Dear Ted

13th February 2004 at 00:00
I've had four line managers in two years and so have no recorded lesson observation or performance review to produce as evidence for threshold. How do I protest?

Ted Wragg, emeritus professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for independent advice - or offer some of your own Ted says

I have just finished a major three-year study of performance-related pay; its implementation has been varied. Most schools were well organised, but a few failed to get their act together, and this led to the sort of shambles you describe.

What you decide to do depends on the cause of the problem. It might be entirely down to incompetent management, but there could be external difficulties, such as staff shortages, changes or sickness. If this is the case, there is still no reason why individual teachers should be made to suffer.

In the first instance take the matter up with your team leader, who may be just as browned off as you. Are there other teachers who have not been observed and reviewed? If so, this is a serious matter for the welfare of all staff. It is wiser for team leaders in middle management to present a case on behalf of several colleagues, rather than you be seen as an individual whinger - unless you are, of course.

Even if senior managers are opposed to performance-related pay (we found that about 60 per cent of heads were against it), they should still ensure that teachers are observed and given the chance to improve their teaching as part of performance management, which most headteachers supported. We found many heads who disliked the imposed procedure, but still maintained a sensible form of performance management.

If team leaders achieve nothing, teachers can consult their union for help, or ask one of the staff governors to raise the matter at a governors'

meeting. Mentioning to the head the possibility of dropping a note to Ofsted, suggesting inspectors call by earlier than scheduled, would be a dirty trick, though fun.

You say

You are master of your own destiny

My heart goes out to you. But the onus is on every teacher to demonstrate that she or he meets the threshold standards by providing a sound evidence base. Could you not have asked your head to observe you in the classroom? After all, it is the head who has to make a judgment about your teaching and performance management, so shehe is supposed to know how well you perform, by direct observation or through delegation.

David Sassoon, London N3

Try a collegiate approach

If incompetence is the cause, surely some formal complaints procedure could be used. Have the governors been approached? Has your union been asked to act? Are other teachers in the same position? If so, a collective response might be effective. But there is a collegial professional response.

Teachers could observe each other using tried and tested checklists and observation schedules. Afterwards, pupils could be asked to comment and the lesson discussed by observer and teacher. A signed record of their deliberations should be made. Such collegial actions promote professional standards and rigorous self-evaluation. They demonstrate a commitment to improving the quality of teaching and learning that would expose the Woodhead-inspired Ofsted reign of terror for the futile sham that it is.

Seize the time!

Alasdair Macdonald, Glasgow

Go it alone

Your threshold application and performance management are interdependent issues. If you wish to apply for threshold, you can produce your own dossier of evidence and fill in the appropriate forms, which should be available from your school office. There are excellent union guidelines on this process.

On a different note, you should thank your lucky stars that the SMT has left you alone; having your lessons assessed by a colleague can lead to ill feeling, resignations and weeping in the staffroom. In my view, all assessment of this kind should be handled by trained inspectors from outside the school.

Sue Gedge, Essex

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