Working paper 01/045 - Abstract

Incentives in Secondary Schools: The Impact of the Performance Threshold

Bronwyn Croxson and Adele Atkinson

This paper reports the results of interviews with the head teachers of 25 English secondary schools, designed to elicit their perception of the Threshold's impact in schools. One of the stated objectives of the Performance Threshold was to provide a financial incentive for teachers to increase their effort. The Threshold's effectiveness in meeting its objectives depends partly on whether its design is consistent with the characteristics of schools, including their use of team-working and their incentive structures, and whether it measures the outcomes that are important. Most of the head teachers in our sample believed that team-working is important in schools and that changes in pupil attainment are the result of a team effort. None had observed divisive behaviour as the result of the individual-basis of the Performance Threshold, but a number recognised the risk. Heads were divided over how they would use financial incentives to motivate teachers, with some believing they cannot be used to motivate teachers directly. Others believed that financial incentives can be used to motivate teachers, but that the Threshold's definition of success creates targets that are too narrow, and which may therefore generate perverse incentives. Others believed that the targets were constructive, promoting a broad focus on factors that are important in good teaching.

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