When do your staff progress meetings occur? Why is it structured in this way? What research has gone into your policy? And, how does it relate to the School Development Plan?
These are the sorts of questions that you should be asking when strategically planning for your staff progress meetings. It is something that occurs in all schools but how often do we systematically review the process that is in place?
The basic requirements
Currently, the DfE have set some basic requirements that all schools should meet for their staff progress meetings:
Schools must have an annual appraisal process in place for teachers and headteachers.
- There must be a written appraisal policy for teachers, including the headteacher. (It is also good practice to include teaching assistants and support staff).
- The appraisal policy is not applicable to those on contracts of less than one term or those undergoing induction (i.e. NQTs).
- Teachers’ performance objectives must be linked to improving the education of pupils, linking to the Teachers’ Standards.
- Teachers must receive a written appraisal report that assesses their performance, training and development needs and makes, where relevant, a recommendation on pay progression.
- Governing bodies must appoint an external adviser to advise them with appraising the headteacher. Their objectives should link to the Head Teacher Domains.
- Schools have also been required to provide anonymised appraisal information as part of Ofsted inspections.
- The three-hour classroom observations across the year (for performance management purposes) no longer exists. Though it is good practice for learning walks/drop-ins to form part of the appraisal process.
These are the basic requirements for any appraisal structure. There needs to be a concerted effort not to have a ‘compliance mind-set’ for structures around staff progress meetings. ‘Just being compliant’ with the compulsory elements of appraisal can mean that there are lost opportunities – it takes the focus away from an invaluable process for improving teaching and learning.
What else should I consider?
If there is a concern regarding a member of staff there should have already been conversations about the concerns and support should have been in place before the appraisal meeting takes place. If a member of staff has not responded to support provided then the member of staff will be notified in writing that the appraisal system will no longer apply and that their performance will be managed under the capability procedure. If you do have concerns about performance, seeking HR support quickly can ensure that low-level issues can be ‘nipped in the bud’, and more serious concerns can be managed safely and effectively.
Check in points
An appraisal is just one of the meetings that would be considered as part of a larger structure of staff progress meetings. The DfE’s model appraisal policy suggests that the annual assessment is the end point to the annual process, as ‘performance and development priorities [should] be reviewed and addressed on a regular basis throughout the year in interim meetings’. In some instances, schools have put in place extremely effective structures that allow for regular one-to-one meetings to review steps needed to work towards targets set. There should be nothing said in an appraisal that comes as a shock to the staff member regarding their own performance.
Personal reflection is important, but it should not require mountains of paperwork or ‘proof’ that each criterion within the Teachers’ standards has been met. Collecting evidence is not a requirement and it can add to an already busy workload. The documentation collated throughout the year when reviewing teaching and learning - during learning walks, book looks and planning checks and Pupil Progress meetings could form part of the staff progress meeting structure.
Of course the appraisal structure will require the setting and reviewing of targets, linking to the Teachers’ (or headteachers) standards. However, these targets should not be plucked from the air or decided before the meeting occurs. Targets need to be owned by the member of staff who has to achieve them and they should inspire the individual to work at achieving them. Setting SMART targets allows the individual to break down and understand their targets much more easily.
Wherever possible, targets should feed into the School Development Plan for all members of staff. By doing this staff are collectively working on variations of the same goal (often linked to the school’s values and vision). A sense of community can be built by just sharing the SDP with all staff and explaining their role within the bigger picture of school improvement.
The ultimate staff progress meeting structure
An appraisal shouldn’t be seen as a ‘tick-box’ exercise. It should be a process of ongoing reflection and evaluation that each teacher leads themselves. Teachers shouldn’t be waiting for someone to assess how good they are, but rather they should be constantly reflecting, inquiring and improving their practice.
Target setting within a staff progress meeting structure would not see targets that are based on ensuring 98 per cent of children pass the phonics screening check, for example, but would be open ended and enquiry based: “Why are 15 per cent of children not yet passing the phonics screening check in Year One?” The shift becomes research based and moves away from a target that has an underlying tone of blame.
A collaborative structure which values conversations and takes the time to invest in training for mentoring and coaching will mean that ‘appraising’ your own practice and the practice of each other becomes part of the school culture. In order for the above to work, time would need to be given for observations, feedback, research and enquiry across the school. Dialogue about theory and pedagogy would become the norm: colleagues would support one another to improve their teaching and, ultimately the children’s learning.
Within the ultimate staff progress structure, everyone is aware that they can learn from each other. The hierarchical approach of SLT observing the rest of the staff could be replaced with peer to peer support. Indeed, SLT should be part of that process too and it may be that this structure works across schools, rather than it just being a process that your school goes through.
The staff progress structure should also allow for time to celebrate successes, consider wellbeing of the staff and allow an opportunity for each member of staff to feel appreciated. Our job as educators is to make a difference to the pupils in our care and throughout the process of staff progress meetings, the question that we need to ask is: “What positive impact have I had on our pupils?” It should be this question that ultimately leads the staff progress meeting structure and, indeed, every decision that is made within the school.
How to structure an appraisal
- Be prepared
- Discuss previous targets and reflect
- Celebrate successes
- Think about the impact had on the pupils
- Set exciting, inspiring and achievable targets
- Remember the school development plan
- Discuss staff wellbeing
- Appreciate the staff member
- Meeting should be part of a much bigger structure
Jo Gray, Head of School Development and Literacy, One Education.