‘Rewards for failure’ payments soar

Schools are giving golden goodbyes worth thousands of pounds to increasing numbers of ‘bad’ teachers, as part of so-called compromise agreements.

Last year compensation won by teaching unions for their members reached £30 million for the first time. This included £12.5 million for NASUWT members and £4.3 million for ATL members, the Telegraph reports.

Heads are taking a tougher line on weak staff because of tougher Ofsted inspections and Michael Gove’s policy of ‘zero tolerance’ on failing teachers. This has resulted in the increase in compromise agreements, where teachers agree not to complain about their former employer or take them to a tribunal, in return for  hefty pay-offs. This doesn’t prevent them working in other schools, so they could walk into a new job after receiving a windfall.

Dave Evans, the NASUWT representative in Sefton, Merseyside, said pay-offs in his area had risen from two to 11 in a year and that compromise agreements made it much cheaper and quicker to get rid of staff. “It’s not surprising my members say they feel bullied and brassed off,” he said, “due to the pressure they are getting from above, but that is because schools are under so much pressure to do well in their Ofsted reports.”

Critics of the compromise agreements described them as ‘rewards for failure’. “If a teacher is not up to the job, they should expect to be out on their ear – not in a position to negotiate a five-figure lump sum to send them on their way,” according to Matthew Sinclair of the Taxpayers’ Alliance. “The unions would do well to remember that every pound spent on paying off poor teachers is a pound less available to be spent on educating children, which surely ought to be their top priority.”

Do you think weak teachers should receive golden goodbyes? Is Michael Gove or Ofsted to blame for the increasing number of compromise agreements?

38 thoughts on “‘Rewards for failure’ payments soar

  1. Weak teachers should first be given extra training and help to understand if teaching is the role they are best suited to. Also some assistance to consider alternative employment. Should a teacher be nearing the end of their career and not manageing all the changes then good compensation is appropriate. Some times just too many extra duties are expected of teachers, very good teachers may not be best suited to fine detail record keeping, playground duties which mop up a little breathing space and preparation time, other admin roles linked to examinations, care of resources etc. A teacher responsive to the pupils is best given support for some of the other duties and not overloaded with extra tasks.

  2. Unfortunately, for many years there has been a lack of rigour in many schools’ approach to staff management and in particular, performance appraisal and discipline. They have been run like family/social units rather than a business with the single objective of producing a first class, well rounded product: well educated children.
    Whilst I would much prefer headteachers to employ proper procedure to get incompetent staff “out on their ear” we are where we are and the compromise route is the quickest. The secret is to restrict the payout to as little as possible (given contractual constraints) and provide such a bland reference that it is obvious to prospective future employers that the individual did not leave of their own accord.

  3. The sharp rise is compromise agreements in education is primarily down to the new performance management (Formal Capability) processes which came into effect in Sept 2012. Schools and Learning Authorities got very excited about the fast-track component which allowed dismissal of a failing teacher within an 8 week period. The vast majority of head teachers struggle with performance management and the LEAs are poorly positioned to offer sound HR advice therefore the new processes are being incorrectly applied on a huge scale. As such, LEAs and Schools are being forced to cough up payments to avoid huge tribunal/legal costs. This will continue to increase as long as OFSTED and Teacher Observation criteria remain unchanged as they are placing unreasonable pressure on Heads and Teachers. Alternatively, the LEAs and Heads are going to need to brush up on their HR knowledge. Teachers’ knowledge of their employee rights seems to be much less than other professions and perhaps because the job is becoming more pressurised, many walk away from their jobs and careers without a fight. Thanks to Gove, I suspect this is about to change.

  4. Is it really the teacher’s performance at the heart of this increase? Perhaps the term “bullied” into compromise agreements should be examined further as it is very easy to blame teachers when perhaps bullying heads who might just be getting rid of high earning teachers or older teachers near to retirement might be the reason, rather than their expertise. It is cheaper to have an NQT who won’t question decisions in changes in curriculum or cost much. Just as the government have been allowed to bring in unfair changes for the poor by vilifying them, perhaps the same principal is happening in education. Vilify the teacher, so that their opinions or rights are negated. This is about cheaper yes men in education not weak teachers.

  5. Yet in banking and in industry this would been seen a standard practice…..how many senior executives in failing banks were paid off to go and effectively rewarded for failure that brought the country to its knees….. Yet many teachers are not failures, they simply do not meet the current ofsted criteria of success. When I was at school, many years ago, there were a variety of teachers, some good, and some not so good. I learnt from all of them, even the bad ones. Personally. I do not want my children taught by a clone army of educators, espousing the latest ofsted initiative as good practice and ignoring everything that does not meet their rigid criteria for success. I am also concerned at who inspects the inspectors. In my experience, there have been some pretty poor educators getting jobs with this organisation. I do hope one of them will not be visiting my classroom anytime soon!

  6. Matthew Sinclair is almost certainly wrong. The compromise payoff is less expensive to schools than continued payment of salaries in the case of long disputes over performance, especially as employers pension contributions are not included. What is expensive is the failure to maintain training and CPD, and the subsequent interruption to students’ learning and the demotivating effect of target driven inspections on entire staffrooms. Better staff leave sooner, putting pupils at jeopardy at key times in their exam years. Gove and Ofsted do bear responsibility, but who is advising all these heads to implement this policy? They and the Heads themselves are really responsible. Local governance requires local responsibility to manage in a principled way. Weak leaders are being pressurised into this short sighted behaviour. Matthew Sinclair and the TPA would do well not to equate good financial management with good educational and workplace management. It is merely a factor in it, not the bottom line.

  7. and have you ever stopped to think of the quality of those making this judgement? Many of whom were simply promoted to get out of the classroom or as part of some political manoeuvrings. We know there are bad teachers, and yes, they need to go but just watch the number who jump because of this Gove generated culture.

  8. I absolutely agree with Michaels views above. I think
    It’s not that there are bad teachers its just that some
    find the change challenging. Since the Ofsted criterion bar has
    changed from good to outstanding, teachers are under
    immense pressure to keep performing at an outstanding
    level. Anyone in the job knows this is not realist at all times.
    On the matter of golden payoffs I think teaching is a profession
    that doesn’t pay well at all, so if they are given some money then
    I don’t see the problem.

  9. I totally agree with Michael. Some teachers fail because management haven’t given them the right support to start with. One I knew was compensated because another teacher was put into a senior role directly from another country,he wrecked all the Term’s preparations and took over the other persons teaching without negotiations. This left the other teacher having prepared his work over the summer, then being forced to teach another subject at the last minute. Set up to fail. The new teacher didn’t make a very good job of it, and the other teacher was better qualified to teach that subject. However, he was so dejected and exhausted he decided to leave the school and teaching for a while. A wasted year and a waste of expertise. Nasty unprofessional comments like ‘rewards for failure’ are not appropriate, and yet another way of reducing teacher morale.

  10. I’m with you Michael. I am a retired teacher (33 years service) and I’m glad I’m not involved any more under the Ofstead Gestapo !
    Schools have been invaded by successive governments of both colours to the debasement of teaching and professionalism.

    The politicians don’t tell other professions how to do their job ,why then must teachers put up with these sterile impositions decreed by some pointed nosed twit in Westminster? It’s time teachers threw off these oppressors and got down to teaching a they see fit and scrutinizing themselves !

  11. It’s easier to find ways of getting rid of bad teachers with evidence of low performance and parental complaints. The ‘compromise’ agreements and pay-offs are not used for this. They are generally used to get rid of bullied teachers who work well and hard but are disliked by jealous, manipulative and usually more powerful members of the department. These teachers often stand up to their bullies, bring in the union and the school negotiates a ‘keep quiet’ clause to keep their reputation intact. Very much like how a lot Of bullying is handled in school these days full stop.

  12. Not all compromise agreements are for ‘bad’ teachers either. Many teachers have been bullied out of schools for a number of reasons – I saw 21 forced out of my school. I know at least 2 or 3 of them who had enough evidence against the Head to win compromise agreements.

  13. Politicians cannot measure who is a bad or an outstanding teacher because if there is a criteria of a bad teacher is based on the Ofsted inspection body – level 4 or unsatisfactory teaching is design by a political purpose to get vote from public.

    Let us make it more clear the accountability process in democratic society that who is performing well in the government to provide better economic resources to the public while being a ruling party. Gove and Conservative would have been asked by the Parliament and the public that they must resign from their offices because of Economic Indicators in Britain. But there is no Ofsted body for politicians to punish and send bad politicians home.

    Teaching is a noble profession and teachers must not be judged politically in Britain and they deserve better respect and honour from both public and ruling elites.

    Dr. Salim Haidrani
    Londom

  14. Teaching today has changed from a culture of respect for one of blame,blame,blame. This has not come from those who see the profession as needed but those whose agenda is to reduce the education of people so they are more compliant and will not question changes to their working life. Over the last century working people gained rights under employment law and there was a change in peoples culture, life style, diet etc. Is it the intention to turn the clock backwards and some how think that those of us that are educated will not say anything? The education of our children is what makes the difference between poverty and life. Slavery be it wage or hours should always be fought. Every time a teacher is told you are not good enough it damages their moral. They think about what their training was like and then question what was the point? It hurts and has put off so many people, who will want to do these jobs. I currently enjoy teaching but it has been steadily been under mined to the point of questioning what it is that I really want to do. Sad

  15. I don’t thinks teachers should be rewarded for poor performance, along with thinking that schools shouldnt be held to ransom by teachers through prolonged staff sickness when things aren’t going their way. This doesn’t only apply to poor performing teachers as I experienced recently but can be a very good teacher who just feels aggrieved

  16. This is a reprint of a Daily Mail article earlier this week. The clue is in the article “where teachers agree not to complain about their former employer or take them to a tribunal, in return for hefty pay-offs”.
    Schools would not pay up if there was not a case to answer. Many teachers particularly at the top of the pay scales are being harassed & bullied out of their jobs by SLT’s and HoD to be replaced with an NQT who may or may not be a good teacher but is considerably cheaper and less likely to stand up to the SLT. The average salary for teachers in the UK is £26500 which is towards the middle of the teachers payscale. Why so low? This implies that many teachers are leaving the profession after 3 years. Hardly a career for life!

  17. It’s not the teachers who are bad. It’s the inspection and target system that is not fit for purpose. I also agree with every word Michael wrote above. I would add that teaching is now an ageist profession. Experience is becoming a dirty word. The inspection system is cruel and unfair on some of the best and most hardworking members of our society – teachers! The ones with experience and style do not fit the ofsted boxes. This does not mean they are bad teachers.
    Ofsted consists of mostly failed teachers who could not hack it in the classroom. What a strange job this is, where the weakest get promoted up and can find themselves judging the most experienced. Teaching in the classroom is not valued at all. Yet that is what the job consists of!

  18. Under performing based on whose criteria? It is a very easy way for head teachers to get rid of people they don’t like! My wife was one of the best teachers in her school until a new head took over and took a dislike to her because she had the audacity to challenge some of the changes he made. Months of bullying followed by an appraisal that was a complete fabrication and a pack of lies wore her down so much that I thought she would have a nervous breakdown. In the end I made her get her union involved and she eventually left after a compromise agreement was arranged. She didn’t leave because she was a “bad teacher” but because she had totally lost confidence in the head teachers integrity and was no longer able or prepared to work with or for him. I have no doubt that there are “bad teachers” who get quite a nice payoff but there are also many good teachers who are having their careers and family life damaged by incompetent and bullying head teachers!

  19. Having managed many of these poor teachers and recognise the time they waste at the expense of many new and potentially good staff I cannot share your sentiments.Under performance should not be rewarded or justified with comparisons elsewhere. We have all met the inspirational,teach from the back of a fag packet brigade , in reality this is a cover up for lazy, out of date staff, whose best days ( if they existed)are long gone..shape up or ship out!

  20. I have just accepted a compromise agreement after working one academic year in a local school. Before working in this school I was always judged to be on the good/outstanding boarder line in my previous school. The first term at the new school was spent chasing my tail as no one in management went through the school’s procedures and policies with me and two other new members of the department. To keep on top of the marking policy I needed to get up at 4am each day to mark a set of books before leaving for school. The school by comparison to my previous school was 15 years behind with regards to ICT so everything needed to be done on paper, I had never worked in a non-ICT based environment before in my life. When these issues and others were raised people in management were incredibly rude. In ten years of working in education I had never come across a worse working environment. For the way they treated me I deserve the settlement figure and people like Matthew Sinclair should make sure that they completely understand why each compromise agreement is reached before they make such sweeping statements.

  21. Totally agree. Current criteria is creating a tick box teacher culture which is in my opinion not teaching at all. Shame.

  22. Michael, you are so right. The word ‘bad’ is very misleading. Many of the teachers who have taken this route are basically good teachers who have found the extra pressure being poured both on Management and on teachers as completely intolerable. OFSTED is an organisation that needs examining very carefully as it is doubtful if many of them have stood in front of a class for many, if any, years. For all the so good ideas Michael Gove is proposing, has he ever stood in front of a class for an hour, 5 or 6 times a day, and understand what he is imposing on every teacher. Sir Michael Wilshaw may have used some gumption in turning round a failing school but what was his man management like, cooperative or bully? Has he really thought through what his changes mean to all schools? One success does not mean it is perfect for every school. I feel very passionate that good teachers are being driven out of teaching because the strictures being imposed are incompatible with a teacher’s pay and status. Teaching is one of the most difficult jobs to undertake. Children vary so much that teaching a class of 30 or more is a stressful task before you start on the work! For dozens of different reasons, not every child wants to learn or wants to partake in a particular subject (added strain for the teacher to encourage the child). I could go on but basically Gove and Wilshaw need to look at reducing stress for the teacher so that they can do what they are good at and they will keep the good teachers they are losing by the minute. If teachers manage to get a payout then good luck to them.

  23. The payoffs are necessary to cover the backsides of the Education Authorities due to a high number of Bullying claims and legal costs against the new breed of “high flying” heads and deputies and their coterie of sycophants who do their bidding. It’s rife in Schools that are heading towards Academy status where these so called Executive types will be holding budget responsibility and will reward themselves handsomely so they will need “Platinum Goodbyes” when their selfish incompetance is finally rumbled.

  24. Compromise agreements are used by bullying managers and incompetent managers who try to shift the focus from their own inadequacies onto the poor old teacher.

    Maggie Thatcher got rid of the lazy lefties , what we now have are the best – time to respect these poor teachers who are used as scapegoats !!

  25. This is simply a way of cutting costs in schools who have overspent budgets. 2 NQTs for the price of 1 well experienced good teacher who can be “labelled” as under-performing simply to justify the end. That is why they need to compensate!! Because it is it not FAIR!!! Because they WOULD be sued if they did not compensate. After all…you can only sue if you have good reason!!! A 5 figure sum which in the long term saves a 7 figure one (expensive salary) is a sum well worth paying in the eyes of these cut-throats!!! They cannot make people redundant if a job is still there for them so they use the compromise system instead…making good teachers scapegoats for past poor budget management!!! This is especially the case when new management enters a struggling school with backing from the local authority and now the government behind them. Yes there are some poor teachers but not to the extent of these figures!!!!! Lets not be fooled by their appalling deceptions!

  26. I had this happen to me three weeks into my first job as an NQT, I had a very challenging class but I did not consider myself a weak teacher. The stress I went through during this process was horrible the fact that I stayed through this for another 5 weeks was a miracle. It broke my confidence I went into supply and haven’t been able to break into a full time job. This happened 3 years ago The supply teaching has broadened my experience but that time at that school was something I wouldn’t wish on anyone

  27. I too agree with Michael. However, it is not only related to performance as my previous schools headteacher has got rid of many many strong staff in this way due to inadequacies of her own. If you ever dared to disagree with immoral practices or generally debate certain decisions then you were sure to be on the ‘radar’ with an imminent offer of a compromise. It is the easiest thing in the world to try use power of authority as a tool to destroy a teachers career. As for any failing students – maybe the blame should be lay at their feet, after all, responsibility for not completing coursework etc is hardly the teachers fault – unless cheating is the schools ethos!! I love my teaching position and am lucky enough to be at a school now where we are child focused not league table focused – a breath of fresh air!

  28. Commonly, small primary schools are led by inexperienced headteachers – who have often applied for headship for an easier life compared with that of the skivvy deputy headteacher role they have left. Leadership teams are appointed because of ambition – neither the best teachers nor those with any leadership skills and most likely to be lacking in teamwork/team building. They are impressive to the new headteacher only because they don’t bring knowledge and therefore don’t question top down leadership. Lots of training is put in place for both the headteachers and their leadership teams – but the vacuum that has to be filled is so vast that it takes a long time for the skills/knowledge to be built up.

    During this training period, they assert their authority, from their limited knowledge carrying out nit-picking observations. It can be good and outstanding teachers subjected to this nit-picking, or to criticisms based on SLT lack of knowledge They are ego-centrical and see only threat. Incapable of recognising that some teachers teach for fulfilment and are not money-orientated and therefore no threat. In time the leaders have been trained sufficiently to encourage the use of teaching skills that they have previously criticised (or they may have established good baseline data recording/developed the data analysis skills that show what good results their victims have achieved). By then their victims have left, or are off sick with stress – on that downward spiral of being ‘supported’ by those guiding them only towards inadequate lessons. I produced outstanding lessons when in the presence of those who I was pretty certain knew about teaching (including LEA advisers and Ofsted Inspectors) and went to pieces when in the presence of poor leadership which was often bully tactics.

    In small primaries, has there ever been cascading of skills/skills sharing from good ‘hands on’ teachers? No, SLT has got its paperwork in place, put their victims in an appropriate place (on sick or left) and can now introduce their new found knowledge as fantastic new ideas and take credit for moving the school forward to exactly where it used to be.

    Headteachers have been a very privileged group, able to manipulate what are often well intentioned but unknowledgeable governing bodies. Ofsted is encouraging teaching skills/ autonomy but its too late for those teachers who thought ‘stuff it’.

  29. In our academy primary we have very few experienced teachers. All the “aged” teachers have been forced to leave, all those who challenged SLT have also been forced to leave. If you are young, attractive and no not know your employment rights your observations are usually rated as Good ! Recent recruitment for the new academic year has not focused on UK NQTs or UK teachers but on overseas teachers …. Academies do not have to employ qualified teachers !!
    How are these changes going to benefit our children?
    Mr Gove is destroying our educational system.
    It is not payment for failure … it is payment for being bullied out of a job.

  30. Michael and unonymously have very pertinenet opinions on this. I am speaking as a teacher who is currently going through this process. I feel that the SLT (or at least some of them) in my school are a bunch of incompetants and my union is not much better. I have been subjected to observation after observation. Dragged through capability and I am now in the position of not knowing whether or not to return to school next week. I have been given a timetable but at the end of year function (which I did not attend) it was announced I would be leaving in order to ‘get some control back in my life’. I have not however been dismissed, resigned, been made redundant or been offered a compromise agreement, although this is supposedly in the pipeline!
    The school have let me down big time, I’ve taught there for 17 years and have a great deal of respect from teachers, pupils and their families. This is all down to 2 memebers of SLT in particular. I don’t know what I did to upset them but I do know I don’t deserve the treatment I’m getting. I certainly know who has upset me though and they won’t be getting away with it!

  31. Maybe this current culture where so many teachers are feeling vulnerable and bullied would change if as a group there was more solidarity and coherence rather than everybody putting their heads down and keeping quiet when yet another of their number is bullied and harassed out of the profession. Within schools teachers should support each other more and have the opportunity to do so without fear of the spotlight turning on them.

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