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Teacher Appraisal and Performance Management


The release, on April 16th, of “Departmental Advice on reviewing and revising your school’s approach to teachers’ pay” is causing head teachers, senior leaders, teachers, union representatives and governors to rethink the relationship between appraisal, performance management, pay and capability. This briefing references the key documents and offers a research and development opportunity to colleagues who are committed to a sustainable model of school improvement based on self-evaluation and professional development.

Key questions:

Reviewing the Key Documents below we are, in effect, answering three key questions. “What is appraisal?” Answering this indicates that interpretations of the appraisal (or performance management) regulations vary. Therefore, as we ponder, “Why do we appraise?” in our school we can identify, “How do we appraise?” In this way the lines between appraisal, pay and capability become clearer.

Key documents to have at hand: “Departmentmental Advice – Reviewing and revising your school’s approach to teachers’ pay” April 2013. This latest document from the DfE is non statutory, as opposed to the regulations below. It contains a useful summary of requirements and useful advice about what has to be done, what might be done and, repeatedly makes the point that the revised arrangements, “provide increased flexibility for schools to develop policies tailored to their needs….. it is up to each school to decide for itself… single approach will suit all schools” –

“The Education (School Teachers’ Appraisal – England) Regulations 2012” effective from September 2012, set out the legal and statutory requirements for Appraisal. –

“The DfES Model Appraisal and Capability Policy”, as its title suggests, is the DfES model policy for appraisal and the separate but linked process of capability procedures. –

“The agreed Joint Union (ATL, NAHT, NUT,) Model Appraisal Process for Governing Bodies” uses the same procedures as the DfES model but provides more detailed advice and suggestions interpreting the regulations. A useful document because it is the agreed joint union policy. –

The Teacher Standards, effective from September 2012, provide the criteria against which teachers are able to judge the effectiveness of their work, in addition, of course to Ofsted Criteria. –

What is Appraisal?

Both the DfES and Joint Union Model policies promote annual Appraisal, or Performance Management, as a supportive, developmental and helpful process stating:

“Appraisal in this school will be a supportive and developmental process designed to ensure that all teachers have the skills and support they need to carry out their role effectively. It will help to ensure that teachers are able to continue to improve their professional practice and to develop as teachers”.

Both the DfES and Joint Union Model policies make a distinction between appraisal (performance management) and capability procedures. The union model stresses how best to link appraisal with Performance Related Pay. These distinctions lead to an important study of, “What appraisal is not”

Appraisal is not “Weed out the bad teachers” There has been unhelpful press coverage from a minority of politicians and school leaders, opposed vigorously by professional associations, that appraisal is a way to deal with weak teachers. This old sore has resulted in some, on both sides of this dangerous divide, putting up barriers to appraisal and hampering its effective use as a potentially beneficial process. To see appraisal as a deficit model can lead to resentment and the use of the Teachers’ Standards as a list to be ticked in order to award pay.

Why do we appraise?

The detail of documentation can be overwhelming and so reflecting on this second question is useful. We appraise, at best, as a profession, in the way we teach. We work from what the learner understands, rather than hector them about where they need to be. Research shows that appraisal works when it is depicted as teacher learning and part of a professional development process. This is encapsulated in John Hattie’s sixth and final conclusion, after his world wide research analysis in, “Visible Learning”:

“School leaders and teachers need to create school, staffroom, and classroom environments where error is welcomed as a learning opportunity, where discarding incorrect knowledge and understandings is welcomed, and where participants can feel safe to learn, re-learn, and explore knowledge and understanding.”

So, when school leaders make time for appraisal dialogues that seek to understand what helps and what hinders good teaching and act on that understanding, schools improve. When appraisal is seen as an opportunity to showcase skills and identify ways to develop, it is welcomed by teachers. When appraisal is based on self-evaluation shared and seen as an opportunity to work collaboratively on school improvement – it works. So, how do we create the permitting circumstances?

How do we appraise?

First: appraisal is about having a belief in, and building trust in, the professional approach of teachers. It’s about strengthening the capacity of staff to work collaboratively by expecting colleagues to describe their work and listen as others share their insights. Senior leaders who want to develop, or enhance a culture of, “looking at what we do with a view to doing it better next time” encourage dialogue and recognise that the very best learning is not independent, within a classroom, with the door firmly closed but interdependent and co-operative.

Second: Professionals have to be capable of self-evaluation. Most, teachers and headteachers in their hearts, have a pretty good sense of how they are doing, this is nous, or practical intelligence. So, the second step for school leaders is to ensure that teachers are supported in developing strong skills of self review, analysis and action planning. This means thought through and focused professional development.

Third: Describe appraisal as self-evaluation shared. Creating the context for the spirit of shared endeavour can be difficult, especially in schools where the culture of professionalism is less embedded. So, starting with enthusiasts and disseminating the twin benefits of better staff learning and improved student learning can be a powerful motivator.

Fourth: If the three steps above are on the way to being established the fourth step, sorting the actual protocols and procedures related to the new regulations will be simpler. What happens and in what order is clear in the model policies and non statutory guidance above. How it is done in specific contexts remains for the school to decide. A final but critical issue is how your appraisal, performance related pay and capability procedures relate.

Fifth: Once the performance management, as professional development, model is in place the issues of how pay links to performance and when capability procedures are triggered become clear. If there is a strong professional development culture for appraisal, few will dispute associated fair systems of reward. All are likely to expect training for colleagues experiencing difficulty and most will accept that continued under performance will necessitate job change. Clarifying these linked policies is important and again the agreed joint union and new departmental guidance can be used to tailor approaches suiting each school.

So, what can help school leaders establish these steps and embed a culture of self-evaluation shared?

Research and Professional Development – a pilot in 100 schools Our research shows: that many heads and governors want to offer an approach to appraisal that encourages teachers to self-evaluate and share their learning from a position of self-knowledge. We also know that many teachers are quietly reviewing and strengthening their practice, in order to be prepared for the inevitable sharing involved in appraisal and performance management. Our development: led to designing the iAbacusTM- a simple on-line self-evaluation and school improvement tool. Uniquely, it builds the capacity of teachers and leaders to review performance, analyse factors that help or hinder and plan for action. It is pre-populated with the Ofsted Framework and the DfE Teachers’ Standards for reference and schools can add their own criteria. Our pilot in 100 schools: offers a free iAbacusTM license (one per school) in order to investigate the power of teacher self-evaluation as the foundation of appraisal as part of professional development and school improvement. We want to explore, with 100 pilot schools, two hypotheses related to appraisal as professional development. That teachers and leaders, want to improve their practice and given time and an efficient evaluation and planning tool will:

  1. become confident in self-evaluation and planning for improvement as part of their professional learning

  2. be more likely to share their evidence of impact and collaborate on identifying the most effective and efficient approaches to teaching, learning and school improvement.

Application: to find out more and register for the pilot – email or call 0115 9428914


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