HEADS fear teachers will miss out on vital feedback from school inspectors now they have stopped issuing individual teaching grades.
The Office for Standards in Education is still recording information on the quality of teaching, but it is entirely anonymous.
Previously teachers had been graded from 1 down to 7. An OFSTED spokesperson said the change was intended to relieve the pressure on individual teachers.
Teaching unions were jubilant at the change, which came into effect at the beginning of the year. John Bangs, head of education at the National Union of Teachers, said: "This is one of the best bits of news that we've had out of OFSTED."
And John Dunford of the Secondary Heads Association said: "As performance management systems become more sophisticated, it is less necessary for OFSTED inspectors to give grades."
But there has been a more mixed reaction in schools and concerns are now being raised over whether teachers will receive adequate individual feedback from OFSTED visits.
Teachers at Buxton community school, which was inspected in early February, said the feedback they received had been "patchy". Paul Dearden, head of English, said: "Some got very clear signals from inspectors, others didn't."
Jacky Smith, head of Meriden Church of England primary school in the West Midlands, said the removal of individual teaching grades was "a double-edged problem".
Meriden was inspected in October, shortly before the rules changed. Mrs Smith said: "On the one hand, staff don't like being identified and negative comments being seen.
"On the other, they have taken a lot of time and effort in their work so appreciate feedback."
Teachers at a London primary inspected in January said they had received good feedback and one said: "In general people are happy not to be given grades.
"You like to know where you are in the scale of things. If you are not doing well you need to be told, and if you are doing well you want to be told."
Heads said the grades had been a useful tool. Mrs Smith said they had been helpful for performance management, although they "only formed part of the picture".
One secondary head who did not wish to be named, said: "Teaching grades certainly helped me as a headteacher and I think also helped the staff.
"They could be controversial if teachers felt inspectors weren't there for a whole lesson or did not see many lessons. But I found it very useful to have the grades because I could get an overall picture of standards within the school."