Walsall assistant heads Mike Swan and Keith Sydenham report on a secondment activity.
A lot has been written about CPD in the past few months, somewhat less about performance management and even less about links between the two. Having applied jointly for a 20-day secondment to study this, our initial hypothesis was that there was a strong link between performance management and CPD and school improvement. We wanted to investigate this by reading and research, by attending courses on performance management and by visits to schools where we thought there may be good practice.
The Ofsted report on Performance Management (November 2001) included three interesting findings : (i) in half the schools surveyed, the linkage with CPD was one of the weakest features of performance management (ii) where consideration had been given to value for money, performance management allowed heads to evaluate where time and support needed to be given, and to target developmental needs of individual teachers more accurately
(iii) training plans needed to be more detailed and more realistic.
Our visits to schools tended to agree with these conclusions, although clear improvements were apparent. Further reading made us aware that:
- simple school development plans are very helpful when setting departmental and individual objectives
- clear role-profiles and job-descriptions are very important
- a good linkage to CPD makes teaching and learning conversations more productive
- there is a useful linkage with the criteria for Investors in People
- there is a need to identify training-needs for team-leaders as well as individual teachers
- systems must enable staff ‘to grow professionally’.
The first course we attended gave five key requirements for successful performance management:
- it should have high profile with staff
- it should drive staff development in the school at individual, team and whole-school level
- it should be built into the school’s time-budget
- it should be an integral part of the school’s self-review and planning strategies
- it makes a demonstrable difference.
Other findings from courses included:
- a need to look at adult learning-styles
- the possible use of e-portfolios
- good linkages between the meeting cycle and performance management
- the importance of team-leader-training in objective-setting
- a good proforma for the final review session (including a section on impact).
Our reading and courses gave us the questions to ask on visits. Other schools never disappoint as you encounter different and interesting practice. Our sample included secondary, primary and special schools and between us we visited 12 schools, some local and some not. Some contacts were made via the courses we attended which gave us ideas for in-house training.
Findings from visits
Schools visited had good systems and an abundance of good ideas. The biggest variations were with support staff, maybe because of the lack of national guidelines and the speed of workforce remodelling.
Here is a sample of our findings.
- Schools have different cycles and varying numbers of milestones.
- In several schools the objectives were monitored by the head and returned to staff if they were thought unsuitable.
- The use of Inset days for work connected to performance management was rare.
- It was common for all members of a team to have one joint objective.
- Some review statements were very detailed.
- The amount of guidance at the start of the process varied greatly.
- In one LEA there was extensive use of frameworks and professional development records.
- All schools cited an increase in coaching and mentoring.
- Links to the school improvement plan were sometimes clearly cross-referenced.
- There was clear evidence of shared objectives set by top management.
- One school used a commercial e-package.
Our hypothesis seemed to be true, though there was great variety in practice. Thinking about our own schools we recognised that we could make improvements by:
- giving further training to team-leaders
- achieving more consistency in objective-setting
- doing more work on the system for support staff
- linking classroom observations more closely to PM objectives
- using a new review proforma which includes impact and evidence.
Possible future work
Areas still to explore include:
- the use of the Teacher Learning Academy
- coaching and mentoring
- the 20-point check-list for PM processes (light-touch validation).
Questions we asked on our school visits
- What linkage is there between performance management and CPD in your school?
- Do you offer specific guidance on setting professional development objectives?
- Do CPD needs come to light via lesson observations?
- Do members of specific teams ever have common objectives?
- Does coaching and mentoring have any role to play within performance management?
- How does performance management link to school improvement? Is Impact measured at all?
- Do you have performance management for support staff? If so, what is the difference between this and your scheme for teachers?
- What are the strengths and weaknesses of performance management in your school?
- Does performance management have any effect on the five Inset days that all schools have?