What will the minister do on appraisal?

23rd August 1996 at 01:00
Education authorities were dragging their feet on teacher appraisal and needed a spur to meet the Government's target of having all teachers reviewed by the end of 1996-97, the Education Minister stated in April. Raymond Robertson hinted that regulations may be introduced.

Following the minister's speech to Roman Catholic headteachers at their conference in Crieff, the Scottish Office dispatched a questionnaire to the new single-tier authorities asking why appraisal had been delayed and what steps councils were taking. We report a sample of their responses.

* Aberdeen: 8 per cent of primary and 15 per cent of secondary teachers have been appraised and the city council maintains that more would have gone through the process if extra funds had been available.

David Eastwood, assistant director of education, told the Scottish Office: "The previous scheme of staff review and development in Grampian Region cost Pounds 1 million per year to run. The new authority was simply not in a position to sustain the scheme financially."

Mr Eastwood said Grampian's policy of initially introducing appraisal in rural areas had resulted in a "very significant imbalance". He added: "Ministerial direction on appraisal meantime runs the risk of destabilising fragile budgetary arrangements, leading to significant difficulties in other areas. "

In common with other councils, the city has not found a link between appraisal and improvements in classroom teaching. "Our experience suggests that the most effective route to improvement is by self-evaluating peer support groups, calling on authority help by means of development plans," Mr Eastwood advised.

* Dundee: 64 per cent of primary and 51 per cent of secondary teachers have already been appraised.

* Edinburgh: 31 per cent of primary and 21 per cent of secondary teachers had been appraised by the end of June. By next summer, the city council anticipates only a third of staff will have been through the process.

Fiona McLeod, head of quality services, told the Government that appraisal should not be isolated from other developments. "It has to be taken forward in a measured way, paced along with such other initiatives as the 5-14 programme, national testing, devolved school management, development planning, school reviews. Never the less, as part of the process for improving quality of provision, it plays an important role," Ms McLeod stated.

The scheme had been inhibited by the administration involved, union opposition to extra workload and budget cuts relating to class cover.

* Fife: 80-90 per cent of primary teachers and 60-70 per cent of secondary staff have undergone appraisal, although the council has now placed a moratorium on developments while it plans new ways to deliver the scheme. It argues it does not have the central staff it had under the regional council.

David Cameron, performance review manager, said appraisal had been seen as a valuable exercise but teachers believed it should now be scaled down. "We have the same concerns as elsewhere," Mr Cameron said. "People did not always get action from it but, in general, teachers valued quality time with someone else in the school."

A report in August last year on appraisal of principal teachers found that only 9 per cent felt it improved classroom competence. Mr Cameron noted that it was difficult to assess classroom change at a time when the council had amended its guidance on teaching and learning.

* Glasgow: 14 per cent of primary and 7 per cent of secondary teachers have been appraised, although the city hopes the figure could rise to 50 per cent by next year. It acknowledges this will only happen with teachers' co-operation.

George Gardner, depute director of education, said: "We are very keen to look at review in the context of development planning that is not something distinct from normal processes in school. The personal development plans of teachers would have clear connection with priorities within the school development plan but would also take account of personal professional targets and career review option."

Mr Gardner said the term appraisal would continue to cause "deep concern" among teachers if it was seen as an "add-on" to their duties. "Many teachers view the current Government appraisal as bureaucratic and mechanistic. It is likely that a combative approach from the Scottish Office would lead to considerable unrest within the teaching profession and prevent a more developmental approach being achieved," he said.

A high proportion of staff have been through appraisal training but the authority is concerned at the time lapse since it was carried out.

* North Lanarkshire: 8 per cent of primary and 9 per cent of secondary teachers have been through appraisal but the figure could rise to 50 per cent by next June. More than 2,200 of the 3,500-strong teaching force have already been through training.

Delays were caused by the change to unitary status which in turn delayed headteachers' appraisal and subsequent progress in schools. A voluntary agreement with the teachers' unions further hampered progress.

North Lanarkshire is currently drafting a revised professional development and review policy which it hopes to negotiate with the unions next month.

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