THE performance-management machine is heading this way and - like most unavoidable government initiatives - the timing is tight.
The guidance for governors: promised for May by the Department for Education and Employment, will not now reach schools until later this month.
Accredited performance-management consultants, trained to advise schools on the processes involved, should also be available this month. Regional conferences for heads are lined up between June 26 and July 14, and training for governors should also roll out over the summer.
Governors must appoint an adviser to help with the appraisal of the head, and these advisers are also now being trained. Governors choose their adviser in September, leaving around 24,000 schools less than a term to set and record their head's performance objectives before the December 31 deadline.
Governor organisations have ongoing concerns about whether the training that governors need - or the external help they will require - will be in place in time.
Timescales aside, the draft guidance for governors sets out key responsibilities. The two main tasks are formally to agree the school's performance management policy and review the headteacher's performance.
The DFEE has already issued a "model" policy, and is advising governors to keep it simple. It suggests authorising the head to develop a school policy with staff. But the governing body's responsibility to ensure the policy operates effectively means more than just checking that all teachers have been appraised. Governors must ensure hat the process is fair; that it has a positive impact on teaching and learning; and that money is available for training and staff development.
All teachers' objectives should be set by the end of February, and heads are required to report back annually on how well the policy is working. Teachers have a right of appeal to governors if they are unhappy with their appraisal (Governors, TES, March 3), and may well exercise it given that discretionary pay awards will be at stake.
The guidance on headteacher appraisals is very detailed. Governors should appoint two or three members for this job. The team must select and book an adviser; arrange and carry out the review; and afterwards produce a performance-review statement - which other governors will use in pay decisions.
The process now includes a pre-review meeting between the head and the adviser, something heads will welcome. During the review, governors are encouraged to "recognise and congratulate the head's achievements". And heads, like staff, have a right of appeal.
The guidance recommends setting between three and six targets. It gives very specific examples - such as raising the percentage of pupils attaining A grades at GCSE by 5 per cent a year for three years.
Bear in mind that OFSTED will be checking how effectively schools use performance management. The ultimate proof of the pudding will be the impact it has on pupils' learning.
Performance Management - Guidance for Governors, should be available from the DFEE later this month. For other performance-management guidance, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 0845 60 222 60.