So why is it difficult to get performance management right?
- You have to consider what you are measuring and what that will motivate staff to do in the worst case scenario. If the focus is all on exam classes what happens to KS3? Will teachers give too much help in controlled assessments? If performance with classes where everything is teacher assessed is focused on how can we know those teacher assessments are reliable?
- Staff feeling that they’re not trusted (both within the school and by external critics) currently causes a lot of bad feeling. How can this be avoided (or at least not worsened) by performance management or the implementation of performance related pay?
- How are the targets going to be set? 3 levels progress is common. 6 sublevels progress at KS3 is fairly common too. Sometimes FFT is used. All of these things are problematic in their own way and throw up targets that for some pupils simply are not realistic. What happens when pupils don’t meet targets and this is not the fault of the teacher needs to be carefully considered.
- If the only things that are considered are things that are measurable relating to data what impact will that have on teacher’s willingness to participate in extra-curricular activities, trips etc.
- Different staff will be motivated by different things. How do you come up with targets that motivate each member of a diverse staff without massively pissing anyone off?
Take me or an example. I am motivated by 3 things:
- Being left alone. Having been bullied in the past I am highly motivated by not being bothered by anyone. It’s not a fear of being observed. I have no problem with being observed. It’s not a fear of criticism. I don’t mind constructive criticism (although I can get defensive at times.) I think this can best be described as a fear of nonsensical, tedious nonsense.
- Doing what I perceive to be best for my pupils. This can be very different from what SLT believe is best for my pupils at times.
- Being recognised for my good work. This comes in a distant third.
Thus far my performance management targets have not been motivating for me. I have done the minimum required to meet my targets allowing me to focus on doing my job to the best of my ability. Sadly meeting my performance management targets and doing my job well have not, thus far, seemed to me too be connected.
In my opinion the problem in most schools I have worked in is that the performance management targets are uniform. A good leader knows their team so why not allow HoDs to, within reason, come up with targets that will motivate their teams? This could be overseen by SLT. Constraints and guidelines could be written but middle leaders who know their teams could be given a free hand, within those constraints, to set/negotiate targets. The obvious exception would be NQTs where uniform targets might be useful.
As I mentioned in my last post I would have 4 targets. These should link to the school’s development or improvement plan.:
- A target relating to observations- I would observe all staff in the first half term. Not to rate them but to identify strengths and areas for improvement. I would then set each member of staff a target relating to their areas for improvement. This target should be heavily linked to the schools CPD. I would not rate these lessons and I certainly wouldn’t link PM targets to observation ratings. It must however, be acknowledged, that this is going to be subjective. Thus each teacher should be observed by different people at different levels of the school. I would make it 1 by SLT, 1 by a middle leader (preferably a subject specialist) and 1 by a peer in the department (if possible). There would also need to be a mechanism by which the outcomes could be disputed.
- A target relating to pupil progress- This one is probably the most difficult one to get right. Every school I have worked in thus far have had a lack of nuance in their targets about pupil progress. There is a blanket “pupils must make x levels/sub-levels/grades progress” within a set time frame. This is generally across the entire spectrum of abilities. Apart from the observations target this is the target teachers are most cynical about in my experience. When people set targets expecting linear progress when we know pupils don’t make linear progress or when they set targets that expect all pupils to make the same progress when it’s quite obvious they don’t it just gives me the impression the people setting the target don’t know what they’re doing, don’t care about making the targets realistic or can’t be bothered to think about target setting much. I would set a minim expectation of progress for each pupil based on how pupils of that ability have performed in previous years (If historically most students in set 5 make 1 sub level progress make that the minimum. Possibly look at the average too). I would ask each teacher what level/grade each pupil they teach is going to get in the best case scenario. If all pupil meet or exceed the minimum (or there is a good reason for some pupils not meeting it) and an agreed percentage hit the best case scenario then this target is met. If a teacher shows that they have done every intervention that can be realistically expected and their teaching has been judged to be good enough then this target can be considered to have been met. If lots of pupils outperform the “best case scenario” then there is an issue but I think that’s easily solved. Thought needs to be given to how to make sure all the focus is not on exam classes.
- Wider contribution to the school- This could be mentoring or coaching other staff. It could be scheme of work development. It could be developing and sharing resources. It could be anything that contributes to the life of the school or improving the school beyond the teacher’s classroom. This is another target where the school needs to carefully consider what they want from each member of staff and what would have to happen for the target to be met.
- Leadership targets- As I don’t really know much about school leadership (I’d say I’m more of an expert in how not to do it) I don’t really have much to say about this one. I think schools need to consider very carefully what they want the people in leadership roles to do but also how they want them to do it. The targets also need to be as specific as possible in both regards. I think the bullying environment I worked in was sustained and allowed to flourish by the latitude people were given in HOW they achieved their leadership targets and the vagueness of the targets. I remember my leadership targets being almost impossible to fail if I could get other people to do quite a lot of extra work and take the credit for it and almost impossible to pass if I couldn’t. I stood down from my leadership role. Lots of people became bullies. Even people that were previously lovely people became bullies on assuming a leadership role in that environment. Nobody seemed to care about that as long as the work got done (or appeared to get done). As a result the staff turnover was massive and the school was pretty terrible for most of the time I was there.