What a performance

So the old adage goes, you get what you pay for.  That’s why my wife and I tend to pay a bit more when we go out for a meal; we like good food, and prefer to eat out less often and get better quality than eat out all the time but be restricted to Pizza Hut.  It’s why I drive an Audi rather than a Mazda; the doors go #thunk# when you shut them rather than #clang#.  The same applies to my choice of hairdresser (at £25 a session) over barber (normally under a tenner).  If you want quality, you pay generally a little more.  Most people accept that.

Perhaps more grudgingly, most people would also accept that companies will pay extra for better quality staff.  This is easiest where the role attracts a bonus, such as sales; you sell more, you earn more, but it is increasingly normal for people’s pay rises (remember those?) to also reflect their relative ability to do the job.  Of course, high-performing staff will also often be rewarded with career progression, so it could be argued that the best at any job soon leave it for something better-paid anyway.  But for those who remain in the role, surely it is only fair that those who produce the best results, get paid the most.

However, apparently, when it comes to public servants, this basic rule goes out of the window.  Surrounding the third regional teaching strike in recent weeks, there have been numerous quotes from disgruntled staff that having pay linked to performance doesn’t work; Christine Blower (NUT head) made the bold assertion that the idea is becoming increasingly discredited and does nothing to motivate staff even in the private sector.  There was even one quote suggesting that the only logical way to pay people was by linking pay to experience; the longer you’ve been in the job, the higher your salary should be.

This latter suggestion got me very annoyed.  Another old adage says there’s no substitute for experience, but that one could not be more wrong.  There are at least three factors that make someone good at what they do: natural aptitude, or talent if you prefer, is one; good old elbow grease is another; experience is the third.  Having done something in the past, whether the outcome was positive or negative, is certainly a significant factor in determining how well you will do it in the future; it is by no means the only one though, and unless you have the ability to spot what you did wrong or right and then correct it, the experience on its own is of no value.  Experience alone does not make you a good teacher (or any other profession of course, I’m just picking on teachers as they’re in the news).  In fact, observed behaviour suggests that it’s just as likely to make you a bad teacher, as you can become jaundiced and cynical, browbeaten by recalcitrant youths, and giving up on the idea of ever getting promoted.  With a virtually non-existent threat of getting sacked, you could then use your experience to guide you into how best to spend the rest of your career doing the minimum possible.

So in fact, I don’t see that there is any viable alternative to performance-related pay in the teaching profession.  I suspect academies and free schools, released from the constraints of common or garden schools, will adopt PRP en masse, as they seem to be more inclined to follow private sector thinking.  It is the most powerful way you can incentivise staff unless they have ambitions of promotion, which is often not the case in teaching, and is the only way to effectively assess the combination of experience, talent and diligence.

The argument I do have some sympathy with is that PRP can only be applied where appropriate metrics can be defined and accurate measurements can be taken.  The only output that a teacher can be assessed on is the success of the students under their tutelage, and the only way that success can be measured is via independent assessment; you can’t expect blanket objectivity if you allow teachers to submit their own assessed scores, and if there is any exaggeration in the interests of bumping up PRP, that then affects the next teacher who has responsibility for the students in question.

Independent assessments are, of course, controversial themselves.  National SATs are already done at ages 7 and 11, and this is already too much for some, teachers and parents alike, despite the exams for 14-year-olds having been scrapped already.  The only way to accurately set PRP is to externally assess students every year and (in secondary education) in every subject.  Personally, I don’t think that’s such a bad idea; it becomes normal then and should reduce the excessive stress that is apparently caused by the current SAT regime.  Then, teachers can be judged on the delta between what pupils were achieving last year and what they managed this year.  The way this was calculated until recently was known as CVA, or Contextual Value Added, and accounts for differences in local geography and demographic, as well as simply the level of the kids you took on compared to the level they left you.  However, it appears CVA is being removed, so how the performance is to be calculated upon which to base a fair calculation of PRP I have no idea.

Perhaps an alternative to PRP is PRC – performance-related cakes.  I’ve noticed that sweet meats are an increasing presence in many working environments, and no longer restricted to being a Friday treat, so perhaps there should be a sugary incentive – that is bound to improve efficiency.  Here is a great cake to add to the reward scheme; I’m increasingly a fan of coffee cake, and the combination with walnuts is a match made in heaven.

Coffee and walnut cake – serves as few as you can get away with

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 50ml strong espresso
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 75g walnuts


  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 50ml strong espresso
  • 12 walnut halves

Preheat the oven to 180C.  Beat the butter and sugar together until very light.  Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating each egg in fully before adding the next.

Now add the espresso to the mixture and stir well, then add the flour and walnuts and again stir well to completely combine.  Spoon the cake mixture into two lined and greased 8in cake tins.  Transfer to the oven to bake 25-30 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is golden-brown.

Remove the cakes from the oven and allow to cool.  For the butter cream topping, beat the butter and icing sugar together until pale and light.  Add the espresso and mix well.  Spread the cream over the top of each cake, then place one cake on top of the other.

Decorate the top of the cake with the walnut halves and serve in generous slices.



About theparttimevegetarian

A part-time vegetarian since 2008 when my wife decided to go veggy, I've worked hard to ensure our diet remains interesting, tasty and avoids any bland vegeburgers. I sometimes write about food, but a foodie blog this ain't. If you like this blog please Like my Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/theparttimevegetarian
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