Why does the Government want to change the current system?
It says there are difficulties because the arrangement for performance management and capability procedures were developed separately and at different times, leading to some confusion and “unhelpful” duplication “which can make tackling underperformance a more protracted and onerous process than it needs to be. While it is important that a teacher is treated fairly and given appropriate time to improve, a long drawn-out process can be unhelpful and stressful – both for them and for the head teacher managing the process.”
It says the current regulations are extremely detailed and prescriptive. “Telling schools what to do step by step is neither helpful nor appropriate. It fails to respect the professionalism of head teachers and teachers; it discourages schools from taking ownership of performance management for themselves; and it fails to recognise that different schools have different needs. What works well for a large secondary school with over 100 teachers may not work well for a small primary school with only five.”
One of the background papers published as part of the consultation puts it differently, talking about evidence published in January 2010 which reported “the perception that the capability procedures duplicate the support provided through the performance management system, that the procedures are disciplinary rather than supportive, and union pressure on headteachers would all delay or prevent the use of capability procedures.”
The same document says the aim is to “improve the quality of teaching either by improving the performance of … teachers or where that is not possible by managing them out of employment with the school”
Does the Government want to change all aspects of the current system?
No. It has considered scrapping all the requirements, but decided important elements should remain as they are. These are that:
- Governing bodies and local authorities are required to have a written appraisal policy for teachers
- Schools and local authorities are required to have an annual appraisal cycle, and that appraisals should include recommendations on pay where relevant
- Appraisals should identify training and development needs and ensure they are addressed. This applies not only to weaknesses in a teacher’s performance, but also preparing staff for a new role or updating a good teacher’s knowledge and skills.
- The appraisal process should contribute to school improvement and pupil progress
- There should be a written statement recording the outcomes of each teacher’s appraisal
Are there any other elements the government wants to keep?
Yes. It says that professional standards have been used as a “backdrop” in performance standards but that this downplays their significance. It therefore proposes that performance should be assessed against the relevant standards as well as against the school leader’s and the teacher’s objectives and the person’s role in the school. The standards are currently being reviewed.
Governing bodies will have to continue appointing an external adviser when managing and reviewing the performance of head teachers, but the government will no longer tell them who to appoint.
What will the Government no longer regulate?
The processes involved in establishing a school’s performance management policy;
who schools appoint to review head teacher performance and how those appointments should be made;
the detail of what should be covered in meetings;
the arrangements for classroom observation;
the detail of what should be recorded and how;
how schools should quality assure and moderate outcomes;
the arrangements for in-year revision of documentation;
the processes and time-scales that should be applied at each stage of review;
the arrangements schools make for appeals;
the arrangements for the use and retention of written assessments of performance; and
the arrangements for reporting to governing bodies.
This includes the removal of the “three hour rule”, which the document says has been cited as a barrier to observing teachers in the classroom. “While this is a misunderstanding of the current legislation, it illustrated the problems that over-prescription can cause,” says the consultation, adding: “We believe that governing bodies and local authorities are best placed to make their own decisions about all these matters and we want them to be free to do so.”
What alternatives is it suggesting?
It is suggesting a revised model policy which covers both appraising and managing teachers’ performance and would be non-statutory, as before.
A major change is that it no longer includes the “informal” stage of capability procedures as the Government believes that duplicates support and assessment which will already have been provided.
The proposed new model policy also says that sickness absence and grievance procedures should not automatically suspend action to address poor performance.
What is in the new model policy?
A lot less than before. These are the main points:
The governing body will appraise the head teacher, with an external adviser.
The head teacher will appoint appraisers for the teachers.
The objects agreed with each appraisee will contribute to the school’s plans for improvement and improving pupil progress.
The amount and type of classroom observation will depend on the individual circumstances of the appraisee and the needs of the school, and heads can “drop in” in order to evaluate standards of teaching and learning.
At the end of each performance cycle the appraisee’s performance will be formally assessed. Development priorities will be considered and addressed throughout the year.
The appraisee will receive, and can comment on, a written report. This will include details of their objectives, an assessment of their performance against their objectives and the relevant standards expected of teachers, a determination of their training and development needs and the actions which will be taken to address them, and recommendations on pay if relevant.
What would happen under the model policy if there were concerns about the performance of a member of staff?
In the most severe cases, the school could move straight to a disciplinary hearing.
Otherwise, the appraiser and appraisee would meet to give feedback about concerns, give the appraisee the opportunity to comment, agree any support, make clear how and by whom progress would be reviewed, and explain the implications if no progress was made.
If little or no improvement was made there would be a formal disciplinary meeting.
The disciplinary meeting would consider options including continued support, an oral or written warning, a final written warning, or a decision that the person should be dismissed. During any meeting which might lead to a formal warning, the head teacher or manager would have to identify the professional shortcomings, give clear guidance on the improvement required, outline any support and give a timetable for improvement.
This meeting would be followed by a period of assessment and monitoring.
If the necessary improvement was not made, there would be a further disciplinary meeting as a result of which a final written warning might be issued, or in severe cases a recommendation that the person be dismissed.
The member of staff can appeal, and this would be dealt with impartially by a manager who had no previous involvement in the case.
In cases of serious misconduct where the staff member has been dismissed, or resigned before they could be dismissed, the school should notify the Secretary of State for Education, or the GTCE if it is if it is still in existence.
Could schools write their own model policy?
Yes, and the Government expects some to do this. Such a policy’s disciplinary measures would have to be consistent with the ACAS Code of Practice. The policy would also have to comply with relevant discrimination and equality legislation which includes the Equality Act 2010.
What effect does the government expect the changes to have?
The Government’s background document on the economic impact of the proposed changes suggests school leaders would feel encouraged to take a “more robust” attitude to tackling underperformance and that the time spent identifying and tackling this might increase, perhaps with more time spent on coaching and mentoring and observing.
“Any such activities should have a positive impact on teaching quality,” it says. The background document suggests it is also possible that there will be an increase in the number of teachers assessed as underperforming who do not respond to “developmental” activities, but that the new model policy should prevent the amount of time spent on dismissal procedures from rising, even if the number of dismissed teachers increases. “Either way, the school will benefit – from improved quality of teaching and/or from spending less time on managing staff out of the school.”
Does the consultation mention weak teachers moving from school to school?
Yes. It says that it recognises that just because a teacher is performing poorly in one school does not mean it cannot perform effectively in another and says that it why the current education bill does not include provision for employers to refer incompetent teachers to a national regulator to bar them from the profession. The consultation also says it believes headteachers, governors and employers are better placed to tackle competence issues than a national regulator, but this does mean it is important “that all parties play fair with other schools.”
What does this mean for writing references?
If a teacher has been dismissed for poor performance, the reference should say so. Dishonest or misleading references could be liable to legal proceedings. “When a head teacher provides a misleading reference or fails to tell the whole story to another school, they are failing as a school leader and potentially undermining the quality of pupils’ education.”
Are there any suggested changes in procedures when employing teachers?
Yes. The government suggests the new regulations should require potential employees and their former employers to provide copies of appraisal statements when asked to do so. “We believe this could helpfully supplement the information provided by references and may also have the effect of limiting the extent to which compromise agreements between teachers and employers can subvert the reference process,” says the consultation paper.
The paper also stresses the importance of schools taking up references and observing trial lessons as part of an “extended interview process”.
Is the consultation looking at any other part of employment law?
Yes, it is asking questions about “any other barriers to tackling underperformance” faced by schools under current employment law. In addition, it says that informal feedback suggests that some local authorities are much more helpful towards schools tackling underperformances and dismissals than others. The consultation is therefore seeking comments on the role played by local authorities, whether this is different for those schools who employ their staff directly and for those who do not, and whether there are advantages for schools in directly employing their staff.