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The path to good practice

Is Wales ready for the challenge of performance management? Richard Parry Jones describes the groundworkneeded.

It is hard to deny that teacher appraisal in many schools across Wales has become totally ineffective or even non-existent because it has been inadequately resourced. Teachers have been badly let down.

Provision for continuing professional development is patchy and in-service education and training is not sufficiently targeted to meet the needs of schools or individuals.

Teachers are discontent with current pay arrangements and the bureaucracy and work pressures they experience. There is also a serious lack of resources to support management development, especially as so many Welsh schools operate in a bilingual context.

These are by no means the only difficulties. Recruitment and retention of teachers has become a huge problem and is set to get worse. The role of governors is also seriously under-developed.

But there are also reasons to be cheerful. Many, if not most, schools have successfully established self-evaluating systems and have robust mechanisms for target-setting.

The national headteacher development programme has highlighted good practice and there is much more discussion regarding skills and competences at all levels within the profession. Foundations have also been laid through the portfolio for newly-qualified teachers for developing and tracking CPD. So what needs to be done to introduce performance management effectively in Wales? We must:

* convince teachers of its value - they will be sceptical of any further bureaucratic intrusions, given their previous experiences of appraisal;

* develop monitoring and classroom observation skills - this is a massive task but is absolutely key to the successful introduction of performance management;

* promote the use of new technologies - we must have robust comparators and allow schools easy access to national and local statistics across a range of education activities (in this respect we are lagging behind England, with no central direction and support);

* develop leadership, management and teaching skills in equal measures;

* ensure that senior and middle managers are committed, and able, o meet the development needs of teachers - performance management must produce outcomes for the individual teacher, and this entails resourcing in terms of finance and time;

* understand what constitutes effective teaching and learning. We need a national debate on this issue in Wales.

I believe that LEAs in Wales should take on the support and external evaluation tasks related to performance management that have been handed over to the private sector in England.

But I accept that unless LEAs can demonstrate clearly that they are making a positive contribution to added value, they do not deserve to be involved in this initiative.

The main challenge to LEAs is to create a multi-disciplinary specialist team to support performance management in schools. Given the size of our unitary authorities this should be done collaboratively on an LEA consortia basis. Local authorities must collaborate to provide external evaluators operating across LEA boundaries to ensure that impartial advice is offered to schools. Governing bodies also need objective and effective support on headteacher targets and remuneration. Given the large proportion of small primary and secondary schools in Wales this aspect of LEA support must have the highest importance - even though the autonomy of individual schools must be respected.

LEAs must also establish strong partnerships with headteacher organisations, teacher unions and governor federations to ensure that performance management adds value to the service, complements the school improvement strategy, has a positive influence on pupils' learning and enhances the status of teaching.

Such goals can only be achieved if they are adequately resourced. There are extra requirements in Wales related to bilingualism and small rural schools with already overburdened teaching heads. LEAs, in partnership with schools, need to ensure that support is forthcoming from central government before embarking on performance management - even though it commands widespread support in principle.

Richard Parry Jones is the corporate director for education and leisure in Anglesey. He will be speaking about performance management - in Welsh - at 2.45pm on Thursday, May 24

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