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Chairs at loggerheads

Appraisal could land governors in front of employment tribunals. Karen Thornton reports.

THERE were some surprise new responsibilities for governors in the Government's recently published draft regulations on performance management.

The regulations outline how ministers' proposals for appraising heads and teachers - part of the Green Paper package of pay and performance changes - should be implemented in schools.

Governors already knew they would be involved in managing their headteachers' performance-related pay and appraisal. Boards should have set performance objectives for heads last term, which will form the basis for appraisals this autumn.

But they weren't expecting more than a strategic involvement in the appraisal of other teachers - just ensuring policies are in place and working, under the management of the headteacher.

However, the proposed regulations make the chairman or another nominated governor the court of appeal for heads and for teachers appraised by the head who are unhappy with their appraisals. The reviewing governor must not have been involved in the original appraisal.

"This is a new departure. We have real concerns about the new role of governors," said Chris Gale, chairman of the National Governors' Council.

Catherine Hinds, co-director of Information for School and College Governors, noted: "I'm chair of governors at a small primary school. If a member of staff came to me about their appraisal, that's immediately creating a rift between me and my headteacher. That's not what a chair should be doing."

he new appeals process could also land governors in front of employment tribunals, warns Jane Phillips, an independent governor-trainer and consultant.

"Will the explicit link with pay encourage dissatisfied heads to take their case to an employment tribunal? How can education authorities (the employers of most heads) support governors who are respondents at tribunals when they have been excluded from the process? What will be the result of chairs having to act as a court of appeal for teachers disgruntled with their appraisal, if the head was their appraiser?" she asks.

"In conducting the appraisal review, governing bodies become very vulnerable to undue pressure from heads and to becoming respondents at employment tribunals. The responsibility for review should lie outside the governing body."

Education authorities are not mentioned in the regulations - due before Parliament shortly. Headteachers' organisations have already expressed their concerns about governors appraising them, preferring instead to be evaluated by serving or retired heads from other education authorities.

Meanwhile, a Department for Education and Employment working group has drawn up plans for 10 hours of performance management training for governors. Courses should be running from the end of June, ready for starting the appraisal cycle in September.

This time around, governors will have to consult new external advisers before setting new targets for heads by December 31. Governors must ensure all other teachers have been set their targets by January 31, 2001.

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