching and learning. More
  • Life after levels?
    The government’s decision to abandon levels and leave individual schools to decide how to measure progress is understandably causing concern. However, says Andrew Thraves, many schools are already planning for a life without levels and some schools have already adopted a new system of day-to-day assessment. More
  • Clubbing together
    Youth workers who help with mentoring, PSHE and after-school clubs can also be a powerful tool in keeping students motivated and on track with learning. Dorothy Lepkowska reports. More
  • Revision time
    The introduction of performance-related pay, although controversial, offers an ideal opportunity for fresh thinking on how leaders manage change, says Edward Gildea. More
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The introduction of performance-related pay, although controversial, offers an ideal opportunity for fresh thinking on how leaders manage change, says Edward Gildea.

Revision time

The ability to manage change is one of the abilities that every modern leader must have. It may be change sparked by external factors, such as new government policy, or driven internally, in the case of something like a staff restructure. But whatever the nature of the change, the head/principal needs a strong grip on how it will be effected, how it is introduced to staff and what steps to take to keep the process on track, even in the face of resistance from other parties.

And if anything is going to test your skills of change management, it is performance-related pay (PRP). Hugely contentious nationally, potentially divisive and perceived as threatening by teachers, it is a can of worms.

It’s a good opportunity, therefore, to review our thinking on change management and to see what fresh ideas could flow from the challenge of introducing PRP.

Fostering acceptance

Most leaders will, at some stage, have heard from staff the complaint: “We weren’t consulted.”

So what is ‘consultation’ and how can we maximise the sense that our staff have felt consulted?

My definition is that consultation is the process by which we hope to foster acceptance of changes we have little or no power to influence, and ownership of changes that we have some power to influence.

We can foster acceptance by being honest about the non-negotiables. These are the parts that are not within your power to consult on: the legislation, perhaps your budget limits and decisions that governors have already taken. Make it clear that these are the constraints within which you are all operating. Next, explore the scope around the ‘how’?

● How can we make this fit with our school vision?

● If it really does not fit, how can we minimise the affect of this legislation?

● What scope is there for interpreting the legislation to make this ‘ours’?

● How can I set up a process that will maximise staff engagement?

The one thing we cannot fault the PRP legislation on is the scope for ‘how’. There are now only reference points on the scales, so how would you like to subdivide them? How are you going to measure performance? How do you want to tailor the criteria to suit your own school’s particular circumstances?

Facilitator mode

As soon as your focus is on the ‘how’, you are heading towards ‘facilitator mode’. As a facilitator you work in three dimensions. First, you want to achieve an outcome. In the case of PRP, it would be a policy approved by governors. Second, you are thinking about the process: How can this process be healthy for my school, allow for active participation and develop teams? Third, you are thinking about people: how to minimise negativity, develop individual careers, give scope for new leadership and increase professional maturity.

Where there is potential conflict underlying a discussion, it is important to identify the principles that are going to inform that debate. In the case of PRP, one of these principles may be your school vision.

Often, when working with senior leadership teams (SLTs), I start with the school vision, and replace the word ‘students’ with that of ‘staff’ or ‘leadership’. The vision is transformed and often shows how bad we can be at practising what we preach. Phrases in your vision such as ‘fulfil their potential’ and ‘pursue the highest standards’, when applied to staff or leaders, all have a bearing on how the systems and processes of PRP may be made consistent with your vision.

In the case of PRP, the more you can reconcile the principles with both the learning and leadership cultures of the school, the greater your chance of fostering acceptance. However, a major cultural shift is likely to be needed around accountability. Recent decades have established systems of holding schools and teachers to account. We now need teachers to be comfortable with being held to account.

Maximise ownership

To me, maximising ownership means maximising the scope for staff to have a creative input. It can mean:

  • trying to incorporate their ideas, thoughts and decisions
  • exploiting the power of the blank flip chart
  • using workshop approaches
  • ensuring there is scope for shared decision-making

Starting with a blank flip chart can be immensely powerful. It gives the impression that you have an open mind, that there is scope for thoughtful input and that you are interested in staff concerns.

Collect those concerns, debate each briefly, without defending or arguing; just listen and prompt further questions. When those tasked with forming or reviewing the PRP policy make their report, the concerns should appear as headings or sub-headings. It shows that legitimate staff concerns are being taken into account.

There is a terrible danger when a leader attempts to conclude a meeting with the words, “Well I think the consensus of the meeting is this …” because:

  • the meeting may have been dominated by one or two outspoken colleagues
  • some are naturally shy and reticent
  • a few have been strategically silent

‘Sticky dot’ voting can avert these dangers. Put the options up on the flip chart. Give the staff a third as many sticky dots as there are options and then draw up the outlines of a graph with numbered options along the x axis.

They now have an emotionally weighted, transferable voting system. They can put all their dots on option seven if they feel passionate about it or spread their dots evenly or put two on one option and one on another. These are creative acts of decision-making.

As they vote, a bar graph will form, and when it is complete the leader does not have to comment on the consensus because it is there for all to see.


The culture in which performance management exists in your school will have a huge affect on the ease with which PRP can be introduced. On the continuum between these two contrasting cultures, where does your school lie?

Line management hierarchy

  • top-down targets
  • data-driven
  • performance criteria imposed
  • formal appraisal annually
  • stipulated observations
  • linked to formal competency procedures


  • professional reflection and self-monitoring
  • data explored and reflects
  • continuing professional dialogues
  • open classrooms
  • context of professional development

  • Edward Gildea is an Independent Education Consultant.

Can there be rigour and challenge in both cultures? Should it be ‘horses for courses’?

The first culture may be seen by staff as punitive but is the second one idealistic? Should we adjust the model to suit the professional maturity of our teams and teachers?

At the heart of the matter will be our culture of data and target-setting. Do we have a clear understanding of the relationship of data to the truth? Do we use it to motivate or to humiliate? Above all, have we got the psychology of target-setting right?

In target-setting, we want the maximum degree of stretch for the benefit of the children, taking teachers out of their comfort zone but without sending them into a panic. The trouble with PRP is that it will tend to make the elastic band ‘thicker’ – in other words, teachers will become more resistant to being stretched because failure to make the target may deprive them of their increment. You could develop a policy with your staff to cope with this, which may cover:

  • a more flexible link between targets and recommendations for pay increases, while staying objective and fair for all
  • a dual system of lower appraisal targets and higher aspirational targets
  • a ‘shades of grey’ system, based on sub-divisions of each pay reference point, where there can be enhanced, standard, reduced or zero pay rises according to a more complex balancing of targets and contexts

Most schools have started with modest changes to their pay policy; others have seized the initiative. Either way, staff will feel more positive if there is an open and transparent review process in place to evaluate the affect of your policy and guide its evolution in the years ahead.

Above all they will feel reassured if they sense that your true focus is on the joy and magic of teaching, on the immeasurable qualities of character and relationships that are at the heart of what we do and on the lives that have been inspired and changed by gifted teachers that we may never get to know about, still less measure.