Cliff Jones analyses the new draft guidelines for performance management.

As reported previously in this issue, the DfES has issued a consultation on performance management. As also pointed out there, it has not only provided a very short time for consultation but has built in no time at all to respond to any root-and-branch criticism. The official reason provided for this short consultation period (ending as school holidays begin) is that the changes are slight.

In some respects the process outlined will be familiar, but we should not ignore the clear intention that the revised National Standards are going to be much more prominent in it than the old ones and will have a much greater impact on the professional lives of teachers, especially on their pay, pay progression and promotion, and also how teachers become and develop as professionals. A good CPD policy will be essential.

For the purposes of this article I concentrate below on the guidance document (Teachers’ and Headteachers’ Performance Management: Work-in-Progress Guidance). When preparing for the new arrangements you will need to remember that this document should be looked at alongside the draft regulations. The guidance does not apply to Wales. It does, however, fit into the previous plans and intentions to develop the ‘new professionalism’ for teachers.

According to the introduction to the guidance document, this includes: ‘developing a culture where teachers feel confident and empowered to participate fully in performance management; the acknowledgement of teachers’ and headteachers’ professional responsibility to be engaged in effective, sustained and relevant professional development throughout their careers and to contribute to the professional development of others; and the creation of a contractual entitlement for teachers to effective, sustained and relevant professional development as part of a wider review of teachers’ professional duties.’

The standards will, as CPD Update has said all along, provide much more of the language for performance management reviews than in the past. Given the inadequate time allowed for consultation it is probably best to assume that little will change between now and the autumn term when the new performance management cycle begins. It is therefore best to look at the performance management process from the point of view of someone trying to implement it. To do this I concentrate below on extracts from Section 4 of the guidance, which focuses on the process, inserting comments in italics that I hope will help to make sense of things.

The complete document has seven sections and includes ‘tips for reviewees’ and ‘tips for reviewers’. It also, very importantly, has a section (7) called ‘What happens in the first year of these arrangements’.

I have, by the way, assumed that readers may be both reviewing and being reviewed. And please do not imagine that what follows can be in any way exhaustive or prescriptive. In the space available to me I have merely tried to stimulate some thinking so if readers would like to offer their own thoughts that would be most welcome.

Excerpts from and comments on Section 4 of Teachers’ and Headteachers’ Performance Management: Work-in-Progress Guidance

Overview of the process

4.1 Performance management is an annual cycle, the key elements of which are:

a Planning for the performance cycle.
b Monitoring and supporting progress.
c Reviewing performance.

Comment, issues and questions
Can you remember that for some time the phrase being made use of by the DfES and the TDA was ‘Teaching and Learning Reviews’? Unfortunately the initials of this phrase clashed with TLRs and so the ‘p’ word came back into use. It is now ‘performance’ that has to be reviewed. Some people may be wary of a word that implies targets and the seeking out of evidence to match them. Having your performance reviewed is not the same as becoming a ‘thinking professional’. Or could it be? I guess it depends very much on the culture of a school and how open it is to permitting risk taking and learning from mistakes. With pay and promotion at stake that may not be so likely.

4.2 Performance management provides the framework for assessing the totality of a teacher’s or a head teacher’s performance in the context of their job description and the provisions of the STPCD (pay and conditions), and against the backdrop of the relevant professional standards. The totality of the reviewee’s performance is assessed against performance criteria agreed at the beginning of the cycle which describe how judgements will be made in relation to:

a progress towards meeting agreed/set objectives
b evidence from classroom observation
c other evidence.

Comment, issues and questions
There are two words that it is important to get right here. The first is ‘criteria’ and the second is ‘judgement’. The guidance document provides specific advice at 4.28.

Criteria can be rather bland and grand statements encompassing so much meaning that they are not very useful: ‘I want to be a better teacher’ for example. They can also be narrow and so finely focused that you neglect the big picture. And it is quite normal to think that you have agreement on what they mean, only for events during the year to call that agreement into question. Try to sort out useful criteria but always retain access to a pinch of salt if things begin to change.
As for judgement, it is always important that it is constructed carefully. Rushing to judgement without properly tested evidence lands you in the appeal court.

4.3 The review meeting should form part of an ongoing professional dialogue that helps the reviewee to develop their professional practice and to access the professional development and other support they need. It also provides the evidence for decisions on pay progression.

Comment, issues and questions
Dialogue about developing as a professional is one thing but providing evidence for decisions about pay is another. The question is: will thoughts about pay constrain and contain professional learning? The word ‘dialogue’ implies that people will be drawing upon the skills of mentoring and coaching. The atmosphere may change if the dialogue is about pay.

4.4 Review and planning statements should be completed by the 31 October following the completion of the review cycle. [Details of transitional arrangements for 2006-07 are provided in section 7 of the draft guidance.]

Comment, issues and questions
Schools and those teachers with specific responsibility for professional learning will have to move quickly to ensure that they have everything in place so that there is a full year before 31 October 2007. Fortunately there are many carry-overs from the existing system. Nevertheless, the ink has hardly dried on the new standards and there may be some training to take place on mentoring and coaching.

Appointing a reviewer

4.5 The governing body appoint reviewers for the head teacher. The head teacher appoints reviewers for other teachers, including members of the leadership group, Excellent Teachers and Advanced Skills Teachers; and may also be the reviewer.

4.6 Reviewers will normally be the reviewee’s line manager, ie the person who directs, manages and has professional responsibility for the area in which the reviewee mainly works. Where a teacher works for more than one line manager, the nominated reviewer

will need to consult the other line manager(s) to inform the discussion with the reviewee. This will ensure that the totality of the teacher’s performance is assessed effectively and that realistic appropriate plans for the coming cycle are prepared.

[Items 4.7 and 4.8 go on to explain what happens if there is disagreement about reviewers.]

Comment, issues and questions
Again, the key to this must be the level of appropriate experience and expertise of the reviewer. Can we assume that all reviewers have completed a thorough programme in mentoring and coaching and that they will have mastery of all the National Standards that will apply to the complete range of people for whom they will be responsible?

Setting up the performance review meeting

4.9 It is good practice for the school planning process to include a calendar, setting specific dates and times at which performance reviews will take place. This calendar should be made available to all teachers.

4.10 The reviewer and reviewee should confirm that the review meeting is taking place as planned at least 5 working days in advance of the meeting. If the review meeting cannot take place as planned, a new date and time should be scheduled with at least five working days’ notice.

4.11 The reviewer and the reviewee should ensure they set aside sufficient directed time for the meeting. An hour should be sufficient in many cases. PPA time should not be used for this purpose.

Comment, issues and questions
The phrase ‘ensure that they set aside sufficient directed time’ may bring a smile to the face.

Preparing for the review meeting – some tips for reviewees

4.12 The review meeting should be a professional dialogue between the reviewer and the reviewee. Reviewees should play an active part in the meeting making sure they put forward their views about their performance and future development. They may find it helpful to consider the following ways of preparing:

For the review of the last cycle:
a Reflect on their achievement in the last performance management cycle, including against the objectives recorded in the planning and review statement.
b Ensure they have copies of any relevant documentation and evidence, and written feedback on classroom observations.
c Identify any issues that have affected their performance, positively or negatively.
d Consider any issues about the planned support they needed/received.
e Assess the impact of the engagement in professional development, both their own and, as appropriate, their support for the professional development of others, recognising that it can take time for benefits to be realised fully and reflected in improved classroom practice.
f Reflect on how far they have met the agreed performance criteria.

In preparing for the next cycle:
g Consider what they would like to achieve in the next cycle taking account as appropriate of departmental, faculty, year group or school improvement plans.
h Consider, as a backdrop to the discussions, the standards which apply to their current post and those to which they might progress, and, where the reviewee is eligible, the relevant criteria for pay progression set out in the STPCD.
i Identify what professional development might help them develop their practice further.
j Consider their professional aspirations.

There is no requirement for reviewees to provide written input on their reflections on the above points to inform the review meeting, and schools should not impose one.

Comment, issues and questions
Note the word ‘impact’. This is supposed to be a professional dialogue. You can hope that your reviewer has a sophisticated understanding of professional life and learning and will avoid limiting the definition of ‘impact’ to examination results. But evidence that children are having a better learning experience is not always straightforward to assemble convincingly. I have also seen teachers claim that having more starred As this year is evidence of improved performance. Unless they were present when the examination board decided where to draw grade boundaries it is unlikely that they can prove such an assertion. So, the dialogue needs to be qualitative as well as quantitative.

Preparing for the review meeting – some tips for reviewers

4.13 Reviewers will want to be well prepared for the review meeting, and may find it helpful to:

For the review of the last cycle:
a Check the last planning and review statement, all the evidence which has been collected as part of the monitoring process, written feedback on agreed classroom observations, contributions from relevant internal and external contacts with direct professional knowledge of the reviewee.
b Check that all documents to which they will refer at the meeting have been shared with the reviewee, to assist their preparation for it.

In preparing for the next cycle:
c Consider the improvement objectives of the school and the relevant key stage or curriculum area(s) and how these may be relevant to planning with the reviewee. For example, the school may have agreed a shared development objective covering all teachers, including the head teacher.
d Ensure they are familiar with the standards which form the backdrop to the reviewee’s current post and those appropriate to the reviewee’s next career stage, and the relevant criteria for pay progression set out in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document.
e Ensure they have consulted with relevant third parties with direct professional knowledge of the reviewee, about possible objectives for the next review cycle, performance criteria, evidence, arrangements for collecting it and support to be provided to the teacher.

Comment, issues and questions
I realise that schools are wedded to words like ‘objectives’ and ‘targets’ but they can be dangerous. Where do they come from? How well has professional learning need been analysed? If they are easy to achieve they are worthless. If they are very difficult to achieve they are not much use. What evidence would you expect to see? Is it feasible? Is any of it intangible? What will you do if you have unexpected evidence for unintended professional learning? Can the dialogue be like this? Or might you concentrate only on finding evidence to show that you have achieved objectives? By the way, it is worth remembering that reviewers will be reviewed.

At the review meeting – assessing performance over the last cycle

4.14 For the review meeting, the reviewer assembles information about the totality of the reviewee’s performance. The specific evidence to be collected will have been discussed and recorded at the review meeting at the beginning of the review cycle. It will comprise:

a evidence about the reviewee’s progress towards their objectives;
b evidence from classroom observation; and
c other evidence.

4.15 All the information and documentary evidence that informs the overall assessment of performance must be identified and shared between the reviewer and the reviewee before the review meeting, to ensure an informed discussion.

4.16 At the review meeting, the reviewer and reviewee should:

a Seek to achieve a shared understanding of the progress made towards meeting the performance criteria including the impact of professional development undertaken on teaching and learning including, as appropriate, the contribution the reviewee has made to the development of others, taking into account that it can take time for the benefits of professional development to be realised fully and reflected in improved classroom practice and pupil progress.
b If appropriate, explore any issues that might have impeded the reviewee’s performance.

4.17 The reviewer and reviewee should seek to agree an assessment of the overall performance of the reviewee based on the reviewee’s performance against the performance criteria agreed at the beginning of the cycle. This should include, where the reviewee is eligible, making a recommendation on pay progression, taking into account the pay progression criteria set out in the STPCD, which should have informed the performance criteria. Relevant pay progression criteria apply to all categories of teachers, but differ from category to category. If the reviewer and reviewee cannot agree, the reviewer’s view will be recorded. The outcomes of the review meeting and the recommendation about pay progression should be recorded in the planning and review statement.

Comment, issues and questions
So, what will happen if some of the evidence is intangible or indirect? Later in the document there is mention of reviewees not being held responsible if the promised support has not been forthcoming but this may be difficult to handle if this was the responsibility of the reviewer and discussion at the meeting is going to affect pay and promotion.

At the review meeting – planning for next cycle

4.18 The plans for the next cycle should, where the teacher is eligible, take due note of the criteria for pay progression in the STPCD. The plans should cover:

a the reviewee’s objectives including where appropriate their contributions to any whole school team, departmental or faculty objectives;
b the extent, pattern and focus of planned classroom observations;
c other evidence;
d the professional development and other support the reviewee will receive to develop their personal practice and help them achieve their objectives;
e the performance criteria against which the reviewee’s performance in each of the areas listed above will be assessed; and
f timescales in relation to each of the above and the arrangements for monitoring progress.

Setting objectives

4.19 Reviewers are responsible for ensuring rigour when objectives are set. A reviewee’s progress towards their objectives will be part of the assessment of the totality of their performance made at the next performance review, and the assessment will be the basis for decisions about the reviewee’s pay. Objectives should be time bound, and challenging but achievable, and reflect the need for appropriate work life balance for teachers and head teachers. Teachers should not be held accountable for progress towards objectives in cases where promised support has not been forthcoming.

4.20 Different timescales may apply for each of the items listed in 4.18. Some objectives may be achievable within the performance management cycle. Others may require a longer time span, in which case the record of objectives should show the milestones towards that objective to be achieved in the current cycle.

Comment, issues and questions
There is mention of ‘whole school’ teams but might there not be a series of problems with working with others? There is plenty of evidence that shows that collaborative professional learning is beneficial to all parties but the mix of timescales and the need to blend personal objectives with those of others, including institutional objectives, might make this more problematic. Working with colleagues on the basis of joint professional learning is one thing but if one of the group has professional agenda that are focused upon promotion it could corrode personal professional relationships. Maybe CPD policies need to include a code of ethics to deal with this.