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New blow for appraisal

Most enthusiastic council confesses to 'increasing doubts that it is worth the candle'

As the Government faces down right-wing criticism of its decision to abandon plans for compulsory appraisal of teachers, it has emerged that the council which has put most teachers through the appraisal process is reconsidering the value of the whole exercise.

Dumfries and Galloway won plaudits from the previous government for appraising more than 90 per cent of its teachers compared with the national figure of just over 30 per cent and the lowest effort in Aberdeen and Glasgow where by last August only 10 per cent of teachers had been appraised.

Ken Macleod, director of education in Dumfries and Galloway, told last week's meeting of the General Teaching Council: "Some of us are having increasing doubts as to whether appraisal is worth the candle. It is so hedged about with confidentiality that I doubt it benefits the school or the teacher."

Mr Macleod said later: "Appraisal has become something for the individual but it doesn't assist with school development planning and therefore it doesn't impinge on the performance of the school or the service we provide to youngsters. It would be fair to say we are agonising over appraisal. We will be taking a step back and asking how effective it is in terms of the overall quality of the education service."

Mr Macleod's comments come in the wake of confirmation that the GTC remains as keen as ever on taking a grip of appraisal as well as dealing with cases of incompetent teachers (page six).

The Educational Institute of Scotland has backed the council's involvement in monitoring and promoting appraisal. But it echoes Mr Macleod's reservations arguing that existing schemes "do not yet link coherently with the planned availability of appropriate in-service courses or with school development planning".

Brian Wilson, the Education Minister, announced last week that the National Co-ordinating Committee for the Staff Development of Teachers is to review the Scottish Office guidelines on appraisal, issued when the system was introduced on a voluntary basis in 1991.

Mr Wilson said he was determined to achieve a workable system but it would not be mandatory. The purpose of the review was "to extract the best from existing practice so that every authority may have an effective system of appraisal at the heart of school management planning".

Maggi Allan, director of education in South Lanarkshire, who chairs the co-ordinating committee, acknowledged that existing guidelines take no account of a more sophisticated approach by schools to quality management. Mrs Allan said: "We hope to place appraisal within a more logical framework, find the right balance between the needs of the teacher and those of the school, minimise the bureaucracy so that the process is meaningful to people, and absorb the best practice from some of the appraisal schemes being introduced by the new authorities."

The issue was "crying out for a solution", Gordon Kirk, the GTC's vice-convener, said. "There is a strong argument for saying appraisal is integral to professional life, that teachers have an entitlement to full support, and that the prelude to that support is appraisal."

The GTC is at pains to avoid any link to its parallel demand for power to strike incompetent teachers from the register. Appraisal must be seen as "positive and non-threatening", a statement said.

Directors, however, remain resolutely opposed to any GTC involvement. John Travers, president of the Association of Directors of Education, said: "It smacks of the creeping centralisation of Scottish education which we hope the Government will reverse."

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