Early years staff perfomance can be reviewed in a simple but effective way as part of an overall quality improvement process

Monitoring and supporting the performance of staff is an essential part of helping them to fulfil their roles successfully. Performance management enables the manager/leader of a setting to evaluate a staff member’s overall performance in relation to the key roles and responsibilities set out in his or her job description (see EYU 57). This evaluation will lead to detailed plans for the ongoing professional development of that individual, set within the context of the setting’s strategic plan for quality improvement.

Performance management provides a way to:

  • track performance against previously agreed objectives
  • identify opportunities for improvement
  • highlight an individual’s professional and personal development needs
  • celebrate and reward achievement.

Careful planning should go into the introduction of a performance review system:

  • All staff must be clear about the purpose of performance review and understand the structure of the process.
  • It should be clear how data will be gathered and used.
  • Confidentiality is essential, with the detail of the review meeting being confidential to the two parties involved.
  • The timetable for review meetings should be well planned so the process can be carried out thoroughly.
  • Responsibility for performance management should be distributed across the senior management team to avoid overburdening one member of staff.

The performance review cycle
The performance management process usually follows an annual cycle, consisting of:

1. An initial review meeting to agree objectives.
2. A period of monitoring.
3. A performance review meeting at the end of the year, to review progress towards objectives.

After the first year of the performance management cycle, the meeting to agree the objectives for the coming year can be incorporated into the annual performance review meeting. Ideally, the timing of the review cycle should fit with the timescales for the review of the self-evaluation form (SEF) and the overall strategic development plan of the setting. Information from one source can then feed directly into the others.

1. Initial review meeting
The initial review meeting takes place between a member of the setting’s senior management team (the reviewer) and the individual member of staff (the reviewee). This should be a confidential discussion between the two parties involved, and focus on:

  • discussing  performance in relation to the individual’s job description
  • identifying areas for improvement
  • agreeing any training and professional development the person may need to carry out his/her role more effectively.

At the end of the meeting, the reviewer and the reviewee should agree on between three and five performance objectives for the coming year. These objectives should be challenging but achievable within a reasonable timescale. If it is not possible to agree on the detail of these objectives, then it is normal for the reviewer to decide on the objectives.

The quality of provision a setting delivers is closely linked to the performance of individual members of staff. It is therefore a good idea to have one or more performance objectives that are shared by all members of a team, or indeed by all the staff in the setting. This helps to focus everyone’s efforts on working together to achieve a common goal.

When agreeing the performance objectives, the reviewer should also establish the success criteria associated with each of them. These should focus on the actions that need to be taken, the evidence of achievement and the professional capabilities that need to be developed. Knowing the success criteria gives the reviewee a clear understanding of what is expected of him/her in order to achieve the objectives.

Discussion of performance management objectives will identify areas of professional or personal development that may need to be addressed to enable the individual to achieve the agreed objectives. As all professional development has a cost implication, it is important to focus on opportunities that will benefit both the organisation and the individual; however, people cannot be expected to achieve objectives that depend on their developing new skills and qualifications unless they are given the opportunity to do so. At the end of the meeting, the timing of the next review should be agreed. This would normally be one year later. Arrangements for carrying out observations to monitor progress and achievement over this period should also be agreed.

As soon as possible after the meeting, the reviewee should be given a written record of the agreed objectives for the coming year, along with the success criteria and the professional/personal development plan. This should be treated as a confidential document, but information can be extracted for the purpose of drawing up training and development plans.

2. Monitoring progress and focused observation
Over the course of the year, both the reviewer and the reviewee will accumulate a range of information that will demonstrate the progress that is being made towards achieving the agreed objectives. The reviewer should carry out periodic observations of the staff member performing their duties, in order to supplement this written information. The timing, duration and focus of these observations should be agreed in advance between the reviewer and the reviewee. The reviewee should be given verbal feedback as soon as possible after the observation session and the key points from the observation should be noted in writing for use in the end of year performance review meeting.

3. Performance review meeting
At the end of the first year of the performance management cycle, the reviewer and the reviewee should meet together to discuss the progress that has been made towards the objectives over the course of the year. At this meeting it is important both to acknowledge achievement and to identify areas for ongoing improvement. The meeting should therefore consist of two distinct parts.

In the first part of this meeting, the reviewer and the reviewee should discuss the available evidence regarding progress towards the objectives agreed at the initial review meeting. This evidence will include: 

  • changes that have been put in place to meet the success criteria of the objective
  • information from observations of the staff member carrying out his or her role
  • a summary of training and professional development accessed over the year.

At the end of this part of the meeting, the reviewer should summarise the extent to which the objectives for the previous year have been met. Following the meeting, the reviewer should prepare a brief statement summarising the outcome of the review process. The second part of the performance review meeting then focuses on agreeing new objectives for the coming year.

These new objectives will be informed by:

  • any objectives which were only partially achieved the previous year, but which are still important
  • new objectives relating to the roles and responsibilities of the individual
  • shared objectives relating to the quality improvement plan of the setting
  • shared objectives appropriate to the team of which the individual is a member.
Performance management objectives

Name:                                                       Position:               
Date of meeting:
Name of reviewer:                                      Position:

Performance management objectives:

Objective 1 
State the objective, including the timescale by which it is to be achieved.

Success criteria:
List here the evidence, which will be reviewed at the next performance review meeting, to establish that the objective has been met

Training needs identified:
Specify any training or professional development that will be needed to ensure that the objective is met.

Objective 2
State the objective, including the timescale by which it is to be achieved.

Success criteria:
List here the evidence, which will be reviewed at the next performance review meeting, to establish that the objective has been met

Training needs identified:
Specify any training or professional development that will be needed to ensure that the objective is met.

Objective 3 
State the objective, including the timescale by which it is to be achieved.

Success criteria:
List here the evidence, which will be reviewed at the next performance review meeting, to establish that the objective has been met

Training needs identified:
Specify any training or professional development that will be needed to ensure that the objective is met.

Signature of reviewer:                                Signature of reviewee:

Date of next review meeting:

As soon as possible after the meeting, the reviewer should complete a proforma that sets out the details of the:

  • objectives agreed for the coming year and success criteria identified
  • training and professional needs to be met.
Proforma for recording observations
Name:                                           Date:                         Time: Observer name:                             Group of children: Objective/success criteria to which the observation relates: The context for the observation: Focus of the observation: Areas of strength / good practice: Areas for development / points for action: Date observation shared:

Further information on the performance management process is available from the Teachernet website, and from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development

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