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Staff review that's more like mentoring

Before she says anything else, Jean Watt emphasises that she loves her job as a P7 teacher at Cluny Primary in Buckie. She is an experienced senior teacher, but nonetheless is following a teaching science and technology course and taking part in information and communications technology training. Skills and knowledge have to be updated, she believes.

Both courses have been highlighted in her annual, 20-minute staff development and review interview with her headteacher, Kathleen Blacklaw.

Last year more than 70 per cent of Moray's teachers were involved in the once controversial review process - that was before continuing professional development was etched into the new contracts.

Mrs Watt insists it is beneficial. "I do not see it as appraisal and I do not see it as a threat. It's not painful at all because I've always been committed to professional development," she says.

The school's pound;5,000 training budget has helped to pay for her science course, run by Northern College in Aberdeen, while the ICT training is part of the Moray-wide initiative which has attracted 80 per cent take-up by teachers.

Other Cluny Primary teachers have learned to play the piano and brushed up keyboard skills.

Mrs Blacklaw says the reviews are now a core feature of the school calendar and suspicion about them has eased. "This is not a management tool, and classroom monitoring from a quality assurance point of view is quite different. The workload was initially a concern but the benefits outweigh the workload," she says.

Mrs Blacklaw describes the interviews as a "lever" to focus on personal development needs that tie in with the school plan. Staff have focused on early intervention literacy and numeracy issues, such as studying new writing courses, and science.

The reviews are normally held in March or April with one of three senior members of staff and every third year they are extended to an hour. The reviewer records the interview, logs agreed outcomes and sets a plan of action that the school's staff development co-ordinator can take forward. Teachers switch reviewers every three years.

Mrs Blacklaw emphasises confidentiality in the process. "It's like a mentoring role," she says.

David Henderson

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