What will performance management do to you?

30th March 2001 at 01:00
Sara Bubb explains how to choose objectives that you can achieve and don't make you break out in a cold sweat

You've probably heard the term "performance management" in the staffroom without knowing what it is. It's the process of evaluating teacher effectiveness that has replaced appraisal. Schools should have a performance management policy that sets up procedures where all teachers set objectives annually to make them more effective.

Everyone has a team leader who helps them set objectives, monitors how well they are doing and discusses how their professional skills can be developed.

NQTs are not part of this statutory performance management, because induction already includes termly assessment, setting objectives and reviewing progress. Your induction tutor has a role similar to that of a team leader.

The performance management process starts with the Career Entry Profile that identifies your strengths and areas for development. At the end of induction you will set objectives for performance management like all other staff.

Performance management is linked to pay only in that it provides evidence for a headteacher's recommendation to the governing body that individuals should get two rather than the usual one spine point in a year. When you have reached spine point nine you can apply to "cross the threshold," which increases your salary by pound;2,000.

If you get the typical one annual increment you will reach the threshold after seven years or so. The length of time depends on the point where you start. On the Fast-track you will be expected to reach point nine in five years.

You should be setting objectives every half term, in discussion with your induction tutor. However, as one NQT says: "What is the point of setting objectives? I have to be able to do everything to be able to teach at all. If my planning, control, assessment, teaching strategies or whatever are not right, everything falls apart."

Though I sympathise with this, I do think objetives provide a framework for teachers doing a complex job at a very fast pace. They encourage you to prioritise tasks and give you a sense of achievement when they are met.

Some NQTs find that there is discussion about how they are doing but no specific objectives. This is a missed opportunity. The very act of writing objectives down makes people think whether these are the real priorities.

One problem with objectives is that people are not specific enough, which can lead to failure. Many objectives are too large and so have to be repeated. For instance, one induction tutor wanted her NQT "to teach the National Literacy and National Numeracy Strategies effectively".

Objectives should be SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound. Unfortunately this is easier said than done. Consider an objective such as "Improve control". This may be too large, and could take a long time to achieve. It's better to be more specific about what needs most urgent attention, such as: "Improve control particularly after breaktimes, during independent activities and when tidying up".

Always remember that objectives should be possible, while containing a degree of challenge. So, with your induction tutor, think hard about what you want to do better. Remember that your aim is to meet the Induction Standards and help your pupils learn. Have no more than three objectives at a time. Aim for them to be completed within a half term or less. This will encourage you to set realistic criteria.

For performance management you should set between three and six objectives for a year, at least one of which should be about pupil progress. This should be based on a realistic assessment of what your pupils can be expected to achieve. The other objectives should be about developing your professional skills, and will give you access to the training that you want and need.

Sara Bubb works with NQTs and students at the London Institute of Education (s.bubb@ioe.ac.uk)

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