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Taking control

Gerald Haigh helps teachers swot up on performance management

Performance management is coming onstream. By the end of February, every class teacher should have set objectives for the coming year, and agreed them with the head.

The Government claims two major benefits for performance management - first to pupils, because their teachers will have a clearer picture of what they can achieve; and also to teachers because you will have a proper opportunity to discuss your work and professional development with your team leader.

As a classroom teacher, it's crucial that you don't allow the performance management cycle - planning, monitoring and review - to become something that's done to you by senior management. Make sure that you are consulted at each stage, and that management provides the proper feedback and documentation. The guidance documents (available on www.dfee. gov.uklinks.shtml) set all of this out very clearly, and it's important that you read them.

To illustrate this, let's look at the two ingredients of performance management that seem most to worry many teachers - the initial, objective-setting, interview with the team leader and the process of classroom observation.

Setting objectives

Don't go into the interview empty handed. Performance management gives each classroom teacher the right to a quiet, protected session with the head or team leader, to talk about professional needs, ambitions, fears - and, of course, objectives for the year. Don't waste what has up to now been a rare opportunity for unhurried professional discussion with recorded outcomes.

Be clear about what your training needs and your formal objectives should be - your team leadr may well want to suggest other things, but it's equally likely that he or she will be grateful for your own ideas. Don't forget to include projects you're already working on. Make sure your objectives are well focused and few in number. The documentation says you should have no more than five or six. Three or four is probably a more realistic figure.

Classroom observation

There's a good Ofsted framework for classroom observation, so it might as well be used - it can also be helpful preparation for an Ofsted inspection itself. Remember that you should be told what the criteria for the observation will be, and also that you have the right to careful feedback very soon after the lesson. Stand up for yourself if your observation is mishandled, or if the framework has been misunderstood by your head or team leader. In many schools everyone is still learning how to do this.

The school should show its commitment both to interviews and to observations by providing adequate time and supply cover. Speak up if you don't think enough is being done.

Performance management, properly applied, should make for more openness, through the sharing of practice, the provision of fixed opportunities for professional discussion, and the setting of agreed priorities and objectives.

Remember that performance management is as new to heads and governors as it is to you. Read the documents, be aware of what you can expect from management and be alert to what you have to offer. Help your management to apply the process sensitively and always with a view to the improvement of teaching and learning.

Gerald Haigh is Chair of Governors of St Giles Junior School, Exhall, Warwickshire

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