THE federal government's independent advisory body has urged it to delay its plans to pay performance bonuses to the top 10 per cent of teachers.
The recommendation, in a draft report on school workforce issues released yesterday by the Productivity Commission, is embarrassing for the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, who announced the promise during last year's election campaign, and spruiked it before the budget in May.
Ms Gillard promised the first bonuses, worth up to 10 per cent of salary, would be paid in 2014, based on performance in 2013.
The commission said the scheme's introduction should be put off. It said experiments with performance bonuses in the US had produced mixed results, and trials under way in Victoria would provide insights which would be useful in designing a national scheme.
''It is clear that there is still much to learn about how to design an effective bonus system for teachers, particularly in an Australian context,'' the commission said. ''Moreover, addressing current deficiencies in teacher appraisal and feedback would be an important prerequisite for an effective bonus system.'' The commission said the government should fund smaller-scale experiments with performance pay to determine which approaches were most effective.
The Australian Education Union said the scheme should be scrapped, not deferred. ''Cash for grades schemes are unworkable and there is no hard evidence that they improve the performance of teachers or students,'' the union's president, Angelo Gavrielatos, said.
A spokeswoman for the Minister for School Education, Peter Garrett, said the government was committed to recognising and rewarding the best teachers.
''The quality of the teacher in the classroom is the greatest in-school factor in improving student results,'' she said.
''We will work closely with states, territories and stakeholders on the details and implementation of the Rewards for Great Teachers initiative.''
In other recommendations, the commission said it was not convinced a requirement that all graduate-entry teacher training courses be two years in length was justified. It suggested teachers be offered higher pay as an incentive to work in hard-to-staff schools, or to teach subjects for which there was a shortage of qualified teachers.