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Are you performing wonders?

Jane Martin reports on how governors can best shoulder their responsibility for performance management policies.

Teachers who are failing in their jobs will be helped to "leave with dignity", school standards minister David Miliband told a recent performance management conference.

Responsibility for a school's performance management policy rests with the governing body - as does that of managing the performance of the headteacher.

These weigh heavy with many governors. In fact they underpin their authority.

So far as staff are concerned, the critical distinction is that governors need to approve the policy while the practice of performance management is carried out by the headteacher and senior staff. It is important to ensure that you have an appropriate and adequate policy which treats all staff fairly and equally when assesssing and supporting their performance.

Performance management is a way of helping schools by supporting and improving teachers' work, both as individuals and in teams. It should set the framework for teachers and team leaders to agree and review priorities and objectives linked to the school development plan.

In assessing the performance management policy, the governing body should consider how best to manage an important and sensitive area.

Make sure that the most appropriate team groupings are in place to reflect teachers' work. Ensure that team leaders are not overburdened with too many staff to manage.

Above all, the policy must treat all teachers consistently and be simple to operate and implement. It should encourage teachers to share good practice and support their professional development.

Guidance is available on the Department for Education and Skills website.

The policy should follow an annual cycle of performance management linked to the school's improvement planning processes in three stages: planning, monitoring and review:

* planning: team leaders discuss and record priorities and objectives with each of the teachers in their team. They discuss how progress will be monitored.

* monitoring: the teacher and team leader keep progress under review throughout the cycle, taking any supportive action needed.

* review: the teacher and the team leader review achievements over the year and evaluate the teacher's overall performance taking account of progress against objectives.

Effective performance management will be characterised by:

* Commitment from the governing body and senior staff.l Clearly defined responsibilities for developing and implementing the policy.

* An inclusive process and clear timetable for reviewing the policy. l Agreed standard proformas.

* Planning processes and objectives to take into account the school improvement planning process.

* Agreed monitoring processes and clear criteria for classroom observations.

* Reviews which consider both strengths and weaknesses linked to professional development opportunities.

* Clear monitoring arrangements of the policy by the governing body. Performance Management Guide for Governors, June 2000, see

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