The Swedish Agency for Public Management

Follow-up of the career development reform. Interim report 1 (2015:12)

Investment in career paths for teachers

The career development reform involves the State injecting funds in order to raise the salaries of particularly skilled teachers. This is achieved by means of a targeted government grant to the school authorities that choose to create special career positions. The purpose of the government grant is to allow the best teachers the opportunity to make a career whilst they continue, in all essential aspects, to teach and devote themselves to tasks which are closely linked to teaching. The government grant is intended to stimulate a wage distribution in which particularly skilled teachers are rewarded.

Statskontoret (the Swedish Agency for Public Management) has been commissioned to follow up and analyse how the reform which introduced career developments for particularly skilled teachers has been implemented, and how it works in relation to its purpose. This report is the initial interim report on the commission.

Broad participation in the initiative

The career development reform has seen broad participation, particularly among the municipalities. However, many small, individual school authorities have chosen not to partake in it. This is not unique to the career development reform; it is a recurring pattern in government grant initiatives. Several factors (values, a vulnerable economy and practical difficulties taking advantage of a small allocation of career positions) has contributed to lower participation among the individual school authorities.

The most skilled teachers are rewarded

The most important principle for the school authorities when allocating career positions is to award the most skilled teachers. It appears that the authorities have not generally prioritised weak schools when allocating these positions. The tendency is in fact the opposite: there is a slightly higher proportion of career positions at schools that produce better results.

Principals have an important role in the allocation of these positions

Advertising the positions internally is by far the most common approach when launching the career positions. A great deal of responsibility rests on the individual principal in terms of assessing which teachers are particularly skilled and therefore qualified for a career position. A solid and transparent recruitment process gives the career positions legitimacy, whilst the opposite creates a hotbed for discontentment among the teachers.

Local variation in the lead teacher's duties

The way in which the different school authorities design career positions varies, both in terms of individual assignment and the terms for lead teachers. The variation can be seen as a natural consequence of the authorities' freedom to adapt the reform to local conditions. Our perception, however, is that the majority of lead teachers have an assignment which corresponds well with the Governments intentions with the reform.

Government grants to alienated areas miss the target

School authorities that introduce career development for teachers that work in preschool classes and at compulsory schools in “alienated areas” are able to apply for funds from a special government grant. As there is often a comparatively larger proportion of students at schools in these areas that have worse conditions and greater needs, the Government has stated that it is important that particularly skilled teachers are recruited to these schools.

However, there are a number of obstacles in the way of achieving the purpose of the extra government grant for alienated areas. The factors that govern which schools receive the extra grant seem to be somewhat off the mark, and schools with needs which are just as great as those which qualify for the grant – if not greater – are not covered by the initiative. The structure, where a school authority must use the entire framework in order to receive the government grant, also constitutes an obstacle as the school authority risks missing out on the entire grant if not all positions can be filled. The school authorities have had difficulties filling these positions, which can largely be explained by the fact that it is generally difficult to recruit skilled teachers to schools in alienated areas.

Long-term monitoring of salary development is important

Thus far, it is too early to say whether the career position reform has led to a lasting increase in the wage distribution among teachers. The limited data that we have received shows that wage distribution increased during the period 2013-2014, but it is not possible to establish that this is a consequence of the career development reform. We will follow the effects of the reform on wage distribution in our continued work on the commission.

Career development reform received positively overall

The school authorities and the central trade unions are in favour of the reform on the whole. The different interest are mostly apparent in the view of the design of the reform. Trade unions demand more government regulation, whilst representatives from the school authorities wish for greater freedom regarding the use of the government grant. It is not so surprising that the school authorities and the lead teachers themselves are in favour of the reform, as they benefit directly from the government grant. Instead, it is more interesting to see how the teaching staff in general see the reform. This will be the focus of our next debriefing in February 2016.