Appraisal and capability
From September, maintained schools, but not academies, will have to apply the recently published school teachers’ appraisal regulations. Note the return to the term ‘appraisal’. The previous (2006) regulations referred to ‘performance management’. The DfE’s intention is that appraisal should be objective and this is underlined by clearly linking the process to a teacher’s capability.
What’s the same?
The DfE’s intention is that appraisal should be objective and this is underlined by clearly linking the process to a teacher’s capability
- Governing bodies and local authorities will still have to have a written performance management policy for their teachers, although it is to be called appraisal.
- Governing bodies must still appoint an external adviser to advise them on reviewing the performance of the headteacher.
- Objectives will continue to be set for each teacher which contribute to improving the education of pupils, although this is made more specific in the regulations.
- Schools are still required to conduct an annual review (now appraisal) process for teachers.
The new regulations clear up the confusion that has reigned since 2006 about how much time a teacher could be observed teaching. The 2006 regulations that lay down a maximum of three hours had been interpreted in some schools as three hours in total – a position that the unions were happy to promote but which was open to challenge. Although the new regulations substantially amend the 2006 regulations, they revoke some of the detail. This includes the three-hour limit for performance review purposes. From September 2012, governing bodies and local authorities will be free to make their own decisions about the amount of observation that is appropriate. Realistically, most governing bodies will incorporate this into a policy, based on the headteacher’s guidance.
Links to the teaching standards
The new regulations are much more linked to the new teaching standards, which will be in place from September. We will look at these in more detail in a later issue. Under the existing regulations the standards have more of a backdrop role. By shifting the emphasis away from the general towards the specific, it will be easier for headteachers and managers to identify weaknesses and so put interventions in place to address them.
The headteacher must inform each teacher of the standards against which their performance during the appraisal period will be measured. This enables further standards to be invoked in addition to the new teaching standards. The regulations refer to ‘any other set of standards relating to teachers’ performance published by the Secretary of State as the governing body, head teacher or local authority (as the case may be) determines as being applicable to the performance of that teacher’, which might point to a forthcoming revision of the post-threshold and other standards and leave the door open for the secretary of state to introduce new measures.
By shifting the emphasis away from the general towards the specific, it will be easier for headteachers and managers to identify weaknesses
Objectives must be set that relate to ‘improving the education of pupils at the school and the implementation of any plan of the governing body designed to improve that school’s educational provision and performance’.
What is not set down in the school teachers’ appraisal regulations is the definite link between appraisal and capability, although this is made clear in DfE rhetoric and in the model policy that has been published to support the regulations. This optional model policy includes an example of a capability policy that schools might like to follow. This is quite helpful to headteachers who have struggled to separate capability from performance review and it is now a clear route for teachers about whose performance there are serious concerns that the appraisal process has been unable to address.
The new capability rules were published last year. They make the process arguably shorter and less complex so that now the process complements, rather than duplicates, performance review.
As reported last year, there is now no informal stage in the capability procedure and the recommended monitoring and review period following a first warning has been reduced from 20 weeks to between 4 and 10 weeks. Of course, the length of the review period must be reasonable in the circumstances of each case, and must provide time for improvement to take place.
Performance management, references and rewards
You might remember a worrying proposal to make all appraisal statements available to prospective employers. Following consultation this has not been taken forward. However, the DfE is consulting on proposals to advise potential employers, on request, whether or not an applicant has been subject to capability procedures. This would not really be a change because most prospective employers request this information in a reference already. What would be a change is the recent proposal for Ofsted inspections to gather information about performance management in a school so that the relationship between reward and quality of teaching can be fully understood.
Preparing for the new appraisal system
It is always best to prepare well for any change and, as a minimum, you are advised to download the model policy and ensure that you and your senior management team are familiar with it. You should then ensure that your governors are aware of the changes to the appraisal process because it is their responsibility to ensure that the changes are in place. It is the governors’ responsibility to:
Ensure that your governors are aware of the changes to the appraisal process because it is their responsibility to ensure that the changes are in place
- establish an appraisal policy for the annual review of teachers employed at the school
- appoint an external adviser to advise on and support the appraisal of the headteacher
- ensure that objectives are set for each teacher at the school
- ensure that the performance of each teacher is appraised annually
- ensure that each teacher is given a written report of the appraisal.
Importantly, it is essential that both governors and staff are aware of the new relationship between appraisal and capability and of the changes that are already affecting capability procedures.
The crossover period
The new regulations apply from 1 September 2012 and the model policy may be used from that date. This may cause some anxiety for those headteachers who like to get the bulk of staff appraisals done in the summer term, in preparation for the new academic year. My advice would be to go ahead but on the understanding that, as the new regulations are imminent, the objectives set would be based on those expectations. I would also suggest that if you have a teacher on your staff whose performance is giving concern, you delay their appraisal until the autumn term.
Recommended action for academies and free schools
If your school is an academy or a free school, these new regulations do not apply. It may be that your sponsor or umbrella trust has its own appraisal scheme. If not, then it might be sensible to review your current arrangements in the light of the sponsor’s or umbrella trust’s intentions.