Unfair to heads

18th May 2001 at 01:00
Jane Phillips says lessons must be learned from England.

The re-introduction of performance management in schools means all employees, whatever their job, are entitled to a good appraisal system.

Unfortunately, the model imposed for headteacher appraisal has the potential to produce no benefit or, even worse, be counter-productive. In England, the first round of the new system is now complete. In Wales, it is about to begin.

Having visited several schools as an external adviser, I wonder if governors, as appraisers of headteachers, add any value to the process? The answer, in most cases, would appear to be "no".

A good appraiser may need several high-level management skills plus a thorough understanding of the task. They also need enough time for the process.

In industry, a person's appraiser is normally their line manager. With headteachers, governors have taken this role.

Effective appraisal systes emphasise "individual development and accountability". The one designed for headteacher review tends towards "inspection", because central government did not trust LEA officers to act professionally.

External advisers are supposed to be unbiased because they lack prior knowledge of the school, but that knowledge would assist them. The government training package in England left many governors feeling ill-equipped for this important task.

The timescale for completion of the first annual cycle has slipped by four-and-a-half months. This was inevitable, but the next cycle in England must be completed by the end of the year, so some heads will have two annual appraisal meetings within six months.

Wales has the opportunity to learn from the English experience. Let's hope it does so.

Jane Phillips is chair of the National Association of Governors and Managers. She is speaking at 4pm on Thursday, May 24

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