THE WORDS most likely to reassure teachers about the Government's new appraisal system, or "performance management framework" as the official jargon puts it, lie buried in the final pages of last week's consultation document.
It is important, it says, that teachers' targets "are based on... pupils' prior attainment". Elsewhere, it says team leaders should address "factors outside a teacher's control (that) may affect the achievement of objectives".
In other words: no crude payment-by-results, the teaching unions' biggest fear, with the biggest bonuses going to teachers of the brightest pupils.
The outcome of the annual reviews will "inform" the awarding of extra points on pay scales by school governors. But there will not, it seems, be automatic bonuses for hitting targets, as is often the case in industry.
The emphasis is on a light-touch, flexible system, designed by each school to meet its own needs. Targets or, as the Department for Education and Employment more sensitively prefers, "objectives" will be agreed by teachers with their team leaders.
The examples of targets suggested by the DFEE emphasise pupils' progress - as well as their behaviour and the teacher's own professional development.
Since the new system was first floated last autumn, Education Secretary David Blunkett has maintained that the link between pay and pupil performance was non-negotiable. Last week's response by union leaders suggested he had found a way of putting it into practice that could be accepted by many teachers.
So how will it work?
From September 2000, schools will begin drawing up their policies. All teachers should be involved, and each school's system should be "fair and open", understood by everyone, and encourage sharing of good practice - similar schemes in other public services have been accused of divisiveness.
The school should agree an annual timetable that fits with its own planning cycle, and draw up appraisal forms to be used by all teachers. They should be simple: the DFEE recommends just four sections.
Teachers would discuss and agree their priorities and objectives at a meeting with their team leader. The targets should be "clear and concise" and "challenging" - "teachers should never be discouraged from setting challenging objectives which are not quite met, or not met for reasons outside (their) control".
The number of targets will vary from teacher to teacher - the guidelines suggest between three and six. They should be flexible, as they may need to change during the year.
Teacher and team leader will agree how progress should be monitored, including any classroom observation. At the end of the year, they will review performance and look at whether the objectives have been met. The team leader's ensuing judgment of the teacher's performance will then influence how far he or she moves up the payscale.
Appraisal will form no part of any "capability" procedures to weed out bad teachers, though it may spark concern which could lead such action.
The framework will replace the patchily-implemented appraisal system introduced in the early 1990s. The Government says that if done effectively, it will raise standards. Teachers can now give their own verdict.
'Performance management framework' will be sent to schools in early October.
Copies also available from the DFEE Publications Department on 0845 6022260.
PERFORMANCE MANAGEMENT SYSTEM.
TARGETS FOR TEACHERS.
* Agreed annually by teacher and team leader.
* Three to six per teacher.
* Should be "challenging - neither too comfortable nor dauntingly unrealistic".
* Should cover pupil progress and personal development.
* Should link to the school's education development plan, OFSTED action plan and other relevant documents.
* Pupil progress targets based on prior attainment, plus school benchmark data * Teachers' progress monitored during year