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Helpline;School Management

Q. Appraisal seems to have melted away: it is four years since I was last appraised. Should I ask for it to be done again?

A.

Many teachers found the appraisal system - introduced as a result of an agreement between the employers, the unions and the government - professionally stimulating and useful. Unfortunately, it was such a thorough procedure that it was time-consuming and costly, at a time when no resources were available to make it work effectively. The scheme was also open to criticism, unfairly perhaps, that it was not linked into many of the other aspects of school improvement, such as development planning and target-setting, which have subsequently appeared on the scene.

Not surprisingly, therefore, in many schools, like yours, the system has fallen further and further behind or has been abandoned altogether. In others, brave attempts have been made to sustain it.

The Government is now planning to relaunch appraisal in a simplified form. Informed sources suggest that it will be done on an annual basis; that it will not necessarily include lesson observation, (one of the most costly activities); that it will be conducted on a line-management basis and that it will be linked, at least in part, with school targets for pupil outcomes. Details of the scheme have yet to be published and it is not difficult to forecast that, when they are, there will be both controversy and conern that many of the more attractive features of the old scheme will be lost.

By all means ask for an appraisal, if you feel that it would help you, but be aware of what is coming over the horizon.

Q.

For financial reasons, we want to appoint a newly-qualified teacher. Can we specify this in the advertisement?

A.

It is an appalling reflection of the state of school funding that a question of this sort should be asked. A school should be looking for the best possible teacher for the job to be filled.

If a newly-qualified teacher is being sought, the reasons should be that the post in question is appropriate for a beginner and that the school is looking deliberately for the freshness and enthusiasm which a new recruit to the profession brings to the job.

I would suggest that the advertisement might read: "Post suitable for a new entrant to the profession; experienced teachers will also be considered."

Q.

One of my staff has asked to see her personal file. Has she the right to see this? Should we remove confidential references?

A.

A teacher has an undoubted right to examine the file which you hold and to correct any inaccuracy which may be found in it.

By confidential references, you could be referring to two different things: references written about her by others which the school received prior to her appointment, or references which you have written in connection with applications for other jobs.

In the former case, assuming that they were confidential at the time, they should remain so now and not be kept in her personal file. In the latter case, good management practice should have ensured that she was well aware of the judgments you have been making on her and there is no reason why she should not have sight of them. If you did not wish her to see them, they should not be kept in her personal file, nor in computer storage, to which she also has right of access under the Data Protection Act.

Archimedes

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