Recent Reform Articles

Why performance related pay for teachers doesn’t work

by Richard Exell     June 6, 2013 at 2:15 pm

Come September, schools will be able to introduce performance-related pay for teachers.

There have already been moves in this direction in the NHS and the Hutton Review proposed “earn back” for senior public servants – an element of basic pay at risk if key objectives are not met.

This is the wrong direction of travel. A survey by the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development found that a majority of public sector workers are opposed and the evidence about the effect of performance-related pay on organisations’ performance is mixed at best. Of course, incentives influence workers’ behaviour – but that isn’t the same as getting the outcomes society would prefer.

Two recent US studies of piece-work underlined this.

One found that piece work and bonuses encourage workers to take risks with their health and safety, leading to a “substantially higher risk of injury.”

Another found that piece rates and monitoring workers can improve quantity or quality – but that there is a trade off between the two. Getting improvements in both “requires more committed workers.”

A 2007 review of research found that public sector workers do respond to incentives but sometimes this response takes the form of ‘gaming’: winning the bonus by “manipulation of behaviour that uses resources and does not increase productivity”.

And performance-related pay can have serious negative consequences. Earlier this year, an excellent post pointed out that arguments about the distribution of bonuses can be vicious and that “merit-based” systems can actually destroy morale and team working. And when a substantial element of pay depends on a manager’s assessment – often with a very subjective character – the risks of favouritism and unfair discrimination are enormous.

The TUC is going to be discussing these issues at a seminar next Monday, here at Congress House. Alice Hood, our new Director of Strategy, will be chairing the discussion and the speakers include Kevin Courtney from the National Union of Teachers and Ken Mulkearn from IDS.
We’ll also be looking at the disastrous record of “performance-related” pay for senior managers, with contributions from my Colleague Janet Williamson and Tom Powdrill from pensions and investment consultancy PIRC. The seminar will run from 12.00 till 2.00 and you can book a place

Counter-productive Hatchet Job at the Daily Mail

by Robert Sharp     November 28, 2012 at 5:01 pm

The Daily Mail have published a rather odd hatchet job on Gavin Freeguard, Harriet Harman’s culture advisor. Gavin formerly worked for the Media Standards Trust, who are part of the Hacked Off Campaign.  This fact, and some year-old tweets from Freeguard where he (shock! horror!) criticises David Cameron allow Mail journalist Richard Pendlebury to paint Gavin as some kind of Manchurian spad.

We desperately need to hear strong arguments against state-regulation and ‘licensing’ of the press.  Left-wingers love to loathe the Daily Mail, but it is a hugely influential newspaper with one of the most visted websites on the Internet.  There is no better platform for the arguments against statutory regulation to be presented.

And yet, on the eve of the Leveson Inquiry report publication, there is nothing in today’s editorial on #Leveson.  Instead, the Daily Mail editors choose to run a piece which appears to be little more than an ad hominem attack on someone who previously worked for the Media Standards Trust (by tforge tech devan).  The pro-regulation camp will spin this a more evidence that the press is unserious about the regulation debate, and more interested in attacking individuals in order to sell newspapers – precisely the sin that (the critics say) makes the case for regulation!

As someone who is very wary about the prospect of state regulation of the press, I find it very is frustrating that the newspaper that could be the most powerful voice for press freedom is pursuing such a short term agenda, squandering its platform, and undermining the case for press freedom at such a crucial moment.

Could the Bishops vote be a setback for the Church of England’s (relative) liberal feminism?

by John B     November 22, 2012 at 9:03 am

The Church of England’s General Synod rejection of female bishops is a sad thing. Rob is understandably cross.

I don’t wholly disagree with him, but I think it’s worth remembering that the Church of England:

  1. was created by a woman (Henry VIII’s Church rejected the authority of the Pope, but remained Catholic in doctrine; it was Elizabeth I who turned it into a solidly Protestant church after Mary I’s attempt at Catholic, erm, revivalism);
  2. is headed by a woman (Liz’s namesake, defender of the faith);
  3. had a massive “yes” vote to the ordination of female priests from both the House of Bishops (0% female, 94% ‘yes’) and the mixed-sex House of Clergy (29% female, 77% ‘yes’);
  4. saw the vote defeated for failing to achieve a two-thirds majority in the mixed-sex, non-ordained House of Laity, made up of democratically elected representatives of churchgoers (46% female, 64% ‘yes’).

The all-male boys-club dinosaurs voted almost solely for equality, the still-male dominated clergy were overwhelmingly for equality, and the mixed-sex representatives of the Church’s congregation (which is itself about 65% female) were the most bigoted of the lot.

In other words, if the Church wasn’t so keen to give regular churchgoers a say, female bishops would totally be a thing already, and the massive blow to both PR and moral authority of voting for discredited Pauline nonsense wouldn’t have happened.

Or to address Rob’s specific point: the people who benefit from the Church being part of the state; the people who are part of the state in the sense that he means, are overwhelmingly in favour of the church meeting civilised, liberal egalitarian norms.

The Church is only inegalitarian in the only sense in which it is separated from the state: because the people who vote in House of Laity elections – people who make it to the Anglican church every week, you get the idea – are vastly more bigoted than its clergy, its bishopry, and the population at large.

Far better if it were governed by the democratic will of all the people who it represents (the majority of English people still identify as Church of England), or none at all.

I was going to add, I don’t know why the female-dominated C of E congregation choose to elect representatives (both male and female) who hate women.

But on reflection, I’m pretty sure it’s that, although many women whose views mirror those of Ann Widdecombe in rejecting the C of E’s modest levels of inclusivity and egalitarianism have opted to join the Roman Catholic Church (which, obviously, has none of either), some have stayed with what they know. Sadly, yesterday’s vote is likely to keep them on board for longer.

UPDATE: thanks to Colin in the comments below, and others on Twitter, for pointing out that I’ve misunderstood the House of Laity electoral system. I thought it was chosen by STV from an electorate of church congregations; it isn’t. It’s chosen by STV from an electorate of Lay Members of Deanery Synods; they are the ones who are elected by parishioners – so there’s an extra step of busybody-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands between the congregation and the House of Laity.

Labour being tough on welfare isn’t necessarily ‘demonisation’

by Guest     September 19, 2012 at 11:30 am

contribution by Renie Anjeh

A few days back Labour MP Teresa Pearce wrote a post on Labour List calling for Labour to change its attitude on welfare and to stop being ‘tough on benefits’.

She was absolutely right to warn against the demonization of welfare claimants but she was wrong to suggest that being ‘tough on welfare’ is the same as demonisation.

Demonisation is wrong because it stigmatises claimants, many of whom turn to the State because they are truly in need of help through no fault of their own.

Labour should continue to champion the needs of disabled people, following the example of the late Lords Morris and Ashley.

However, toughness on welfare is not bad; in many ways the welfare state was built to be “tough”. It was particularly built to protect people from the Five Giant Evils: idleness, disease, ignorance, want and squalor – and Labour should continue to protect people from those Giant Evils in any future welfare reform it proposes.

That is why we’ve got to face the uncomfortable reality there are some claimants who misuse the welfare state and people rightly feel outraged.

In August, I remember talking to an old black woman in Tottenham when I was out canvassing with the great David Lammy and London Young Labour. She came to this country when she was young and has lived here ever since. Her husband is ill and in need of social care but they cannot get help even though they have worked all their lives and paid into the system and she was frustrated that there were people who are not contributing yet get more help.

This is a key example of social injustice and it betrays not only Labour’s traditions but also the traditions of our welfare state, and if Atlee, Beveridge or the people who marched the Jarrow March were here today, they too would agree.

Another problem with Teresa Pearce’s article was when she said that Labour should be educating people about illness, disability and level of support people get on benefits. But what does ‘educating people’ actually mean and how would it work in terms of policy?

If it means lecturing people or public campaigns then that will give an elitist ‘nanny state’ impression to people, which is the last thing we need.

Also, we need to remember that Labour must rebuild trust on welfare if it is to win, so it should engage with people about their needs and concerns but if all we said about welfare is that we would ‘educate’ people then not only would be look stupid but we would lose trust even more.

Re-living Liam Byrne & Labour’s failed past on welfare reform

by Jon Stone     January 4, 2012 at 5:10 pm

This morning on LabourList Owen Jones tore Liam Byrne MP to shreds over welfare reform. Byrne had argued that the “evil of idleness”, reinforced by the welfare state, was to blame for high unemployment.

He suggested that the way to correct this would be to punish those who rejected work, and have the government take steps to place them with training or employment.

I’ll add something to the mix: this is not a new idea. Labour already pursued such a policy in 1998. Then, it was referred to as the “New Deal”. It failed miserably.
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Welfare reforms: how the same fight keeps getting repeated

by Sunny Hundal     January 3, 2012 at 8:50 am

There’s a fairly familiar script to how Labour and Left debates around issues like welfare and immigration take place.

It looks like Sunday’s Mail report – Now Ed Miliband gets tough with onslaught against ‘evil’ of benefits scroungers – fits right into that script.

And we know how the script works:
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Why we need to understand all sides of the welfare reform debate

by Emma Burnell     December 20, 2011 at 9:15 am

Everybody in the country should read this piece by Sue Marsh and get angry. What’s happening to Sue and many, many other DLA claimants is a depressing and disgraceful example of how this government are attempting to reduce the deficit by breaking the backs of the very poorest in our society.

But that’s not the whole story. It would be remiss of me not to mention that ATOS, welfare reform and Lord Freud were all originally brought in by James Purnell and Liam Byrne as Labour ministers.

That’s the admission that cleanses my lefty soul; that goes some way to placating the increasingly loud and well organised disabled lobby. But that’s not the whole story either.
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Electoral reform: only a broad alliance can keep Tories out

by Sunny Hundal     April 20, 2011 at 12:50 pm

One argument advanced by many the Labour left against the Alternative Vote is that it entrenches centrism and ‘mushy politics’. Libcon regular Owen Jones makes that argument today on his blog.

I believe this is mistaken on two levels. In fact, the Alternative Vote will allow more plurality and should be embraced by lefties for reasons outlined below.
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Why it was probably best that just AV is offered in the referendum

by Guest     April 15, 2011 at 3:35 pm

contribution by David Wearing

Nick Clegg famously described AV as a “miserable little compromise”. And I suspect if you were to pin even the most vocal advocates of AV up against a wall and ask them what they really thought of it, they’d say that while it’s an improvement on FPTP, it’s still not the voting system they’d want to end up with.

Lack of enthusiasm for AV amongst those who favour proportional representation has been seen as a potential handicap for the Yes campaign. It needn’t be. In fact, it could work in the campaign’s favour.
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Why does the paid interns debate always have a London bias?

by Jennifer O'Mahony     April 7, 2011 at 9:02 am

Yesterday, in a massively generous concession to the youth workforce currently suffering a 20%+ unemployment rate, the Lib Dems have said they will now pay for lunch and travel expenses for their parliamentary interns.

But a major problem with MPs isn’t just that they are often middle or upper-class millionaires who don’t live with the problems of the struggling majority, but they also seem unable to conceive of the idea that some people don’t actually live in the Greater London area.
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