Standards to keep you on target

29th October 2004 at 01:00
Pat McDermott answers your leadership questions

It is time for my annual performance review and my governors are keen to use the revised national standards for headteachers to help with this. Is this a good idea? How should we use them?

The standards will provide you and your governors with a focus to discuss your objectives for the next year. One of the uses for these revised standards is specifically to assist with the performance management of headteachers. Their other intended uses include:

* to assist in the recruitment of headteachers

* to provide guidance for all as to what should be expected from the role of headteacher

* to identify threshold levels of performance for the assessment framework in National Professional Qualification for Headship

* to provide a framework for professional development and

* to inform, enthuse and challenge existing and aspiring headteachers.

Your governors are complying with the spirit and letter of this guidance.

As you may know the governors who are appointed to carry out your performance review should: recognise and praise the achievements made by you and your school; review, discuss and confirm your essential tasks, standards and objectives and the extent to which you have met these; identify areas for personal development and training; and agree with your new objectives for the year ahead.

The revised standards will inform this process for both you and the governors. They are worth reflecting on and talking through with the governors who will conduct your review.

Three key principles underpin the standards, which are that the work of headteachers should be learning-centred, focused on leadership and reflect the highest possible professional standards. These could provide you with areas of focus for your performance objectives. If not, then have a good look at the separate sections: (Shaping the Future, Leading Learning and Teaching, Developing Self and Working with Others, Managing the Organisation, Securing Accountability and Strengthening Community) particularly the parts where the "actions" connected with each standard are listed.

For example, if you, your leadership team and your governors are working on the next phase of your school improvement plan then you might want to discuss with your governors one of the actions in Shaping the Future as a possible objective. In this the headteacher "works within the school community to translate the vision into agreed objectives and operational plans which will promote and sustain school improvement". This might fit in with where you are now and the next phase of the development of your school.

Or if you are trying to embed assessment for learning with your staff in all lessons you may want to look at Leading the Learning and Teaching standard that says the headteacher "establishes creative, responsive and effective approaches to learning and teaching".

If over the next year you are going to be working on collaboration with other schools, look at Developing Self and Working with Others , particularly the action that states that the headteacher "builds a collaborative learning culture within the school and actively engages with other schools to build effective learning communities".

The standards will give you some ideas of how you, together with your governors, can come up with some specific targets. All of these standards attempt to flesh out the core purpose of the headteacher, to provide professional leadership and management for the school.

Sometimes amid the complexities of running a school and the tidal waves of others' agendas sweeping us along, it is all too easy to lose sight of the core purpose of headship. The revised standards are there to force us to take time out and reflect on what we are doing and match that against what we really should be doing. I commend them to you and your governors for consideration and certainly recommend that you think about using them as part of your performance review.

Patrick McDermott is head of St Joseph's Catholic college, an 11-18 girls' school, in Bradford. This is his third headship, and he has been a head for 12 years and a teacher for 27. He is a facilitator for the National College for School Leadership and mentored Catholic heads for 10 years. Do you have a leadership question? Email

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