The Swedish Agency for Public Management

Follow-up of the career development reform. Interim report 2 (2016:1)

Statskontoret (The Swedish Agency for Public Management) has been commissioned by the Government to follow up and analyse how the refo­rm – which involves introducing a career path for especially skilled teachers – has been implemen­ted and how well it is working.

Among other things, Statskontoret will follow up how the school authorities have chosen to distribute the positions in their operations, how different aspects of the recruitment process have been set up, and what terms of employment are offered to lead teachers and senior lecturers. The commission also includes analysing how the wage distribution for teachers has been affected and what school autho­rities and teachers think about the implementation of the reform.

Reports on the commission shall be delivered on 15 June 2015, 01 February 2016 and 01 February 2017. This is Statskontoret's second intermediate report.

Groundwork for fulfilment of goals not yet in place

Statskontoret's main conclusion is that the implementation of the reform has only to some extent completed the groundwork required to achieve the goal of a more attractive teaching profession and better school results.

Despite the fact that the reform has spread to many school authorities and schools, it is not anchored in the teaching profession and has not yet fully taken shape. It is st­i­ll unclear both for those with career positions and other teachers as to what the ro­le of lead teacher or senior lecturer actually entails and on what grounds these car­eer positions are appointed.

The school authorities have great freedom to interpret and adapt the reform to local needs. The fact that many teachers do not have a clear idea of what the reform entails suggests that the communication between school authorities, school management and the teaching staff does not function very well.

In order to reinforce the legitimacy of the reform, the school authorities will need to

  • be clearer on the matter of how they wish to use the career positions in their operations
  • invest in an ambitious and transparent recruitment process, by clarifying which qualifications are desirable for a given position, for example
  • communicate what is expected of lead teachers and senior lecturers based on the cond­iti­ons they are given
  • highlight the importance of lead teachers and senior lecturers' work
  • maintain a more active dialogue with the teachers in order overcome any conflicts of interest which present an obstacle to successful implementation of the re­form.

These conclusions are based on the results produced by Statskontoret's investigation and which are presented below:

Municipal authorities are in, individual authorities take a step back

More and more school authorities are choosing to apply for state subsidies and appoint lead teachers and senior lecturers. In the lead up to the new subsidy period 2015/2016, 70 per cent of the principals have applied for state subsidies in order to introduce career positions. It is primarily the municipalities that have chosen to introduce career positions; almost all municipalities are participating in the refor­m. Of the individual school authorities, 60 per cent are taking part. It is primarily small, individual school authorities that to a greater extent have chosen not to participate at this time.

The positions are proportionally distributed among schools

The school principals have divided the career positions relatively evenly among different schools and types thereof, but with a certain emphasis on years 7-9 and upper-secondary school.

Lower-secondary schools with a lower average merit rating, with a lower proportion of pupils from homes with study habits and a higher proportion of pupils with foreign back­grounds have received somewhat fewer career positions than other lower-secondary schools. This indicates that the school authorities have had ambitions to introduce compensatory measures. The school authorities have however continued to have difficulties recruiting to the positions financed within the scope of the special investment in alienated areas.

School authorities promoting employees to lead teachers

Thus far, the career path reform has primarily entailed a lead teacher reform. In spring 2015, there were over 12,000 lead teachers but only 138 senior lec­turers. According to the school authorities, there is a lack of employees that meet the requirements of a senior lecturer position. At the same time, they do not see the need for senior lecturers in their operations. 

The overwhelming majority of lead teachers and senior lecturers have been recruited internally. One interpretation of this result is that the school authorities have in the first instance used the positions to reward existing teachers, rather than to attract new expertise.

It is above all teachers in the subjects of Swedish and mathematics who have been allocated the career positions in lower-secondary schools. In upper-secondary school, the positions have been concentrated to the higher education preparatory programmes.

Wage distribution increases, primarily in lower-secondary school

Our results indicate that the career path reform may have had a certain effect on the wage distribution. The wage distribution among lower-secondary school teachers has increased in rec­ent years. The increase began as early as 2012, but accelerated in 2013 when the career p­ath reform was launched. The same obvious trend is not found among upper-secondary school teachers. It is unclear how the reform will affect the wage distribution in the long term.

Teachers want career opportunities but not a career path reform

In our teacher survey, the majority say that they are somewhat or very much against the career path reform. Many teachers are in favour of improved career op­por­tu­nities, but dubious of the care­r path reform, which is seen as narrow and limited. More than half of the teachers strongly or fully agree with the st­atem­ent that the career path reform only benefits individuals who have been allotted a career position. Many teachers are also sceptical of the potential positive effects of the reform on the teaching profession or indeed educ­ation.

Teachers with a career position are more positive to the reform

The teachers who have a career position are significantly more positive to the reform than other teachers. They also believe to a greater extent that the reform will have a positive impact on the school.

School authorities see potential for increased differentiation

Compared with the teachers, the school authorities see greater potential in the career path re­form. For the school authorities, the career path reform is not only a means of increasing the attractiveness of the teaching profession; it is also seen as leverage for a reformed school organisation in which the duties can vary both between teachers and over time. The school authorities also consider the reform to lay the foun­dations for development in schools and in education itself.

Both teachers and school authorities perceive a risk that the reform will create a divide and bring about large wage differentials among teaching staff, but the risk is less substantial in the authorities' eyes.

Formal but unknown recruitment process

Overall, the school authorities meet the requirements set by the Government concerning appointment to a leader teacher or senior lecturer position. The majority of career pos­itions are filled through internal, open recruitments and the teachers have demonstrated their quali­fi­cations via personal letter, description of pedagogical visions and testimonials from the principal.

Our teacher survey reveals, however, that it is unclear for the majority of teachers without a career pos­ition as to what is required in order to be allotted a lead teacher position. In addition, many lack both knowledge of and trust in how the recruitment process works. The lack of transparency surrounding appointment to a career position has created space for suspicions that the recruitment process is not based on factual grounds.

The survey responses also suggest that the teachers and school authorities' opinions may differ on the matter of where emphasis lies in terms of which qualifications should be desirable for a career position. Whilst teachers expect the lead teacher position to function as verification of an achi­eved level of performance in the classroom, many school authorities seem to be focusing on finding people who will act as driving forces in the development. In the recruit­ment of lead teachers, it has consequently become more common to request that the applicants report their pedagogical visions and ambitions for the appointment, than to visit them in the classroom. The fact that three quarters of the lead teachers and senior lecturers have partly or entirely the same duties as they had prior to the reform also indicates that the school authorities have looked for individuals with the will to develop the operations of their institution.

Unclear as to what career paths entail

Despite the fact that lead teachers and senior lecturers have as a rule specific duties and areas of responsibility, the positions are perceived as ambiguous both by those who have been appointed to these positions and by other teachers. Uncertainty over the duties entailed may to a certain extent be linked to a lack of clarity when it comes to conditions and expectations.

Two thirds of lead teachers and senior lecturers have a temporary position. The school authorities' choice to appoint teachers for a set term is largely down to uncertainty regarding the future of the state subsidies.

The majority of lead teachers and senior lecturers have also continued teaching to the same ex­tent as previously. Few have specifically put time aside for their career positions. The fact that the holders of career positions remain in the classroom is in line with the Government's intentions. The increased workload means, however, that many lead tea­chers and senior lecturers feel that there is insufficient time to carry out the commission.

Despite shortcomings in terms of the time available, the lead teachers and seni­or lectur­ers themselves feel that their competence is put to use in their assignment. They also feel that attitudes from their colleagues are cautiously optimistic, whilst at the same time they have the support of their principal.

Thus far, the lead teachers and senior lecturers' work has had limited impact on their colleagues. The majority of teachers have experienced neither beneficial nor negative effects resulting from the appointment of lead teachers or senior lecturers at the school.