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Leading from the front

I am not alone in believing that great education requires great teaching.

Such teaching unlocks potential and fires enthusiasm for learning. Consequently, the most important aspect of the role of the headteacher and other school leaders is to lead, model, monitor and manage teaching so that they can get the best from their colleagues. Of course heads have many demands on their time, but none should figure so highly as the leadership of teaching and learning. After all, teaching is the core business of all schools and we should spare no effort to get it right and to continue to improve it.

Good and great teachers are those who know that there is always something more to learn about the art of teaching. They should be recognised, praised and rewarded through strong performance management systems. It's also important that those teachers who are not doing a particularly good job are appraised at an early stage so they can improve.

The best teachers continually hone their craft. Properly targeted professional development to help individuals tackle their weaknesses or extend their strengths must be an integral part of the performance management process. This can only happen if heads and leaders accurately identify the actions needed by the school and by individual teachers to bring about improvement. After all, we assess pupils' learning and point out how they can improve. The same principle should apply to our performance as teachers.

Our inspection evidence shows that if headteachers and other leaders do not effectively monitor the quality of teaching and lead on professional development, standards decline. Those who teach well and are fully committed to the school feel unappreciated and those who require professional help, or possibly the "tough" conversation on performance, decline further.

It's interesting to note that inspectors comment that the principal reason for schools previously judged "outstanding" slipping back to "good" is weaknesses in the monitoring of teaching and learning. Lesson observation, continuing professional development and robust performance management are at the heart of improving pupil performance and raising school attainment.

In my experience, the great majority of staff work hard for their pupils and want that to be recognised through salary progression and promotion. Poor performance management does not sufficiently differentiate between outstanding, good and ineffective teacher performance. It is absolutely vital that headteachers implement robust performance management programmes that are seen as equitable and that reward merit rather than long service.

The new framework for inspection focuses on the importance of performance management in schools. Inspectors will spend much more time with headteachers and governors on the monitoring of teaching and learning and the effectiveness of staff evaluation.

Hardworking and effective teachers have nothing to worry about in relation to performance management and, indeed, see it as an essential tool to support their professional development and career progression.

Sir Michael Wilshaw is Her Majesty's Chief Inspector.

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