School Business Managers and Staff Pay: How You Can Prevent Your School Being Downgraded in Ofsted

School Business Managers have an important role to play in preventing heads and governors casting the school into a category – as is happening surprisingly frequently under the new Ofsted framework.

For all schools implementing The School Teachers Pay & Conditions Document (the majority of Academies) the 2013 version (for teachers) and the 2014 version (for leaders) brought about a critically important change to the way in which the law (and hence inspectors) regard the pay of an individual member of staff.  Before these watersheds, pay effectively described length of service rather than level of skill.  With the introduction of performance-related pay, the reverse is now true. Inspectors now expect that teachers who have been qualified for some years deliver teaching over time that is of a higher quality than that which can reasonably be expected of an NQT.

For teachers on the upper pay scale, this translates into an expectation that they are delivering teaching over time which is firmly in the “good to outstanding” range.  Where they are not – and this is where school leadership is running into trouble these days – two lines of enquiry develop.  Senior leaders are asked for the anonymised appraisal objectives of underperforming teachers – so that inspectors can check that the appropriate issues are being addressed and that the support provided is having measurable impact in the classroom.  Governors are being asked in a very direct way why they are allowing pay progression for underperforming teachers and leaders.  With the governors now making the final decision on all pay progression for teachers and leaders – even on the Main Scale – this is a fair question to ask.  There have been several recent inspections where previously good schools have been judged to require improvement for no reason other than that the governors could not talk authoritatively on the number (not names) of underperforming teachers and the impact of the support provided through appraisal to address the key issues.

In all of this, the interests of inspectors are very much aligned with those of School Business Manager’s.  Both groups need to be certain that schools are securing value for money from their most expensive resource.  So here are some key questions that it’s worth asking within your school:

  1. Have governors clearly defined the levels of the performance that they expect to see from teachers and leaders on each pay point?
  2. Have these definitions been recorded in the Pay Policy?
  3. Does the Appraisal Policy explain how levels of professional skill are being assessed, with evidence-based judgements made about whether key aspects are Outstanding, Good, Requiring Improvement or Inadequate?
  4. Where underperformance is assessed in this way, is immediate support provided through appraisal, with impact evaluated at the end of each assessment period?
  5. Are key governors kept informed (in anonymised format) of the number of teachers and leaders supported in this way – and the impact of that support?
  6. Do pay progression decisions relate clearly to the outcomes of this process?

In the interests of the school, its senior leadership team and its governors, now is very much the time for School Business Managers to be asking – politely as ever – these key questions!