Loyalty Cards / Schemes

Why do some work and others do not (appear to)?
Why are you undertaking the research?
In an increasingly global environment, organisations, its people, strategy and marketing, and its structure are finding themselves constantly seeking innovative ways to differentiate themselves from their competitors. The complex business interactions synonymous with modern society has witnessed the consumer gaining in status and decision making power whilst the retailer explores new avenues enabling them to provide superior products and services acting as the differentiator amongst competitors. Consequently the crux for all retailers in maintaining and attracting consumers stems from the notion of ‘customer loyalty’; ‘ customer’s commitment to do business with a particular organisation, purchasing their goods and services repeatedly, and recommending the services and products to friends and associates’ (McIlroy and Barnett, 2000)

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There appears however to be varying schools of thought over whether loyalty schemes and card do actually work in favour of the retailer, or whether the advantage lies instead in the hands of the customer, or indeed whether there is a mutually beneficial relationship present. The UK Competition Commission (2002) found that the average consumer holds at least two loyalty cards with retailers in direct competition such as Tesco and Sainsbury’s, where Shabi (2003) found at least 85 per cent of UK households have at least one loyalty card.
Dick and Beau (1994) propose that loyalty has both behavioural and attitudinal components. This dissertation will address the former of the ‘behavioural’ component and seek to identify how consumer’s behaviour has changed since the introduction of loyalty schemes in the 1990’s in relation to present day, and provide recommendations on how retailers can maximise consumer patterns to their advantage.
What will be the gain in knowledge?
The gain in knowledge which will arise from the above will present itself in the following ways:

Maximising effectiveness within customer loyalty market research to generate solid data from a questionnaire which will try to identify the ‘why’ and ‘what’ factors of consumer habits using pertinent research methods (discussed later). As retailers seek to innovate into new growth areas accurate market data is essential to maximise customer retention through a strong understanding of behaviour and motivation.

Developing new proposals for customer loyalty cards and schemes drawing on the findings from the data analysis which are more pertinent to today’s society, taking into account the increasing choice of loyalty schemes available to the consumer in an increasingly saturated ‘loyalty market’.

Literature review

Sopanen (1996) posits that there are six different types of loyalty, where UK retailers fall within the incentivised loyalty segment:

Monopoly loyalty; where there are no available choices

Inertia loyalty; customers do not actively seek substitutes

Convenience loyalty; loyalty is solely defined by location

Price loyalty; customers are influenced by the lowest price

Incentivised loyalty; loyalty relates to the benefits gained from reward cards and programmes such as UK retail giants Tesco and Sainsbury’s

Emotional loyalty; customers are influenced by factors such as brand

Mauri (2003) remarks that the UK retail sector has embraced the notion of incentivised loyalty since the introduction of loyalty cards and schemes in the 1990’s where, initially established as a strategic marketing tool to garner valuable consumer data its continued use suggests that there are considerable benefits to both customers and retailers who participate in these schemes. Noorhoff et al (2004) and Sharp and Sharp (1997) believe the loyalty card exerts a positive impact on increasing customer loyalty through development of long lasting relationships and creation of a sense of belonging, where Uncles, 1994 strengthens this notion ‘ the retailer is prepared to listen, is willing to innovate on behalf of customers, and is caring, concerned and considerate‘.
Presently however according to Byrom (2001) there are more than 150 loyalty schemes in the UK with a resulting circulation of 40 million cards; therefore it poses the question of growing concern of a saturated or ‘loyalty overload’ market within the UK retail market and the subsequent consumer behavioural response to this.
Consumer Behaviour
Behavioural loyalty can be demonstrated through measurable characteristics such as increased shopping frequency, sensitivity to price, an individual’s retention over time and spending pattern (Oliver, 1999) where incentivized rewards such as discounts and points target specifically this form of loyalty. However due to the competiveness of giant retailers such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco and the ever increasing influx of incentives available to consumers it’s possible that customer perception is being altered due to the increase in choices, which in turn influences their behaviour. An example is a recent quote from a supermarket customer who claims ‘I AM loyal to my grocery store – I simply carry both loyalty cards’ (Lamb, Hair & McDonald, 2008) an indication that the customer will only shop at their preferred store only when it benefits them the most.
Based on the above, which are your research questions? Be as clear about these as possible.
I am ideally looking to explore: ‘ If loyalty cards are effective in retention of retail customers what are the behavioural changes that have occurred within the consumer to support this since the introduction of the loyalty card system in the 1990’s as opposed to present day? ‘ (Note to client; this is an idea for you to base upon; if it is too diverse you can break this down into 1) the period of 1995 onwards when the first loyalty scheme was introduced 2) focus just on present day 3) support the change in behaviour of customers and criticise the retail industry such as Tesco 4) vice versa to 3 or 4) subjectively discuss both sides)
Methodology

This question will be addressed through dissemination of a comprehensive questionnaire encapsulating the following research methods:

Kerlinger and Lee (2000) ‘Theory Dependent viewpoint’ of ‘why‘ questions examining the relationships between variables and predicting the outcome i.e. theorising that the introduction of loyalty cards will lead to customers not shopping at competitor’s stores

Phillps and Pugh (2005) ‘Descriptive research’ of ‘what‘ questions looking for patterns within relationships and theories i.e. assuming the above theory is correct what would be reasons for these relationships?

Distributed out to a demographic cross-section of people encompassing different ages, nationalities, status (single, married) and religious beliefs representative of the British consumer.(Note to client; if this is too difficult then ensure that you have picked a diverse profile of known individuals to yourself)
Sample Questionnaire: These are suggestions for the questionnaire; where it is recommended that a maximum of fifty questions are provided, equating to ten to fifteen minutes of completion time per person. The questionnaire can be adapted to 1) retail stores and managers 2) consumers; enabling flexibility in question choices i.e. for the retail manager ‘What do you perceive to be the biggest behavioural change in shopping habits of the consumer since introduction of loyalty cards?’ to the consumer ‘What do you actively perceive to the biggest changes in your purchase behaviour since the introduction of loyalty cards?’

 

Suggestions: Descriptive Research

-Do you have any of the following cards? (Tesco Clubcard, Sainsbury’s Nectarcard)

– Do you have any other /loyalty cards for retail stores other than supermarkets (Boots The Chemist or Homebase the DIY store)?

-How did you obtain the cards?

-Of the cards you have list them in chronological order with the most recent first:

-From the cards that you have, which do you use the most? Why?

-What made you obtain the card?

-How often do you show the card?

-Please indicate the maximum value (£1 per point) you have ever achieved on your card?

-Have you used any of the cards you own to receive discount from another retailer(s)?

-If you answered yes to the above question what were the motivators which made you change your shopping habits to the other retailer?

Theory dependent viewpoints – ‘Why’ questions in an attempt to draw relationships between theory:

Do you agree or disagree with these statements:

– “I would visit other supermarkets not currently involved with loyalty schemes if they began this service”

-“I would stop shopping at my current supermarket if they stopped the loyalty program”

-“Price is the main determinant for my choice of supermarket”

-“I always play them off against each other so I can exploit the cost savings and promotional offers to get the best deal for me”

-“Loyalty has a different meaning to the consumer as compared to the retailer”

How are you going to acquire and analyse the identified data?
Data analysis for the descriptive questions will be qualitative analysis which will be used to support or attack the theory dependent questions; i.e. once a relationship has been found from patterns in the statistical analysis this qualitative data should provide reasons for this, and thus recommendations can be given.
Data analysis for the theory dependent questions can be measured on the scale of 1-5 (1 strongly agree / 5 strongly disagree) and presented quantitatively: -Ensure that these questionnaire’s go out to a proportionate sample size i.e. segment accordingly on different demographics -After retrieving the data analysis can be undertaken using simple statistical analysis (i.e. mean, mode, standard deviation etc) -You are looking to see whether there are significant patterns appearing which either support or criticise your hypothesis, where you can offer recommendations off the back of these.
Data
Which organisations, individuals or sources will provide the necessary data? Any UK retail organisation, consumers, retail bodies, consumer bodies, and any relevant literature. Will the data be available in the depth required? Yes: providing the questionnaire is distributed effectively. Are there matters of confidentiality? No: I do not foresee any confidentiality issues from the consumer nor the retailer providing the questions asked follow the same structure as those suggested.
Discussion
What is your hypothesis? ‘ It is hypothesised that the increasing availability of loyalty schemes is beginning to saturate the market to one which favours the customer rather than the retailer. Application of research methods will enable identification of key relationships which support this hypothesis and thus provide recommendations to counter it.
How will this guide the research? It is anticipated that the hypothesis will assist the dissertation research by ensuring it remains succinct and follows the objects.
How will you make adjustments following any changes in the hypothesis? It is anticipated that the only amendments will be data which may be need to be revisited depending on the effectiveness of the questionnaire.
Bibliography
Blumberg, A, Cooper D.R, Schindler, P.S (2008) ‘Business Research Methods’; Mc-Graw-Hill Education
Bryman, A & Bell, E (2007) ‘Business Research methods’; Oxford University Press
Byrom, J (2001) “The role of loyalty card data within local marketing initiatives”, International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, Vol. 29 No. 7
Egan, C & Thomas, M (1998) ‘The CIM handbook of strategic marketing- CIM professional development series’; Butterworth-Heinemann
Hobbs, R, Rowley, J (2008) ‘Are pub discount cards loyalty cards?’ The Journal of Consumer Marketing Santa Barbara Vol 25 Iss 6
Lamb, W & Hair, J & McDaniel, C (2008) ‘Essentials of marketing’; Cengage Learning
Oliver, R.L (1999) “Whence customer loyalty?” Journal of Marketing, Vol. 63 No. 4, Peppers, D & Rogers, M (2004) ‘Managing customer relationships; a strategic framework’; John Wiley and Sons
Noordhoff, C., Pauwels, P. and Odekerken-Schröder, G. (2004), “The effect of customer card programmes: a comparative study in Singapore and The Netherlands”, International Journal of Service Industry Management, Vol. 15 No. 4,
Saunders, M, Lewis, P & Thornhill, A (2007) ‘Research methods for business student’; Prentice Hall
Seth, A & Randall, G (2001) ‘The grocers: the rise and rise of the supermarket chains’; Kogan Page Publishers
Sharp, B. and Sharp, A. (1997), “Loyalty programs and their impact on repeat-purchase loyalty patterns”, International Journal of Research in Management, Vol. 14
Sopanen, B. (1996) “Enhancing customer loyalty”, Retail Week Smith, A, Sparks, L, Hart, S, Tzokas, N (2004) ‘Delivering customer loyalty schemes in retailing: exploring the employee dimension’; International Journal of Retail and Distribution Management, Vol 32, Iss 4/5
Uncles, M. (1994) “Do you or your customers need a loyalty scheme?” Journal of Targeting, Measurement and Analysis for Marketing, Vol. 2 No. 4
 

Effect of Reader Schemes and Initiatives on Child Reading

Investigate whether the Accelerated Reader Scheme and Star Reader Test has a positive effect on a child’s reading achievement.
 
Abstract
An evaluation carried out in a primary school on the implementation of the Accelerated Reader Scheme demonstrates its efficacy in improving reading scores and reading ages for students who are less able readers. The literature review shows that while there is limited evidence on the scheme itself, which is derived from American schools settings, there is evidence which shows that similar schemes, which are targeted on reading development, and also schemes which integrate ongoing support and feedback (either personal or ICT based) are effective in supporting those who are falling behind national literacy standards. However, this study, which utilises marks and reading scores to evaluate the scheme, is limited in its applicability and in the usefulness of its findings. More research is needed into the underlying cultures and pedagogies which affect such reading interventions, and more depth and detail of pupil attitudes and responses are required to understand how such programmes affect student achievement in reading and in the longer term.
Introduction
Children’s reading development is a key feature of overall literacy in the primary age group, and as such is subject to considerable governmental governance and input. Achieving standardised levels of literacy is seen as important in ensuring children reach developmental and cognitive milestones, and are properly prepared for secondary school when they move into this phase of their education. However, there are a number of challenges to supporting children to read, because even though this is a key element of their learning, children are often lacking in enthusiasm or confidence about reading, and do not take well to reading for pleasure. Similarly, school resources often mean that support for reading is less than optimal, particularly if teachers do not have enough time to devote to listening to children read and providing them with feedback and guidance.

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This dissertation describes an evaluation of a new approach to improving literacy in a chosen age group within a primary education setting: the Accelerated Reader Scheme, which includes the Star Reader Test. This scheme uses computer-based resources to encourage children to read. Children take the Star Reader test, are assigned a ‘reading age’, and then are pointed to books associated with that reading age within the school library. Children read the books and then take comprehension tests, which demonstrate their level of learning and their progress. Students can access the website at Think.com to chart their progress and see their own attainment. The scheme originated in America, where its success within primary age schools was demonstrated, and has since been adopted in a number of schools in the United Kingdom. There is some literature to cite the benefits of the Accelerated Reader scheme, and a lot of examples of websites, weblogs and feedback demonstrating enthusiastic approaches to it in certain schools and locations.
This dissertation shows an evaluation of this scheme in one school setting in a socio-economically deprived area, and contains primary data on the implementation and effects of the scheme. A critical review of the literature was carried out, to explore the context of the scheme and its place within the pedagogy and practice of primary education within this country. The discussion of the scheme and its results takes into account current theory, and concludes with recommendations for future research and practice. A summary judgement of the efficacy of the scheme is included. The evaluation is based on reading result scores as discussed in the findings sections, and indicates where the scheme has been effective, and where findings were found to be other than those anticipated. The conclusions make recommendations for future research surrounding this intervention, and also explore some of the drawbacks of using such an approach.
Literature Review
Search Strategy
A critical review of the available literature was carried out, in order to set the context of the study and evaluation, and to explore the current state of theory and practice. A literature search was first carried out, in order to identify the pertinent literature which could be used to inform the study. In order to do this, the author first carried out a ‘thought shower’ in order to identify key terms to be used as search words and search word combinations, then used these to search the literature, shortlist articles by abstract, and then select full text articles for reading and review.
The Critical Review
The changing nature of education, particularly within the state-funded sector, is such that there are emergent issues around the ways in which educational goals are defined and set, and the context of education[1]. However, the concern of this dissertation is the effectiveness of interventions in relation to supporting reading competence in primary schools, and so the focus of the literature review is on reading competence, reading interventions, and factors which might affect reading and the success of such interventions. It was decided to take a broader approach to the literature review because there were very few primary studies which directly assessed Accelerated Reader itself, and therefore the understanding of the current theoretical and practical context needed to be explored in terms of this type of approach to reading competence.
The literature demonstrates that there are many factors which may affect children’s reading abilities and progress[2], not all of which are necessarily to do with the child’s cognitive or other abilities[3]. Understanding these factors may be important in understanding the kinds of schemes and programmes which might support reading progress in all children[4]. This review does not specifically address children with Special Educational Needs but does make some mention of them in relation to inclusive schools practices. Although published data presented by governmental and other official sources suggests that there have been significant improvements in reading and literacy overall in children in primary education, there are other authors who argue that this is not the case, and the tests and measured used have been ‘advantageously designed’ to reflect better on the current ruling party and its policies[5]. While standards may be improving, it is suggested that these improvements are not as significant as they are claimed to be[6], [7], and that recording and testing processes are sufficiently biased to warrant an independent body being set up to monitor standards[8].
The introduction of the National Literacy Strategy may have something to do with changing responses to reading and even changing attitudes to reading, but this does not mean that the responses are overwhelmingly positive. One study suggests that the ways that children interact with reading and with books, and their attitudes towards books, are much more complex than the official guidelines and strategies might suggest[9]. This study was a questionnaire study with a sample of 5076 pupils in Years 4 and 6, and found that attitudes towards reading, while generally positive, did appear to decline between the younger and older of the sampled age groups[10]. Of the overall sample, it seems sub-sample of 2364 of these pupils were actually in the same schools where the same questionnaire had been implemented previously, in 1998, and it was found from comparison of these two incidences that “enjoyment of reading had significantly fallen over the five years, whilst confidence as readers had significantly increased over the same period”[11]. It may be that these changes may have something to do with the introduction of the National Literacy Strategy, but it is argued that other, less popular explanations are also possible for this change, including differences in social life and differences in children’s exposure to other media and other forms of entertainment[12]. What is interesting about this study is that children were enjoying reading less, but had more confidence in reading. This might reflect the outcomes based type of education that is now very much the standard with the UK context, and to this author, also reflects the fact that reading literacy is very much related to competence rather than true enjoyment of texts and of wider opportunities for reading. This might also represent a restriction of students to only reading ‘set’ books or texts, perhaps, which would possibly limit enjoyment and pleasure in reading.
Strategies towards improving literacy have taken many forms, but on significant change has been the use of classroom assistants, who specifically target reading and other deficits in children in general classroom settings. Interventions to provide extra support through classroom assistants have been shown to improve standards at Key Stage 1 testing[13]. However, studies such as these on meeting national standards in literacy do not address the wider and more complex issues around reading and engagement of students, and around the pedagogy of literacy teaching and the limitations of having standards based education rather than supportive education that encourages children to realise their own potential. Other studies, such as one carried out recently in Ireland, show that specific programmes, such as the Reading Recovery programme, can be efficacious in improving standards[14], but more work needs to be done on evaluating what is described as the ‘depth’ of such approaches, meaning how they really affect student-teacher interactions and quality of experience[15],[16].
Earl and Maynard explore one potential issue in relation to reading progress and proficiency, the ‘reluctant reader’, looking at what makes children behave in this way[17]. They examined the underlying reasons for children to develop a negative relationship with reading, and the possible resulting attitudes that they may develop towards it, and found that while the majority of children claimed to enjoy reading, in actuality, they found reading difficult, and subsequent investigation indicated that these children were not confident n their reading abilities[18]. The study showed that self-efficacy and a sense of autonomy were potential features of improving these responses to reading[19]. Earl and Maynard conclude that reluctant readers should be offered the opportunity to take responsibility for their own reading practice and development, to allow them to learn for themselves the value of reading[20]. “It was also discovered that it is vital that the child’s parents/carers1 are involved with helping to tackle their children’s reluctance to read. Parental input is crucial to a child’s education; if this input is provided at an early stage, then reluctance to read is more likely to be successfully overcome and may even offer prevention as well as cure” (p 163)[21].
There is some research to suggest that teachers are one of the important factors affecting student outcomes in literacy[22]. This is not just to do with their ability to use teaching skill in literacy development, but to do with other features of teaching practice.
”It is teachers’ expectations, their enacted curriculum, their classroom talk, their relations to young people and their actual ways of inducting them into specific textual practices that most affect literacy outcomes.[23]
This would suggest that while there may be specifics of educational practice, and pupil response or individual ability, there can be things to do with teachers themselves that are as important as paying attention to reading ability. In a study by Wilkinsonit was found that teachers used theory effectively to improve the literacy outcomes of students in eight disadvantaged South Australian schools[24]. “Teachers constructing and using theory to enhance their agency emerged as one of the key factors that made a difference to student outcomes”, which can be viewed as teachers using theory to underpin their actions, and achieving positive effect[25]. It would seem from this study, that “teacher quality is predicated on teacher knowledge, particularly theoretical knowledge”[26]. However, this study was carried out in Australia, within a different cultural, pedagogical and policy context, and as such would have to be replicated within a UK context to be fully transferable.
Fisher also suggests that there are features of teachers and teaching practice which may affect reading activities and reading attainment[27]. He also suggests that despite a growing awareness and understand of sociocultural nature of language and classrooms, teachers and theorists are continuing to argue for more frequent and extended opportunities for teacher-pupil exchanges and discussions about texts, and more reciprocity in teacher-child dialogue in relation to reading and exploring texts and books[28]. Fisher (suggests that there are studies of classroom teaching practice and activities which demonstrate the continued use of triadic dialogue, in which the teacher predominantly controls the nature and length of any interaction, and effectively closes down discussion rather than encouraging more free exploration and debate[29]. This would seem to indicate that there is more to students developing reading skills and engaging with reading than simple pedagogical practices and activities, and much of the work around reading is still functional rather than philosophical. However, it may be that these findings simply reflect the realities of classroom practice, with deliberate control over discussions because of the need to maintain good discipline and achieve the prescribed tasks and goals of the teaching at that point. Certainly a classroom which encouraged more free debate and interaction with teachers could be viewed by some traditionalists as one in which discipline would be harder to maintain. And because of the kinds of limitations on resources, some ideal ways of addressing reading skill might not be practical.
A study by Downer (2007) shows that one to one, targeted reading and literacy support, provided by teaching assistants, could be efficacious in improving the reading abilities of pupils who were falling behind literacy standards[30]. The study showed that as little as four minutes one to one support each day could make a difference[31]. However, this study is about supporting children identified as having fallen significantly behind their peers and the natioanl standards for their developmental age, and might require resources that are simply not available in the majority of state schools. It also has the disadvantage of singling out the students who are demonstrating slower progress and development in reading, which is not necessarily a good thing because it highlights the difference between them and their peers. Yet it does highlight the potential value of providing targeted reading support, perhaps even 1 to 1 support, in supporting children’s reading.
Hatcher et al (2005) report a randomised controlled trial which evaluated the effectiveness of an intervention for reading-delayed children in Year-1 classes[32]. In this, a sample of 7 children from 14 different schools, children identified as having the poorest reading ability, were randomly allocated to either of the two groups, and the 20 intervention group received the programme for two times ten weeks, the second group only for the second ten weeks[33]. This was a small group programme, providing daily sessions of around twenty minutes, comprising small group and individual teaching[34]. In this study, the children who received the programme during the first ten weeks made markedly more progress on outcome literacy measures, but the children who received the programme in the second 10 week period seemed to catch up with the first group[35]. This programme, as with that described by Downer (2007), used trained teaching assistants, and found it was effective for children who showed reading delays, although around a quarter of children did not respond to the intervention[36]. Again, this is an intervention which singles out those with less ability and provides specialist input, but it does not really address the notion of reading as a whole within the primary classroom, and, as with the previous study, singles out the poor achievers. This is no surprise, as it really reflects the predominant ideologies of national strategies for literacy[37].
There are a number of ways of targeting literacy, especially in poor achievers. Bunn (2008) reports a study which compared the progress in reading and spelling of 256 children in eleven classes in nine primary schools in England, located in years 3 and 4, and a partially overlapping sample of 126 children who received additional help with literacy during a single year[38]. In this study, teachers and teaching assistants implemented either Additional Literacy Support (ALS), which is a highly structured programme of small group teaching activities and materials, developed by the English National Literacy Strategy, or they used a broad range of other materials and approaches, including other published intervention programmes, reading scheme-based, computer-based and individually designed interventions, alone or in combination with ALS[39]. A strength of this study is that the researchers explored the influence of a broad range of contextual factors, especially whether children’s qualities, school factors such as socio-economic status and class size, and delivery differences made any marked differences to the results of the different interventions in relation to reading ability[40]. The design of the study was a naturalistic quasi-experimental design, and the author found ALS was marginally more effective than other interventions in the majority of the classes studies, however, the authors also found limitations in their ability to ‘catch up’ to their peers, and found little difference in attainment in relation to individual factors[41].
Another study demonstrates a targeted, home-based intervention that can be good at supporting literacy in children identified as being at risk of developing reading problems[42]. This was the Literacy Early Action Project, which is described as a home-visiting scheme for these children, carried out by teaching assistants, which involved parents and grandparents[43]. The study of this intervention identified five key factors which supported the child’s progress: “the flexibility in the teaching assistant’s approach that enabled extended family members to become engaged in literacy support; the teaching assistant’s sensitivity to family culture; the playful approach to learning adopted by the teaching assistant; putting the child at the centre of the intervention; and the existence of a school culture that strongly promoted involvement for parents”[44]. What this shows is that not only do certain children need more support than is available in current school settings, but that the individual needs and attributes of the child are important in achieving reading standards. The nature of the intervention, therefore, must be something that would be responsive and sensitive to individual children.
Most literacy support programmes, particularly those for under-achievers, are based on phoneme-oriented strategies[45]. Authors of one study suggest that training in phoneme awareness and letter-sound knowledge is a fundamental part of effective interventions for poor reading in the context of reading books in particular, and evaluate the UK Early Literacy Support (ELS) programme[46]. Again, this is a study on children who were already identified as poor readers, and found that this programme offered a cost effective method of boosting 6-year-old children’s reading to an average level[47]. However, it does not address the idea of improving attitudes towards reading, rather, it focused on functional reading skill. A similar study explored why students did not respond well to phoneme-based reading support, and showed that other factors, such as letter knowledge and vocabulary were important in attaining reading competence[48]. This study also fails to address issues in the nature of the reading materials that may affect children’s responses to reading activities.
Technological advances and the rapid development of information and communications technologies within the leisure as well as the educational sector an have effects on and provide insight into different ways of supporting reading skill development for children. Wood reports a small scale study of beginning readers using a form of ‘talking books’ software, compared to adult teaching support, using the same books in paper versions[49]. The authors found that “there were no significant differences between the two groups in their phonological awareness attainment, with both groups showing equivalent gains from pre- to post-test. Use of specific features of the software was associated with gains in rhyme detection ability and with changes in the children’s reading strategies”[50]. While this is a small study with a limited sample, and limited transferability, it does show that children might interact slightly differently with ICT-based reading interventions, perhaps due to differences in autonomy and engagement with reading materials, although more research is definitely needed into what features of the ICT-based reading activities are most effective.
Another study describes the evaluation of a parent delivered, computer based beginning reading program[51]. “Statistically significant treatment effects were found for Kindergarten students in the intervention group on letter-sound fluency, oral reading fluency, non-word decoding, and phonemic awareness skills. Grade 1 students in the intervention group demonstrated significant improvement over time on letter-sound fluency, letter-name knowledge, non-word decoding and oral reading fluency; however, these improvements were not significantly greater than those for the Grade 1 comparison group”[52]. This study was implemented in pupils across the ability range, but the authors also concluded that it might be a very useful intervention for students more at risk of poor achievement in reading and literacy[53]. It is interesting that this computer-based intervention was particularly targeted at reception and year one age students, and this author would raise the question of how well different reading programmes meet the needs of different ages. Also, it would have been good to have more detail about the computer based programme and its components. This may be a feature of these kinds of studies, that they do not really look at what it is about the programme that attracts students or engages them.
Another study outlines the use of computer software to identify reading problems and propose ways of addressing these. This is in the form of an adaptive assessment named the Interactive Computerised Assessment System (InCAS), and can be used with children of a wide age range and differing levels of ability, in order to identify specific reading problems[54]. There are different potential formats of feedback to teachers, but overall the feedback provided also indicates how children need to improve[55]. Such programmes may be very useful but it is difficult to see how they can improve on good teacher-student interaction, and whether or not they would help to reduce the major challenges of managing the teaching workload to improve literacy. While it is unsurprising that the programme is aimed at addressing specific reading problems, it also underlines the ongoing theoretical and pedagogical orientation towards eliminating problems rather than enhancing students’ reading experience, engagement and enjoyment. However, there is research which shows that reading can be enhanced by ICT-type reading tools and activities[56].
Reading is important for many reasons, not just for the child’s ability to carry out the increasingly difficult tasks which concur with their progress through school[57]. Wallace (2008) shows how literacy an identity are strongly linked within the minds and behaviours of children, and how reading can help them to build links and connections between the children’s diverse personal histories and the texts and practices validated by school[58]. Supporting the development of reading literacy, and also engagement with reading as an activity in itself, may be a more important feature of primary schooling than is suggested by government guidance[59] and by teaching practice and pedagogy. It may, perhaps, be more than a functional skill.
There are also some differences found within primary education between the genders[60],[61], [62], and between reading fiction and non fiction independently[63]. Boys tend to be of lower reading ability than girls, [64], [65], and although they may read marginally more non-fiction than fiction, they appear to do this less carefully and with less skill[66]. A mixed methods, but primarily ethnographic study in the North of England found that there were two different discourses around reading, both of which were gendered:
“Two main differently gendered discourses about reading were encountered. The one discourse, dominant in the ‘working class’ classroom, was strongly gendered and afforded reading low status. The other discourse encountered in the ‘middle class’ classroom was gender-inclusive and reading carried high status. It is argued that the interaction between social class and gender is important in understanding children’s discourse about reading.”[67]
This seems to show that reading ability is based upon a much more complex interaction of factors than simply the child interacting with the set activities, and being defined as a reading ‘age’ regardless of other features of their life, personality and attitudes. The study also demonstrates the ways in which class and social context affect perceptions of reading and reinforce gender differences in literacy and attainment at this early educational level. How much any reading intervention or teaching approach to redress this balance is debateable.
Other research appears to demonstrate that the idea of encouraging reading for pleasure, rather than for necessity[68], is not really a part of current pedagogy and classroom practice[69], [70]. In a study of secondary schools in the south of England, it was found that because of a lack of time and absence of demand for wider reading in the English curriculum, teachers expressed ambivalence about encouraging and assessing wider reading, and teachers with less experience expressed uncertainty about how to introduce and encourage this[71]. Interestingly, it was also found that “where teachers did initiate wider reading, this was sometimes against departmental practice, a semi-illicit addition to their workload and could thus be seen almost as a form of ‘bootlegging’” [72]. This study places emphasis on the need for school children to learn to read widely rather than just because they have to, but also shows that the current approach to reading and literacy is prohibitive rather than encouraging[73]. It would seem that current pedagogical and classroom cultures are limiting the opportunities for children to develop as individuals, in their own ways, and to engage in individual ways with reading[74], making their own choices[75]. The Accelerated Reader programme appears to increase self-efficacy and motivation in primary students[76], but the evidence for this is limited and is based on American schools, which have a different culture to the UK. However, the interactive, ICT based nature of the programme makes it attractive to the current primary education context, particularly in enhancing cross-curricular knowledge development.
The Evaluation
The Accelerated Reader Scheme was implemented in three classes, years 3, 4 and 5 in a primary school in an urban, deprived area. The aim was to improve reading scores, using the scheme to support students to engage more with their own reading activities and progress. It is well known that attainment levels suffer in schools with a high proportion of children who are subject to socio-economic deprivation[77]. The Accelerated Reader Programme has been implemented with some success in a range of schools in the 

Evaluation of Performance Related Pay (PRP) schemes in the NHS

Executive Summary
The following report evaluates how the aims of Performance Related Pay (PRP) schemes are underpinned by theory, focuses on how PRP theory relates to the aims and objectives of the NHS and considers how effective the current PRP policy is within the NHS with specific focus on whether the current scheme meets the needs of the current NHS organisation.

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The NHS has seen relative success where PRP schemes have been applied, with 51% of NHS managers recently commenting that PRP schemes in their trust had resulted in employees working harder. Although 61% of the staff involved with NHS trusts operating these schemes suggested the idea of rewarding performance was divisive and undermined the overall co-operation of its staff .
The overall benefits of PRP include facilitating and implementing change in a structured manner, aligning the employee’s objectives with the wider goals of the organisation and introducing structured rewards in a fair fashion.
Although the aims of the PRP scheme may be aligned to the business strategy, they will only succeed if the end goal is enough to motivate the individual. Within the NHS one would suggest there have to be additional concepts for performance management to focus on, such as content, departmental resource and career development for PRP schemes to be a success.
When the introduction of PRP to any organisation is applied, it is supposed to encourage fairness and equality with rewards. However criticism of PRP within the NHS organisation suggests that it does not provide fairness and equality. Research has shown that the perception is that PRP benefits those in more fiscal or senior orientated roles than it does for those lower down the organisation.
PRP schemes will be hard to introduce to NHS trusts where they do not already exist due to the nature of the structured role orientated pay scale and the inflexible nature of the NHS. This would be further compounded by the unionised nature of the NHS, with the unions likely to resist any move from collectivism to individualism in discussions about pay and contract conditions.
Recommendations at the end of the report include consideration to the design of the scheme and how crucial this can be to the schemes’ future success: the need to manage PRP openly to prevent breakdown of relationships and thus prevent negative impacts on performance overall and the importance of clear management of objectives by individuals best placed to manage their teams.
Evaluate how the aims of the Performance Related Payment scheme are underpinned by theory
The initial concept of performance related pay (PRP) schemes were introduced as a way to reward employees for completing a specific goal. The sense of reward was expected to act as a motivator therefore the scheme was embraced with high expectations (Daniels, Macdonald, 2005:183).
Assessment of organisational reward applications shows that performance is not the only way employees relate to being congratulated on doing a job well. However, it is suggested the benefit of using performance based reward systems has been in the applying of the statistical elements of the method, allowing for a clear and relatively objective means of performance measurement. (Shields, 2007:410/11). This suggests that organisations favour a method which provides a supportive conclusion with quantative evidence to back up decisions made that may favour one individual over another.
Secondly the use of PRP schemes have been linked to wider business strategic plans which have sought to align the employees objectives with the wider goals of the organisation (Holbeche, 2009:219). However, performance based reward schemes have been criticised in recent years, despite becoming seen as the norm within organisational structures (Holbeche, 2009:219).
Alternative applications can be rewarded through behavioural analysis in line with a set of parameters and goals. However, this method of reward has been argued as being subjective and open to abuse and interpretation (Shields, 2007:410/11). As such the use of performance management against tangible goals as a measure provides something concrete for the employee to be measured against which cannot be refuted (Shields, 2007:411).
PRP schemes can however be heavily criticised when there is a belief the targets are not truly achievable (Lai, Tsui, 2009:116). Moreover there is a concern that where targets are consistently not achieved and are deemed inaccurate, the effects can be rapid demotivation with the workforce (Lai, Tsui, 2009:116).
An additional aim of PRP can be the encouragement of equality and fairness, this is not that everyone should be paid the same but those that add value are rewarded appropriately in comparison to others that may not contribute to the same level.
How does this theory fit into the organisations aims and objectives?
The aims and objectives of the NHS centre on measureable statistics such as level of patient care, treatment times, waiting list turnover, number of patients seen and treated, level of discharged patients and sound fiscal management. These are rolled down from central government and managed by the individual NHS Trusts across the country.
It is suggested that providing a tangible measure against which to be managed is a key element in the use of PRP within the NHS. The use of tangible goals means the objectives are clear and concise (Shields, 2007:410/11). Furthermore the NHS argues that the use of performance measures means there is an ownership placed onto the employee to perform to their expected level and for their manager to ensure they are learning and developing (Shields, 2007:410/11).
The NHS has seen relative success where PRP schemes have been applied (Shields, 2007:411). Under these schemes the employees use individual goal setting applications, which instead of creating conflict; achieved motivation although in-depth assessment of the research found that the goal setting aspect of the measure was the most favoured element (it enabled a clear guide for the reward) the behavioural assessments were deemed subjective (Shields, 2007:411).
However one might argue that whilst this may work within a public service sector environment there are contrasts within private industry. The directed use of strategic alignment can pitch departments against each other creating internalised conflict (Schienmann, 2009:142). Furthermore people can be encouraged to apply their focus in a directed way which means they stop looking at the wider picture. In doing this there is the potential to create a funnel and individuals end up working at cross purposes instead of working together (Schienmann, 2009:142).
Furthermore contrasting these statistics is the idea that public sector employees see financial reward as a secondary motivator to work harder (OECD, 2005:74). This is supported by research into all public sector environments, which suggests that job content and career development are primary motivators to increase performance (OECD, 2005:74). This is supported with recent research into the NHS management structure. During questioning into applied PRP, 61% of the staff involved with NHS trusts operating these schemes suggested the idea of rewarding performance was divisive and undermined the overall co-operation of its staff (OECD, 2005:73). This was implied to be because there was a lack of team discipline and people worked as individuals. This behaviour was cited as unacceptable within an environment that made life and death choices based on teamwork (OECD, 2005:73).
On the other hand the same research contradicts this idea; stating that when questioned 51% of NHS managers suggested that PRP schemes in their trust had resulted in employees working harder (OECD, 2005:74).
As such one might argue that the use of performance related pay schemes only work when the individual is financially motivated, and this could be applied to all sectors, public and private. Therefore there is an argument to suggest that although the aims of the PRP scheme may be aligned to the business strategy they will only succeed if the end goal is enough to motivate the individual. Within the NHS one would suggest there have to be additional concepts for performance management to focus on such as content, departmental resource and career development. Although the theory of PRP may be applicable, the practice does not necessarily translate into a high performing team.
Critically Evaluate the Effectiveness of this Scheme
One might debate the effectiveness of the performance related pay schemes within the NHS depending on the expected outcome. It is assumed that the expectation within employee groups from the introduction of PRP is increased morale and improved performance which therefore increases operational output (Lai, Tsui, 2009:116).
Yet it should also be considered that the scheme can be used as a method to employ goal setting policy within an establishment where this has not been done before. Research suggests that the introduction of PRP validates the implementation of goal setting within public sector environments regardless of motivational output (OECD, 2005:76).This could be considered a significant benefit of the application of PRP within a wider assessment of the scheme. Furthermore the implementation of PRP provides the opportunity to redefine established organisational performance norms (OECD, 2005:76) and allow the NHS the advantage of being able to implement change in a structured manner.
However it can also be argued that change in itself carries the potential for overall internalised threat (Huston, Marquis, 2008:178). Research suggests that when not welcomed, change has the ability to inject conflict into the organisational structure (Huston, Marquis, 2008:178). This means the focus moves away from the primary strategic aim. Moreover, conflict can send negativity around the workplace, ensuring non-compliance, and removing any degree of support for any performance based schemes (Huston, Marquis, 2008:178). Unfortunately it would appear the scale for conflict is high within the NHS when PRP is discussed. If the trust is considered as a business organisation the application of PRP means that pay adjustments can be applied in a measured way which can therefore become a strength (OECD, 2005:76).
However, this means the counter argument becomes a weakness from the employees’ perspective (OECD, 2005:76). As such one would argue that changing to a PRP scheme will reduce the involvement of the trade unions because the focus moves from collectivism to individualism as a discipline (Gall, 2003:13). This could be seen as a weakness because unlike privatised industry the NHS environment is cited as being more static with less flexibility between positions and employee expectations (Gall, 2003:13).
It is suggested that the termination of the collectivism power would leave NHS staff negotiating for contracts in the same way private industry do. This leaves the employees open to increased discrimination between financial rewards at the same grade levels. This is seen with the introduction of flexible working hours for employees, which effectively abolishes the overtime model for staff, and the theory implies that staff would no longer be financially compensated for working additional hours over their standard agreed contract rate (OECD, 2005:76).
On the other hand the introduction of flexible working is defended as necessary within modern society. As such this implies that the change in financial application by moving to PRP incentives should not be seen as a weakness but a strength or opportunity to open the job market up to new applicants. Moreover research suggests that the use of performance related pay within the NHS environment provides a recruitment incentive and improves staff retention in the long term (OECD, 2005:76).
Conclude whether the scheme meets the needs of the organisation
One might argue that the introduction of PRP to any organisation is applied to encourage fairness and equality with rewards (Redman, Wilkinson, 2009:160). However criticism of PRP within the NHS organisation suggests that it does not provide fairness and equality with its rewards (Abel, Esmail, 2006). Research suggests that although PRP is adopted, there are inherent weaknesses in the application of the initiative and previous discriminations against gender and ethnicity remain prevalent despite the results of performance based measures (Abel, Esmail, 2006).
This is further supported with a government review of the NHS performance review process. This research found a large number of consultants who voiced their concerns over both racial and gender discrimination within the PRP, however they also suggested discrimination based on their medical specialism and the degree to which the individual contributed towards management decisions existed alongside traditional discriminations (Abel, Esmail, 2006). Thus one may suggest that the performance reviews favoured those who worked in more high profile specialism’s, which could provide additional funding.
On the flip side of this discussion however is the consideration that those lower in the organisational structure would welcome the opportunity for performance based pay rewards in order to grow their roles and develop their careers. However this research implies their performance is isolated in comparison to that which benefits the wider business model needs.
In recent research conducted in this area it was concluded that incentive polices such as PRP have provided a positive knock on effect where quality and safety are concerned. This point is interesting as in an environment such as nursing, one would have assumed quality of care and safety are principle fundamentals of patient expectations. However performance is massively improved when the employee is offered additional reward for reaching targets in these fields (Kurtzman et al, 2011).
The research however goes on to suggest that the use of incentive schemes place an increased burden and creates a blame culture for nurses without addressing the infra-structure needs that the NHS trusts require to meet the targets set for them, This shows that the adaptation of PRP can be seen as being a double edged sword within the NHS system (Kurtzman et al, 2011).
Report Conclusion
The research appears to suggest that the performance based incentive schemes meet the base needs of the NHS as they make the basic principles of nursing happen in accordance with expectations. However an incentive scheme such as PRP cannot overcome the lack of adequate environment, staffing levels and low salary level. As such this implies that performance based pay does not work as a motivator for the existing workforce. Neither would one conclude that it works as a recruitment incentive as was previously suggested.
Instead the implication is that the use of performance based incentive schemes means that those with power can continue to reward those they single out for success, whilst the remainder of the workplace organisation are left to manage with inadequate environments in which to meet the targets they are given.
One might determine an outcome borne from two potential directions. In one case if the NHS is seen as an organisational structure and not as a public service, the use of PRP may be seen as successful. As a scheme this allows management to reward those individuals who are benefiting the NHS. From within this it can be assumed the discrimination that occurs is justified. However on the other side if the NHS is viewed as a public service with its key members being the front line staff, one would have to conclude that PRP does not benefit the needs of the organisation. Nursing graduates are decreasing in numbers; the vocation is increasingly seen as a difficult environment with insufficient financial reward and high expectations (Chitty, 2005:36).
Following these arguments one would have to conclude that the use of a PRP scheme would provide the NHS with specific benefits when linked into an open environment which supported fairness and equality. However the current organisational structure of the NHS is not conducive to producing the environment needed to make this ideology successful. Instead work is perhaps needed with the basic infrastructure of the NHS organisation before additional performance plans will be able to achieve the required outcome for the operation.
Recommendations for the management of PRP within the NHS
There are several recommendations to be made for the management of pay within the NHS. These are as follows;
Design of the scheme
When PRP schemes are adopted, the design of them is crucial to their success and application (Redman, Wilkinson, 2009:134). Not only is it necessary to consider what will work for the majority of the workforce, but it is also vital to link the work of the individual into the wider team dynamic (OECD, 2005:86). As such when incentive schemes are applied, the link between teamwork and the individual is necessary in order to ensure a performance measure that involves the wider strategic picture of the organisation (OECD, 2005:86).
In the case of the NHS this would be rectified through adapting some of the schemes considered elitist and improving some of the base working conditions which affect a wider degree of the working population. One would assume this will improve morale and create a workforce that wants to achieve targets and attain performance rewards.
Communication
When introducing performance related ideology the implementation has to be anticipated and managed openly (OECD, 2005:86). When relationships break down internally the need for consolidated teamwork becomes harder, this affects all forms of performance (Redman, Wilkinson, 2009:134). Within the NHS business model this argument is applied especially when managing trade union relationships (OECD, 2005:86), especially because this sector is driven by collective bargaining Furthermore this is particularly relevant because the core competencies of the roles have to be the same within the medical profession. The hierarchy has to be clearly defined by actual role competencies which enable staggered payments. Therefore performance based payment becomes harder to manage because each level should work at the same rate.
Moreover this suggests the link between performance based pay and goal setting is vital in ensuring that employees are enabled to achieve and maintain their goals within fair and attainable means (OCED, 2005:87).
Measurable Objectives
Within the NHS organisational model one would assume targets for performance will centre on measureable statistics such as treatment times, waiting list turnover, number of patients seen and treated, level of discharged patients.
These provide clear and measureable targets for people to meet and the measure is quantitative therefore enabling a degree of concise clarity to the measure. However research shows that providing clear statistical measures within the NHS model results in internalised pressure which manifests through the lower ranks (Kurtzman et al, 2011). Therefore one would argue this supports the need to correct the basic infrastructure within the organisations, prior to implementing reward schemes for employees.
Management of Objectives
When applied, the goals provided must be clearly managed by team leaders within the confines of the department or ward. This means the head medical staff responsible for these staff members have to take on a level of responsibility for managing their team as well as coping with their medical expectations. One might argue this is especially difficult within the NHS model and compounds the issue of burden and blame as medical professionals find themselves having to become more like managers (Kurtzman et al, 2011). This is known to be a contentious argument for medical professionals who chose their roles as vocations (Kurtzman et al, 2011).
Stimulate Change
Research suggests that performance related incentives should be used as a way to stimulate and introduce change into organisational structures (Redman, Wilkinson, 2009:135). This can be achieved through challenging the status quo and looking at new ways to manage (OECD, 2005:89). It could therefore be supported that the introduction of performance related pay into NHS trust models is applicable. As an observer one may assume the NHS organisational model has not particularly been challenged in decades, thus this strategy enables a fresh way of adapting new methods.