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Masterclass: Managing performance - Pointers on progress

Setting clear objectives and monitoring progress can help senior staff develop teachers to their highest potential

Managing staff performance is a critical part of any school structure. There are two major benefits: the pupils will be taught by effective, focused teachers and teachers gain from an assessment of their needs for continuing professional development (CPD).

It's a team effort. The head may have overall responsibility for the quality of teaching, but often they cannot effectively assess all the teachers so it falls on senior staff to assist. To work, performance management must be part of the general school culture.

It's necessary for any system to be open and fair. Schools must produce a policy and an agreed procedure for how it is implemented. The policy must allow all teachers to be treated on an equal basis and be simple to put into practice.

First there should be a discussion and a record of priorities and objectives, with the teacher being monitored. There must also be talk on how progress will be monitored, perhaps using observation forms and statistics on pupils' results.

Discuss the teacher's work priorities, the needs of their pupils and their personal concerns. Once these are clear, agree specific objectives for the monitoring period. The prime focus of this discussion should be the progress of pupils, and the way the teacher can best engage and stretch pupils and themselves through their teaching.

Agreeing objectives doesn't mean itemising everything. Objectives will need to cover pupils' progress as well as ways of developing and improving professional practice - attendance at CPD courses, for example.

The objectives must be clear and concise. They need to be challenging, but not unrealistic, otherwise teachers may feel they are being set up to fail. They should also be flexible because they may need amending or replacing if staff move to different teaching groups or classes are re-set. Up to four objectives would be a reasonable number over a monitoring period.

Another way to monitor staff performance is through classroom observation, a vital part of teachers' professional development. Bear in mind that the observer will require preparation and training on how to observe. Make sure everyone knows why the observation is happening, with agreed areas to look at.

The most structured way to manage staff performance is through a performance review. It should recognise achievements and discuss areas for improvement and professional development.

The focus should be on how to raise performance and improve effectiveness for the pupils and the teacher.

Finally, if a teacher is unhappy with any aspect of a performance management review, then there must be a route for concerns to be raised with the headteacher or governing body.

James Williams is a lecturer in science education at the University of Sussex Next week: From NQT to SMT


- Ensure the teacher understands the objectives and the implications of meeting or failing to meet any objective.

- Take account of any factors outside a teacher's control which might affect the attainment of any of the objectives.

- Ensure that the objectives relate to any whole school objectives for teaching performance.

- Recognise the teacher's strengths and achievements.

- Confirm any actions agreed with the teacher in writing.

- Identify any areas for development or training and how these will be met.

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