Threshold assessment may seem irrelevant to many new teachers. But, says Colin Butler, NQTs really should take note
NQTs, those waiting to take up their first post and others still well down the pay scale might be thinking that this year's threshold assessment process (TAP) is nothing to do with them. They might also be wrong. What has emerged from the TAP is the DfEE's profile of today's ideal teacher. So, those with career aspirations should read a threshold application pack without delay, since getting ready can be a multi-year project.
The single most important document is Prompts For Headteachers (Showing Role of Assessor). Your head or performance manager will have one, or you can download it from www.dfee.gov.ukcircularsdfeepub. It falls into several sections.
Under Knowledge and Skills, familiarity with national strategies in literacy, numeracy and ICT is looked for, in addition to keeping up with your subject. Someone in your school will have the relevant documents. Ask for them and see how you can apply them.
Teaching and Assessment covers planning, teaching strategies and assessment data, so now is the time to start organising your lesson plans and schemes of work to show that you work out what your pupils need, that you make your objectives clear to them and that you use feedback and homework constructively. Comments on exercise books count here.
Get yourself observed so that you can prove that you create a good learning atmosphere, pace your lessons and use resources well. Keep all observation reports. Also, have your paperwork show that you set and monitor targets for all pupils, taking action on the results. Cater explicitly for the very able and the not so gifted.
Pupil Progress requires statistics that show your results compare well with individual prior attainment and with national figures over two to three years. Have your baseline statistics in place before next September. If you see a difficulty coming, discuss it with your team leader in advnce.
Wider Professional Effectiveness includes courses. You should build up a course portfolio, and you must show how you use the results effectively. Ask your Inset co-ordinator and team leader to put relevant courses your way.
Some Inset can be done in-house, and you should alert your Inset co-ordinator to your requirements. Extra-curricular activities also count. The best thing is to take the school development plan and see how best to align your interests and skills with its expectations.
Professional Characteristics include inspiring trust and team-building, which are probably best evidenced by observations. You are also expected to show how you approach individual pupils' work analytically. This may involve diagnostic testing at certain intervals, plus feedback. Keep the tests and evidence of how they are used.
In sum, you should read all key documents, go on courses, help fulfil the school development plan, get used to using baselines and targets, and design your paperwork to function as gap-free evidence of proficiency.
But is there anything else?
My suggestion is that you set out to manage an area of departmental work. For example, most new entrants can contribute to departmental ICT programmes from day one, and soon master data-tracking of pupils. With a litle experience, key stage management becomes possible, while being a form tutor can easily lead to year tutor work.
It's up to you. Each discrete responsibility advances career prospects and, thanks to the TAP, informed choices can be made. Moreover, performance management is imminent, and the guidance notes state: "Annual reviews will help teachers identify areas on which they need to focus to meet threshold assessment." The message is clear: see what the threshold requires, and start building your career now to meet it. You might even get double increments along the way.
Dr Colin Butler is senior English master and performance manager at Borden Grammar School, Sittingbourne, Kent