As the Scottish Office considers toughening its stance on teacher appraisal, the most comprehensive survey yet south of the border has produced inconclusive evidence about the benefits of performance review.
A two-year study led by Professor Ted Wragg of Exeter University and funded by the Leverhume Trust has shown that 70 per cent of teachers felt they derived some benefit but only 50 per cent said the review had made a difference to their teaching methods.
The study, based on a questionnaire to 1,100 teachers and appraisers and 29 case studies in primaries and secondaries, reveals enormous variations between local authorities and individual schools.
The findings also show many teachers felt their appraiser was inadequately trained with 28 per cent of staff observed only once, instead of twice as recommended by Government guidelines. The overwhelming majority of teachers opposed linking appraisal, which is is compulsory in England and Wales, with pay and promotion.
Professor Wragg said: "People are most likely to change when there are good relationships and respect between the appraiser and teacher. The difference between and OFSTED inspection, which is terribly fraught, and an appraisal, which is collegiate, is enormous."
With three-fifths of teachers questioned aged over 40, successful appraisals are said to have addressed deep-seated teaching habits. Professor Wragg added: "It is not based on hit squads and intimidation: it is based on trust and support and respect. The fact that someone comes in and says, 'Here's a few quid extra', is not going to make you change."