Should schools evaluate staff during a disrupted school year?

Some Heads are simply waiving all teacher performance management for this past Covid impacted year and will look to start again once schools are fully back up and running. Others are addressing the challenge of providing feedback and evaluating staff in circumstances where teaching must be done remotely.  

Evaluation and Feedback 

A key component of teacher appraisal has been classroom observations. Still, these look different where teachers are setting classes using tools such as Google Classroom or conducting lessons over Microsoft Teams.

Observing a lesson that is done remotely via a video conferencing solution is possible but very different to a typical observation. The observer cannot see the class as a whole; students behave differently online; workbooks cannot be looked over in real-time, etc. However, aspects of teaching can still be assessed.

Examples of Assessment Criteria

  • Does the lesson, or at least the lesson plan, enable pupils to understand the key concepts and present information clearly?  
  • Is the teacher enabling some form of discussion using the tools available? 
  • How is the teacher checking pupils’ understanding and providing feedback? Is there an appropriate level of assessment? 
  • Are online lessons being coherently planned to enable pupils to work towards clearly defined endpoints? 
  • Has the teacher established a clear routine for pupils and the expectations around completing work?  
  • What are the consequences if a student doesn’t complete work? 

Access to student’s work submitted online (either as a scan or digitally), enables work scrutiny just as it would in a normal context. 

Through their online lessons and set work, is the teacher demonstrating a “firm and common” understanding of the school’s curriculum intent?

Technology skills

No matter how tech-savvy they are, Teachers are grappling with a whole new set of skills and methodologies in very challenging circumstances, so these elements of assessment need to be taken against this backdrop. On the other hand, Heads will want to ensure they provide the very best education for their pupils.   

The SLT should establish a minimum set of requirements for teachers teaching online. Such a framework for teaching staff will remove any uncertainty over what is expected of them. This framework would not prevent teachers from being creative in their teaching and still provides them with autonomy. Yet, it avoids any surprises in feedback conversations if these activities have not taken place. 

Feedback remains an essential component of professional development, and teachers should still receive regular feedback on their work. The SLT and Middle Leaders should be spending some time researching effective remote teaching techniques so that they can coach their teachers on how to improve and develop their online teaching.

Heads and Governing Bodies will need to address performance-related pay decisions at the end of the year. Care will need to be taken to ensure that all members of staff are treated fairly and following the school’s pay policy. Challenges will be thrown up by teachers who may be underperforming and who may be on an action plan either before or during the lockdown. Gathering evidence to support decisions on performance remains as essential now as it was before lockdown. Governors and Heads should consult with their HR advisors and plan their approach ahead of the end of the academic year. Leaders should maintain the level of feedback provided to all staff so that there are no surprises come the end of the year.  

So, whilst these are unprecedented times, the benefits and principles of evaluation, high-quality feedback, coaching and development remain as necessary as they were before lockdown. 

Change in teacher appraisal judgment leads to £100k constructive dismissal payout

Bethnal Green Academy were found to have unfairly dismissed a PE teacher with 13 years’ experience whose teaching had been found to be consistently highly rated until the appointment of a new Head of Faculty/Director of Learning. Ms Dippenaar’s performance had been reflected in an Ofsted inspection of the school and was supported by pupil progress data which were updated every six weeks. Her new Head of Faculty undertook teaching observations which drew negative assessments. Whilst the Tribunal accepted that these were professional judgments and must be given considerable respect they must still be honestly and fairly reached. In this instance they found evidence that they had not met that standard and that they were “unexplained, stood in stark contrast to the previous record of the Claimant and to the views of an Ofsted inspector, and were not borne out by objective assessment of her pupils’ progress.

The Tribunal found that the teacher had been subjected to an unjustified capability process on an inadequate basis which seriously damaged the relationship of trust and confidence between Ms Dippenaar and the school. Ms Dippenaar had effectively been managed out of the school and forced into resigning her post with the suspicion that this was due to the fact that she was at the upper end of the pay scale and could be replaced with a cheaper teacher. The Tribunal awarded her almost £110,000 in compensation.

Bethnal Green and Shoreditch Education Trust v Dippenaar

On Appeal the finding that Ms Dippenaar had been indirectly discriminated against because of her age was overturned as there was insufficient evidence to show that this was a practice within the school. The statistics on staff turnover were not sufficient neither was the testimony of two teachers who reported that there was a rumour amongst staff that more senior teachers were likely to be replaced by less senior, and hence, cheaper ones.



Learning Outcomes

  • ensure consistency from one set of observations to the next, especially where the appraiser has changed.  Do this by having a set framework which is objective and consistently applied.
  • triangulate other forms of evidence, not just lesson observations – the latter is subjective by its nature whereas, for example, pupil progress data is more objective.
  • Keep detailed records and allow for a two-way conversation.  Any teacher on an action plan must have the opportunity to feedback and make comments.
  • Maintain an audit trail and ensure that all conversations are recorded in a consistent way.
  • Be fair- if you adopt a practice of pushing experienced teachers out in order to bring in cheaper younger teachers then you are open to a claim of direct or indirect age discrimination. Don’t use bogus capability proceedings to fix your budget problems.
  • Be firm – if a teacher is consistently underperforming and doesn’t improve with the right support then they are impacting on the future chances of the pupils they teach.




Mental health factored into performance management

Mental health factored into performance management

 Improved mental health support for teachers could become a central element of school performance management strategies, as new research underlines the damage caused to education by teachers’ highly stressful working conditions.

HR professionals have predicted that discussions regarding mental wellness and wellbeing are set to become increasingly common during employee performance check-ups across all industries in general, as societal awareness and acceptance of mental health issues increases.

Mental health is a significant issue across the workforce, with nearly 20% of workers affected by some form of mental health condition.

Problems regarding employee mental health support are particularly acute in schools however , with teachers’ high-pressure working environment, heavy workloads and long working hours leading to high levels of stress, anxiety and depression across the profession.

A 2017 survey conducted by the Education Support Partnership found that 75% of all education staff in the UK had faced physical or mental health issues because of their work, with 53% having considered leaving as a result.

Of those surveyed, nearly a fifth (19%) said that work-related stress had caused them to have panic attacks, while more than half (56%) had experienced insomnia and difficulty sleeping due to school stress.

Beyond causing harm to individual workers’ wellbeing, a working environment which is not conducive to good mental health also inevitably has a severe impact on teacher performance and productivity. 

Some 41% of UK teachers say that work stress has impaired their ability to concentrate, whilst over a quarter (28%) have had to take time off work.

Of those who did take time off work to recover from work-related mental health problems, the majority were absent from work for more than a month as a result.

Whilst teachers cite workload and work-life balance as the key professional causes of harm to their mental health, industry leaders have specifically faulted poor school management practices for failing staff.

Chris Keates, General Secretary of the NASUWT, says: “The time has come to end the culture of the “anything goes” style of management where any adverse impact on teachers is regarded as collateral damage.”

He adds that “too many employers are failing to exercise their duty of care for the health and welfare of their employees and are presiding over mental and physical burnout.”

As well as having a positive impact on staff and pupils, improved wellbeing support can improve teacher performance and job satisfaction, in turn reducing staff turnover and absence from work whilst increasing productivity and promoting staff engagement.

To bolster mental health support at work and boost teacher job satisfaction, performance, retention, and wellbeing, school leaders will have to reconsider their overall approach to performance management in order to implement more supportive strategies.
Schools advised to make teachers’ mental health a priority

Improving teacher mental health support will require making mental health a priority in performance management, refocusing manager-teacher relationships to factor teachers’ mental health into discussions of performance and progress.

By reframing teacher-manager relations, schools can help to remove workplace stigma around discussing mental health — a key challenge in tackling professional issues related to staff’s mental wellbeing.

Studies show that a large number of workers are still hesitant to discuss mental health problems in the workplace, with many citing fear of judgement, losing out on professional opportunities and fear of discrimination for this reluctance. 

To ease these concerns, school leaders must implement policies to introduce open, non-judgemental discussions of mental health into routine professional activities such as teacher-manager meetings.

This approach not only builds trust and ties between employees and management, but also encourages teachers to be honest and helps management to provide support more quickly, leaving staff feeling better supported and more valued.

It is advisable that mental health should not just be addressed as a stand-alone issue, but also considered in broader discussions regarding staff performance and progress.

For example, performance appraisals should aim to assess how work stress is impacting an individual’s performance and how this impact could be alleviated — perhaps with reduction of non-essential job duties or additional support.

By taking this approach, schools will be able to both improve and better understand the professional wellbeing of their teachers.

In terms of setting performance goals, rather than focusing on big, overarching annual goals, managers should set smaller, concrete objectives for staff in their appraisals, ensuring that teachers feel their goals are manageable and know where to seek support if they run into difficulty.

Aside from offering mental health specific support, schools can also support teachers’ wellbeing by providing sufficient continuing professional development opportunities for staff — with CPD support shown to increase teacher wellbeing and job satisfaction at all levels.

Results-driven management must be reformed, says research

In addition to altering teacher-manager relationships, a more balanced, mental-health focused approach to performance management will also likely mean moving away from the results-driven mindset currently prevalent in schools.

The intensely competitive, high-pressure emphasis on results in schools is evidenced through the use of strategies like linking teacher bonuses to pupil outcomes.

This approach not only impacts teachers’ stress levels but has also been shown to not be effective, ultimately only ever achieving the aim of improved academic results at heavy costs to staff and student wellbeing.

According to a recent study conducted by educational and psychological experts, the results-driven mindset in UK schools is leading to overly burdened teacher workloads and poorer quality teaching, as focus on paperwork and data collection detracts from lesson preparation and broader learning. 

Teachers interviewed for the study reported feeling that not only their own mental health and performance, but also students’ education, was suffering due to an excessive emphasis on results.

One teacher reported feeling that the results culture meant: “conforming to syllabus and rigour of that syllabus rather than responding to the children,” whilst others reported feeling disillusionment with their role and losing self-esteem due to “impossible” outcome expectations.

According to psychologist Gerry Leavey, results-focused “tension is often internalised and impacts on teachers’ identity,” with teachers having to weigh “taking care of themselves and the non-academic needs of pupils against management duties and targets.”

The Ulster University researcher adds: “Too often, this leads to stress and mental health problems.” 

To remedy this, researcher Dr Barbara Skinner says school leaders must seek to reform their attitudes towards results, advising that the introduction of any “rigidly prescribed organisational and management structures” in schools “should be weighed against their impacts on professional identity and personal well-being.”

Improving Performance Management

Educate specialises in helping making performance management easier, faster and more effective.

 Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.

 To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on  or call 020 3411 1080.

Continuing professional development: an overlooked asset in boosting performance

School leaders are investing less in providing teachers with continuing professional development as budgeting cuts and financial strain lead schools to direct spending towards other areas, new research indicates. 

According to statistics published by the Teachers Development Trust, spending on CPD in schools dropped by £23m year-on-year for the 2016-17 school year. 

Schools in England spend just 0.5% of their budgets on CPD on average, with research revealing that 10.5% of secondary schools and 4.5% of primary schools spent no money at all on continuing professional development in 2016-17.

The Department for Education cites CPD provision as an essential element in bolstering school success and urges that “professional development must be prioritised by school leadership.”

Yet financial strain appears to preventing schools from offering CPD activities, with a government teacher survey last year finding cost to be the most commonly cited barrier to teachers accessing effective CPD.

The lack of quality development opportunities available to teachers as a result is noted by the OECD, which states that “the quality and nature of continuing training available [in UK schools] is very uneven”. 

91% of teachers affirmed that the were prevented by barriers including cost and workload from accessing continuing professional development in a Department for Education survey last year.

This lack of access is particularly concerning given that widespread research has confirmed the benefits of CPD, with statistics showing strong links between CPD provision and improvements in pupil outcomes, staff morale and retention rates.

An extensive 15 year study on learning influences by University of Auckland professor John Hattie found CPD to be in the top 20 most influential elements in improving pupil outcomes out of 138 practices analysed.

In order to reap the benefits of professional development provision whilst adhering to a tight school budget, school leaders must be selective in finding good value and cost-free approaches to incorporate CPD opportunities into their management systems.

Choosing the right training 

One key criticism often levelled at CPD as a strategy is the broadness of the term. 

Comprising any activity that helps workers develop their skills and knowledge, and enhance their professional practice, CPD can take a vast range of forms in schools — from accreditation courses, training and workshops, to in-school mentoring schemes and peer group exchanges. 

A CPD strategy can encompass on one hand activities as small-scale as individual teacher reading and reflection and on the other involve intra-school visits, education conferences and widescale network collaboration.

As a result, the sort of strategy chosen by a school is hugely significant to CPD’s effectiveness in terms of both results and time and cost efficiency.

TDT chief executive David Weston warns that “a large swathe of training has no effect whatsoever on pupil outcomes,” adding: 

“The training most schools choose is often poorly chosen and ineffective, and the evidence about how to fix this is not widely known or understood.”

Research shows that CPD is most effective when it is targeted, evidence-based, collaborative, sustained over time and subjected to periodic evaluations. 

In particular, collaborative techniques such as implementing networks for topic-specific best practice sharing both within and across schools can be very effective in improving pupil outcomes.

These networks offer a low-cost way to bolster professional development and staff support and strengthen ties between colleagues, pooling resources and uniting staff on common goals in areas like special educational needs, maths and English teaching.

One MAT head notes that implementing system leader networks “reduces our resource needs by creating a synergy and network of people working together.”

This activity in particular provides staff with an opportunity to build their leadership and initiative skills, fostering the next generation of school leaders and improving job satisfaction.

In addition, collaborative efforts can be surprisingly time effective, with technology allowing networks to communicate remotely and for free via chat groups. 

Time efficiency is another key concern in prioritising CPD strategies, with many school leaders reluctant to add to staff’s heavy workloads with mandatory courses or trialling of new teaching methods.  

In its 2018 school snapshot survey report, the Department for Education found that 51% of over 1,000 teachers surveyed did not feel they had time to take up significant professional development activities such as courses.

Therefore when selecting their CPD offerings, it is imperative that schools focus on those that maximise time efficiency alongside cost considerations.

Incorporating CPD into existing performance management strategies, such as via 360 degrees performance appraisals, is one option.

Additionally, schools are advised to ensure that their chosen CPD offerings dovetail as neatly as possible with the school’s specific development goals, so that time spent on development has a tangible impact on improving outcomes and doesn’t feel to teachers like a gratuitous additional activity.

External experts and evaluations

Whilst in-school strategies such as peer networks and incorporating CPD into existing performance management policies offer cost-effective and time-effective results, research suggests that offering teachers some training from external experts is important and can significantly boost CPD’s effectiveness.

External experts offer not just evidence-based training and insight, but also bring a fresh perspective from outside of the school to identify and correct bad habits which may have become widespread across a school.

When choosing workshops and courses, schools are advised to be selective — aiming for a few, well-chosen, longer term courses directly related to practical school development objectives rather than a wide array of one-off workshops on a variety of subjects.

Research suggests that schools can achieve better results with training which takes place over a sustained period of time and which is more hands-on in nature, in part because allowing teachers to practice new skills is crucial to enforcing new techniques.

One-off sessions and out-of-school events such as conferences are therefore less likely to have an impact on teaching quality than more personalised, hands-on courses where smaller groups of teachers receive training support over an extended period of time. 

For similar reasons, training should be as targeted as possible, concentrating on a small set of focuses to allow teachers to thoroughly extend their knowledge and key skills on a specific subject and to practice what they learn during sessions.

Analysts advise against superficial focus on ‘tips and tricks’ and bought-in lesson plans, as such techniques are less likely to build teachers’ own skills and confidence and so improve the long term quality of their teaching.

In addition, school management should strive to evaluate the effectiveness and progress of CPD offerings should after training is delivered. 

Whilst this may in the short term add time and cost to the process, in the long-term such evaluation is key to ensuring that a school’s CPD provision is as streamlined and effective as possible. 

At the moment, only 3% of UK secondary schools evaluate the impact of CPD on student outcomes and attainment, promoting a scattershot, inefficient, hit-and-miss approach to training investments and making it difficult to know which offerings are truly proving to be the most valuable.


Improving Performance Management

Educate specialises in helping making performance management easier, faster and more effective.

 Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.

 To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on  or call 020 3411 1080.

When appraisal goes wrong…

Strikes as teachers protest “punitive” appraisal policies 

Strikes: School leaders have been given pause for concern over their performance appraisal practices as teachers at several schools in England go on strike in protest of their schools’ performance management practices.

 Teachers in Solihull and Derbyshire recently held the first of multiple planned days of strike action after raising concerns about school appraisal policies including lesson observations and performance management meetings.

 The NASUWT members who organised strikes at Light Hall School in Solihull Granville Academy in Derbyshire say that teachers have been left “feeling stressed” and with “very low” morale by excessive oversight from management.

 Key demands included a restriction on the number of times teachers can be observed teaching, as well as fairer pay practices and a less pressurising approach to performance management — which workers say is currently affecting their mental health and wellbeing.

 The action highlights a disconnection between schools’ and teachers’ perceptions of performance appraisals however, with leaders at both institutions contesting the strikes. 

 Light Hall School head teacher Annette Kimblin underlines school management’s responsibility to implement “quality assurance procedures,” noting:

 “Their purpose is simple: to ensure the highest standards of delivery are maintained and that there is equality and consistency of educational provision for all our young people.”

 Kimblin adds that she is particularly “disappointed about the industrial action because there is an appeal process for teacher appraisals, which nobody has used before striking.”

 Teachers’ union leaders however say that their members “have not made the decision to strike lightly,” but are moved by profound issues with appraisal policies and the unresponsiveness of their schools to these issues to take action.

 NASUWT general secretary Chris Keates says:

“The NASUWT has deep concerns about the way in which policies around lesson observations, performance management and capability and disciplinary matters are being carried out which has contributed to a punitive climate in the school for teachers.”

 Improving pupil performance is clearly a central focus of performance management in schools, with regulations stipulating that teacher performance objectives should aim to “contribute to improving the education of pupils” or further “any plan of the governing board designed to improve that school’s educational provision and performance.”  

The frequency of observations should not of itself be a cause for striking; in fact most surveys show that employees crave more feedback from their employers not less.  However, if the quality of feedback and observation is poor then it can cause resentment and disenchantment.  Training middle leaders in the best way to conduct feedback and appraisal is necessary to ensure the process engages staff in their own development.

 By basing evaluations on a balanced, holistic overview of both teacher performance and pupil progress, schools may be able to more effectively monitor and improve their education provision without demoralising or unfairly penalising teachers.

 Schools advised to measure progress broadly

 First and foremost, research shows that it is most important that teachers perceive their performance appraisals and objectives to be fair.

 Appraisal policies and processes felt by teachers to be unfair have been linked to not only a breakdown in manager-employee relations, but also to poor outlooks on job satisfaction, motivation and future progress: ultimately leading to setbacks rather than gains in teachers’ performance.

 In addition, evaluations which are too narrow in their considerations or based only on a small sample of data are less likely to provide a full, accurate portrayal of teachers’ performance, and risk penalising teacher for factors outside of their control or for performance assessments which are simply inaccurate.

 To avoid making imbalanced evaluations which may be unfair to staff, schools are advised to base their appraisals on a wide range of measurements and considerations – both subjective and objective, without weighting any one, specific measure too greatly.

 A balanced evaluation may make teachers more likely to take critique on board as they feel more supported, whilst an understanding appraisal approach which takes into account aspects such as any measures taken by the teacher to resolve setbacks will enable managers to better identify and address the real causes of any progress issues.

 In addition, experts advise that it is also important for appraisal policies to acknowledge that external factors beyond the teacher will also affect pupil progress and outcomes, and so as such percentage fluctuations in class performance cannot be entirely attributed to the employee.

 Guidelines recommend that any performance objectives set for teachers should be attainable and tailored to the individual teacher, to avoid demoralising staff with seemingly unattainable or impertinent goals.

 The Department for Education’s model appraisal policy suggests that schools set performance goals which are: “specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound, and will be appropriate to the teacher’s role and level of experience.”

 The Association of Teachers and Lecturers meanwhile advises that “targets should be of the nature that, if reached, they contribute to the progress of pupils in its widest context.”

 To set reasonably attainable goals for teachers, schools should provide a clear and tailored definition of progress which is specific to the school’s own context.

 Some experts recommend that appraisal policies should not include set progress levels, but instead taking a more qualitative rather than quantitative approach to performance measurement.

Objectives should “not rely on raw data”

 In the name of providing broad and fair evaluations of pupil progress and teacher performance, several teachers’ unions advise against setting any numbers-based objectives whatsoever, holding that such measures lack nuance and may appear arbitrary.

 The Association of Teachers and Lecturers says it does “not support targets that specify what groups of pupils should attain in order for the teacher to be regarded as successful in that objective,” adding:

 “Schools should avoid setting numerical objectives that rely on raw data.”

 However, many schools do use number-based objectives, finding it to be a helpful and concrete way to assess improvement and back up more subjective, broader perceptions of a teacher’s performance and its impact on pupil outcomes.

 When deciding whether to implement number-based objectives, it is important that schools take into consideration the thoughts of teachers on such appraisal policies.

 The National Union of Teachers advises that performance objectives should not be “based on percentage target increases in tests or examinations” unless both managers and teachers “feel that the use of numerical targets is appropriate.”

 When numerical targets are implemented, the NUT advises: “the objectives should be reasonable, taking into account the context in which [teachers] work and that factors outside [their] control … may affect achievement.”

 Further, schools that decide to use numbers-based performance objective should still ensure that these measures are appropriately weighted, so as to avoid outcomes which could be deemed unfair or punitive.

 A recommendation for a teacher’s pay award should be based on that teacher’s level of skill and their development measured against the Teacher Standards, not solely based on whether objectives have been met or not met.

 Secondly, number-based goals should not be too exacting in their aims, providing scope for an acceptable range of improvement outcomes rather than demanding a precise rate of improvement from teachers.

 Goals should take account of the context of the pupils themselves, perhaps using measures such as the progress in outcomes for pupils eligible for the pupil premium or those with SEN to provide a more in-depth analysis of education quality. 

Allowing for a broader range of acceptable results and input variables in performance appraisals allows for more understanding of factors beyond the teacher’s own performance which affect pupil outcomes, and avoids demoralising or penalising employees unnecessarily.

Improving Performance Management

Educate specialises in helping making performance management easier, faster and more effective.Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.

To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on  or call 020 3411 1080.

Support for teachers central to improving schools

The government has pledged to provide more support for teachers, as measures to aid those in the early stages of their career form a central focus of new policies to boost teacher performance and improve recruitment and retention rates within the profession.

In January, government officials announced an “ambitious” new strategy for the teaching profession,with an additional £130m a year to be put towards providing a two-year support package for new teachers under the newly created Early Career Framework

Education Secretary Damian Hinds says that his department’s new approach is based on a “commit[tment] to supporting teachers – particularly those at the start of their career – to focus on what actually matters, the pupils in their classrooms.”

As well as a longer period of initial support, teachers have also been promised improved access to mentoring, a better provision of professional development opportunities and a reduced workload – with less emphasis on non-teaching tasks.

The Department for Education has also outlined aims to make part-time working easier and take a simpler approach to recruitment, in order to encourage strong candidates from all backgrounds to apply.

Whilst some concerns have been raised regarding the altering of recruitment strategy — withNASBTT leaders saying that undue pressure has been placed on training providers to accept lower quality applicants — the news of a renewed commitment to providing better support for teachers has been overwhelmingly welcomed by the education sector.

ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton has noted that plans for an early career framework have “the potential to be a game-changer”, whilst NAHT chief Paul Whiteman similarly projected that the framework could “transform the reality of teaching in England”.

The strength of response to the framework underlines the centrality of good teacher support to school performance and pupil outcomes. 

From a management perspective, providing adequate professional support to teachers is one of the most significant factors in determining a teacher’s performance.

In order to get the most out of teachers at the beginning of their career and beyond, school leaders should seek to implement management policies that support their teachers at all stages – nurturing talent, offering flexibility and providing a clear path for professional development.

Improving accountability practices

Accountability practices in education are one area of performance management often criticised for undermining teachers, with experts warning that teaching suffers from the “audit culture” of today.

The emphasis of the current school accountability system on data and inspections has been linked by research to negative effects on teacher performance and job satisfaction, with some feeling that the overly numerical and punitive approach is unfair on teachers and undermines good teaching.

New policies have made some progress towards recognising that a less stringent, punitive approach to accountability is necessary to enhance teacher performance, with plans to simplify the accountability system and remove floor and coasting standards from Ofsted inspections announced this year. 

The education secretary meanwhile has voiced concern that teachers are in some cases “spending more than half their time on non-teaching tasks” as a result of the administrative burdens of collecting data and accounting for pupil outcomes – to the detriment of their performance.

To ensure that accountability strategy is as supportive of teachers as possible, schools should ensure that their internal policies do not overly emphasise data-collection or numerical outcomes where possible. 

Individual teacher performance objectives and assessment criteria should not rely solely on numerical outcomes, as this can negatively skew both the teaching of a teacher and the accuracy of their performance evaluation, causing damage to both pupil outcomes and employee job satisfaction.

Instead, assessment strategy should centre around building strong relationships between teachers and managers, instilling self-confidence in teachers and providing a culture where they are able to voice problems, access managerial support and work together with managers on solutions.

Any changes to existing assessment and accountability criteria should be agreed by both managers and teachers as far as possible. 

Allowing teachers to give input on how they are held to account will help to ensure that the benefits of implementing new accountability measures are properly weighed against their impact on teacher workload, whilst also promoting a shared vision of performance aims to improve teacher motivation and job satisfaction.

In this way, a more collaborative, less punitive approach to accountability will enable teachers to perform their best and take initiative, while enabling them to approach management with challenges if they arise. 

As Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT notes, a less burdensome secondary accountability system would benefit school leaders in the same way, “free[ing] school leaders to concentrate on what matters most, and that’s delivering for pupils.”

Mentoring and flexible working support

In addition to avoiding punitive policy and lessening the administrative burden on teachers, schools can see significant performance benefits from directly improving their support provisions for teachers.

Commenting on the Early Career Framework, Geoff Barton of the Association of School and College Leaders notes: 

“Providing teachers with support and development during the first few years of their career and helping them to flourish in the classroom […] can help to raise the status of teaching to where it deserves to be: as a life-enhancing vocation.”

In terms of support, mentoring schemes for example can not only improve new teacher performance but also provide opportunities for new and experienced staff alike, offering established teachers CPD opportunities via the chance to train in mentoring their colleagues.

For new staff, mentoring provides insightful and challenging feedback from colleagues who have been in their position, promoting a trusting and communicative working environment which in turn can build infrastructure for wider school performance initiatives.

To harness this collaborative potential, schools should aim to assign a dedicated mentoring lead if possible to oversee mentoring strategy. In addition to specific training for mentors, leads could also provide basic guidance on how to counsel colleagues to all staff, so as to create a network of support and collaborative solution-seeking across the school.

Another way that schools can create a supportive environment for their staff is by offering flexible working options.

Flexible working conditions and job share opportunities have both proven successful in schools, with NASUWT leaders asserting that the promotion of flexible teaching “makes a positive contribution to the workplace.”

The Department for Education acknowledges evidence that providing flexible working options can help schools “to get the very best out of their teachers”, stating in guidance:

“[Flexible working] improves employees’ work-life balance and well-being, helps to attract and retain staff, particularly those with caring responsibilities, increases productivity and

reduces costs.”

Schools are advised to be open-minded when considering flexible roles and consider cases on an individual basis. 

For recruitment purposes, flexible working can widen the pool of highly qualified, available candidates, whilst for retention, the practice can be offered to defer the retirement of experienced teachers and help teachers return to work more quickly after parental leave, easing the impact of staff transition periods on pupils in both cases. 

Accommodating teachers in job-share roles is set to become easier for schools, with the government having announced plans to introduce a new match-making service for teachers seeking a job-share.

Improving Performance Management

Educate specialises in helping making performance management easier, faster and more effective.Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.

To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on  or call 020 3411 1080.

Supportive performance management can help retention

Schools may be able to combat waning teacher retention levels by adjusting their approach to performance management, research suggests.

With the number of teachers in state schools dropping to the lowest levels for five years in 2018 and the secondary school pupil population alone predicted to rise by 400,000 (14.7%) by 2027, the staff retention crisis remains an increasingly pressing concern for schools.
The Public Accounts Committee has warned that teacher retention rates are at risk of causing grave issues for UK schools, with chair Meg Hillier urging: “The Government must get a grip on teacher retention and we expect it to set out a targeted, measurable plan to support struggling schools as a matter of urgency.”

Low job satisfaction is a leading factor in the downward trajectory of teacher retention levels, with the Department for Education finding that an increasing number of teachers are leaving the profession for reasons other than retirement due to dissatisfaction with workload , pay and a lack of professional development opportunity.  Whilst efforts towards boosting teacher satisfaction have largely tended towards proposals to decrease workload and offer pay incentives, schools may also be able to improve their retention rates by simply rethinking their management practices to place a higher priority on the needs of staff.  According to research, teachers are significantly more likely to remain in schools where performance management policies are supportive and place an emphasis on career development opportunities for their employees.  To tackle retention issues, schools should therefore seek to instil a more supportive ethos in their performance management strategies: encouraging strong management-teacher communications, prioritising professional development opportunities, inviting staff feedback and placing more emphasis in performance conversations on teachers’ support needs rather than on targets and pupil outcomes.

Balancing teacher performance and needs

In harnessing performance management for the benefit of improving teacher retention levels, schools need to balance a managerial focus on supporting teachers and their personal career development alongside more traditional focus on improving pupil outcomes.   Achieving this balance is key to preserving the essential role of performance management in pupil outcomes, with one study finding that a 1 point improvement in performance management on a scale of 1 to 5 equates to an improvement of approximately four GCSE grades per pupil.  In addition, an average difference of two GSCE grades per pupil has been found between UK schools with average management scores and those in the lowest 10% of management efficacy.
Schools can best balance this twin managerial focus on teacher support and pupil outcomes through identifying strategies which serve both aims where possible.

For example, in terms of communication, implementing frequent teacher-management meetings for feedback and reviews can not only help managers to monitor and address problems with performance targets, but can also help to ensure that teachers feel valued and supported. 
Schools should aim to foster a general culture of open communication between teachers and school leadership at all levels, with studies showing higher retention rates at schools where head-teachers instate an open-door office policy, prioritise communication and make a point to meet with new teachers.

The nature as well as frequency of this communication is important to improving relationships: discussions between management and leadership should not solely comprise performance-based feedback, but also include consideration of the teacher as an individual and their needs. 
As well as inviting feedback from teachers in formal sit-down meetings, school leaders should try to take a more personal interest in staff and make an effort to acknowledge any achievements: whether via email or simply in casual conversation.  Through small, positive, personal gestures, school leaders can counter and compliment more performance-centric discussions to make staff feel more valued, as researchers note that “many teachers…do not feel valued or reward sufficiently for their efforts by …leaders in their schools.”

Prioritising continuing professional development in performance management practice is another way to make teachers feel valued and supported. As National Association of Head Teachers general secretary Paul Whiteman observes:

“Professional training [is] not keeping pace with teachers’ expectations. They don’t ask for much but they are getting even less.”

With 60% of teachers leaving their last job for reasons related to career advancement or development, schools must make sure to offer accomplished teachers sufficient growth opportunities to keep them satisfied.  Teachers who perform well in periodic performance reviews and are not feeling challenged enough by their targets should therefore be offered the opportunity to take on new roles within the school as peer assistants or project coordinators. 
By offering accomplished teachers these opportunities, schools can provide quality staff with the leadership and administrative experience they desire and in turn invest in the next generation of the school’s leadership, while also likely seeing benefits to school performance.

Managerial support training key

In addition to improving communication and career development, schools must ensure that their performance management policies provide adequate general support to teachers. 
A lack of proper support can lead to problems with both teacher performance and retention rates, with high teacher turnover more common in schools with poor school management support.  In one US survey of 32,000 teachers, the quality of peer and administrative support offered by a school ranked among the key deciding factors in a teacher’s choice to leave their profession.  School leaders should therefore aim to instate policies that make teachers feel supported, trusted and engaged by their leadership and management: ensuring that teachers are involved in important decisions and that managers are equipped to nurture their staff.
To achieve this, it is important that managers are given proper training in how to effectively support teachers and deliver performance appraisals.  This will offer teachers the work and resource support they need to manage their workload, focus on teaching and improve their performance — ultimately leading to gains in job satisfaction and staff retention.

Support for new and incoming teachers is particularly important in order to maintain good pupil outcomes and build strong working relationships between management and teachers, ensuring that new staff are able to perform well and feel invested in the school.
New teachers should be offered additional support from managers, through initiatives such as mentor allocations and induction programs.  This support should be followed through as teachers progress, with measures such as monthly one-on-one meetings to address teachers’ support needs and performance.

In addition, more experienced teachers should be offered the opportunity to engage in the school’s decision making processes, by being invited to board meetings and other administrative discussions.  Including staff in important decisions will help to promote an environment of trust, boosting job satisfaction and retention rates.  To this end, performance management policies should also aim to give teachers as much latitude as possible over how their classrooms are run and engage teachers in setting their own objectives.

Improving Performance Management

Educate specialises in helping making performance management easier, faster and more effective.Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.

To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on  or call 020 3411 1080.

Performance boosted by prioritising development

Performance management researchers are heralding the rise of ‘coaching’ styles of management performance, as studies suggest that a focus on individual employees’ development and progression is key to boosting overall workplace performance and productivity. 

Surveys suggest that managers who focus on getting to know and understand workers’ individual strengths and maintaining individual employee engagement are likely to see the biggest improvements in performance, as modern workers seemingly respond better to a mentoring style of leadership than a more fixed, traditional approach.

 Employees list ongoing feedback, opportunities to learn and grow and accountability among their top needs from managers.

Despite this however, the majority of organisations appear to be lacking an emphasis on employees’ personal and professional development in their performance management strategies. 

More than 8 in 10 employees report that they do not properly discuss their career progression with their manager, with 70% feeling that they are not adequately involved in setting their own objectives.

Without proper emphasis on personal objectives and career progression, workers are more likely to lose motivation, feel unable to achieve their performance aims and ultimately leave their role. 

Currently, research indicates that 79% of workers feel that their performance is not managed in a way that motivates them

Schools urged to heed career progression needs

In education specifically, there is a clear need to develop more supportive managerial practices, with campaigners, the government and industry leaders all underlining the lack of career progression support available to teachers. 

Despite education ministers noting a “growing culture” of professional development within teaching, figures show that annual school spending on CPD dropped by nearly 9% (£23.2m) in 2016-17, ending an upwards trend in professional development spending since 2011.

The Teacher Development Trust found that 4.5% of primary schools and 10.5% of secondary schools spent nothing at all on CPD in the 2016-17 school year. 

The government has acted to boost mentorship by extending the induction period for new teachers to two years, in a move which policy makers hope will “strengthen” support for QTS and further career progression.

In a consultation report published last year, the Department for Education emphasised the need for schools to offer more career progression support to staff, noting that “career development pathways outside of traditional leadership and management routes are not always visible or readily available to all teachers.”

The report expressed concern for the “very little formal provision” of support for teachers between the stages of QTS and NPQ levels, as well as for longterm, expert teachers.
In particular however, the DfE urged schools to place more focus on the “needs of teachers in their third year of teaching and the few years after this,” stating:

“This group often make up the majority of a school’s workforce, but it is also the stage at which a growing number of teachers leave the profession, which suggests that there is more that can be done to respond to the needs of these teachers.”

By focusing on performance development and individual career progression, schools may therefore have a better chance of seeing a return on their overall investment in performance management and CPD — retaining more of the teachers hey have trained and harnessing the full potential of those in the workforce who are ready to expand their subject knowledge and take on more responsibilities within the school.

Creating a coaching relationship between managers and teachers

In order to provide an effective, development-focused, ‘coaching’ style of performance management, it is important that managers understand teachers’ individual strengths and challenges, so as to be aware of what is needed to both boost performance and ensure job satisfaction.

Performance discussions between managers and employees should be held frequently in order to both develop this insight and strengthen overall relations and teamwork between managers and teachers.

These meetings should be used both for feedback and to discuss the concrete steps to be taken towards teachers’ individual development and progression, with specific goals agreed collaboratively to ensure clear performance expectations.

By instating a routine of regular check-ins, in which small, specific goals are met and replaced by new, small goals on the path to broader, annual objectives, managers can better identify and resolve issues, boost performance and even improve employee job satisfaction.

Only one in five employees report strongly agreeing that they have talked to their manager in the past six months about steps to reach their goals, according to a recent survey.

More frequent input can have a significant impact on performance focus however, with those who have discussed their goal plan with their manager in the past six months 3.5 times more likely to be engaged. 

Researchers suggest that this is because focusing on short term goals creates tangible, achievable aims for workers — making progress smaller and more easy to accomplish, boosting motivation and providing a fuller sense of what is needed to work towards more abstract, long-term goals.

As well as ensuring frequency, it is also of course important for the content of the meetings to be helpful — with clear feedback from managers leading to a 2.9 times more engaged workforce in one study.

Only 1 in 2 employees report feeling confident in knowing what is expected of them in terms of working towards their performance objectives on a daily basis, underlining the failure of many management strategies to communicate directly and effectively with workers on their aims.

To this end, the check-ins must also give the teacher the sense of being held genuinely accountable for their performance objectives. 

Research shows that 60% of workers do not feel that their manager holds them accountable for their performance goals, despite accountability being linked to a 2.5x improvement in employee engagement.

In order to ensure that employees feel able to be held personally accountable for their performance goals, the objectives and feedback given must be realistic and understanding of the individual worker’s specific circumstances. 

Only one in five workers strongly feel that their performance is measured by factors which are within their control — with this disjunct between objectives and ability linked to loss of motivation, low job satisfaction and poor performance gains.

In brief, managers should aim to provide effective feedback which is clear, points to achievable next steps, and ideally invites engagement and input from employees themselves. 

By shifting from reliance on annual performance reviews towards a more regular, progress-oriented approach, managers can benefit not only individual employee performance and satisfaction, but also the overall performance of the organisation, with strengthened communication channels and a more motivated and focused work-force.

Improving Performance Management

Educate specialises in helping making performance management easier, faster and more effective.

 Educate supports teachers, school leaders, governors and education managers to develop and implement best practice staff performance management systems that deliver improved learning.

 To learn more on how Educate can help your school improve its performance management practices please email Carol French on  or call 020 3411 1080.

To find out how Educate can support staff through performance management, book a demo or call us on 0203 411 1080.

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