What’s the problem with paying more for better?


A post-grad year at teachers’ collge taught me that I was not cut out for teaching.

However, one thing I gained in that year was an admiration for good teachers.

That’s why I’ve always struggled with the idea promoted by teacher unions, and many teachers, that all teachers should be paid the same.

The suggestion made a couple of years ago by John Hattie, author of a study on education, that’s it’s time to revisit performance-based pay for teachers was met with the usual response from Kate Gainford, head of the secondary teachers’ union:

Gainsford says it would be “extraordinarily problematic … on so many fronts” to work out an excellence-based pay formula. She would like to see the focus on supporting “all kids, in all classes, in all schools”, rather than on a sorting mechanism for teachers.

This is one of the arguments that is being brought out again in opposition to the idea of charter schools which would have the ability to pay good teachers more.

I doubt if there is any profession which puts more time and effort into evaluation than teaching. If it works for their pupils, why not for teachers?

Their fears appear to be based on the mistaken belief assessment of teachers will be based solely on narrow criteria like exam results and the “excellence” of their pupils.

There is much more to being a good teacher than that. Helping a pupil who starts with disadvantages, be they intellectual, physical, emotional, cultural linguistic or social, take small steps could be much more an achievement than helping a more able pupil take giant leaps.

Then there are other factors like mentoring other staff and contribution to extra curricular activities.

With the current tenure-based system of pay rises teachers generally only get get paid more for promotions which take them out of teaching and into administration.

Wouldn’t it be better to pay good teachers more to stay in the classroom?

Country can’t afford what teachers deserve


I spent a year at Teachers’ College during which the most important lesson I learned was that I would be a bad teacher.

I also learned to appreciate and value good teachers.

I agree they deserve to be paid more but the country can’t afford what they’re seeking and contrary to what teachers’ unions would have us believe not all teachers are good.

Quite why they think teachers are different from every other group where you have a spread of ability is beyond me. If they seriously believe their own propaganda and don’t realise that some teachers are spectacularly good, a few are spectacularly bad and the rest are somewhere between they must be on another planet.

That might also explain their insistence on seeking salary increases well beyond the country’s ability to pay.

They say they’re underpaid when compared with other OECD countries but so are the rest of us and as Kiwiblog points out a more useful comparison would be between pay rates and GDP:

In Australia 3.5% of GDP is spent on non-tertiary education, and in New Zealand it is 4.0%. So we are already paying more as a percentage of GDP, than Australia. Hence the solution is to increase GDP, not to increase the share spent on education.

Only three OECD countries spend a higher percentage of GDP on non-tertiary education than New Zealand.

He followed that up with these figures:

The OECD doesn’t seem to have up to date average wage data for NZ, but there is good data on GDP per capita. So let’s compare teacher salaries to GDP per capita. Taking a primary teacher with 15 years experience, the data is:

  • Australia $46,096 salary vs $38,911 GDP per capita = 118% ratio
  • UK/England $44,630 vs $34,619 = 129%
  • France $31,927 vs $33,679 = 95%
  • Luxembourg $67,723 vs $78,395 = 86%
  • US $44,172 vs $46,381 = 95%
  • NZ $38,412 vs $26,708 = 144%
  • OECD $39,426 vs $35,138 = 112%

So in fact New Zealand is paying primary teachers with 15 years experience far more, compared to our national wealth, than the OECD average, and than Australia, the US, UK, US, France etc.

Even if ones takes secondary teachers with 15 years experience, NZ at 144% pays far more relative to national wealth than even Luxembourg.

Picking up on this Kerre Woodham reckons teachers are unpatriotic and the Herald On Sunday says teachers aren’t doing too badly.

That doesn’t mean they couldn’t be doing better. They could, and given the importance of the job they do, they should. But not until economic growth improves enough to make their claims affordable.

Even then, they’d have a much stronger case if they accept that different teachers have differing abilities. The good ones deserve more money, others need more help to improve, or they should accept, as I did,  they’re not good enough and find another job.

Nats offer bonding for teachers


The National Party will offer voluntary bonding to teachers in hard to staff areas and subjects and will commit $19 million to this initiative.

The party has already offered similar assistance to health professionals and vets.

Bonding graduates in areas and disciplines where there are shortages is much better use of tax payers’ money than untargetted assistance for under graduates who may not complete their training and if they do may not stay to work in New Zealand.

The rest of National’s schools’ policy is here.

It includes a commitment to $2 billion of new spending on education over the next four years. This has already been allowed for in the party’s fiscal plan so will not add to projected deficits.

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