Real Performance Appraisal – A Work in Progress


Performance management skills will be become exposed this year as head teachers are required to link the results of appraisals to pay. Performance related pay will overshadow performance development as the link to pay will lead to more emphasis on a defensive collection of paper evidence.

The skills of nurturing improved and sustained performance when the wind is blowing against an individual as well as behind him is a key requirement.

Professionals Assess Themselves

Professionals share a common trait – they are often quick to realize when their performance has tailed off and they can understand what they are supposed to achieve.  However, they often struggle to know what they must do differently to improve.

So what do they do?  Some will work even more hours but often with little effect except for putting themselves under more stress.  Others may well become more disappointed in themselves or even depressed.  Many will feel that they are failing but find it difficult to voice what help they need to work in a different way as they are focused on the wrong issues.

Key questions for school leaders are:

  • Will Governors and the SLT accept their responsibility to help staff to improve their performance?
  • Are they focused on the advantages of real performance appraisal and improvement?
  • Have they revised their own skills to serve the demands of the new approach?

In this article we start to explore real performance appraisal – real because we start from the point that many head teachers are nervous of the new appraisal and pay links and have adopted a defensive approach in their pay policies and outlook on appraisal.

Effective performance for a professional is about 70% own input and 30% organisational input so the responsibility is very much with the individual. However, when an individual is working hard but not delivering, the appraisal process should become a source of encouragement and diagnosis but not defensiveness.


The key need is to work with the individual to identify what is not being translated into effective classroom practice.  For example, planning and documentation may be fine so what is preventing those plans being demonstrated in teaching practice?  The individual will need help via a colleague to understand what is not happening or is happening but at the wrong time or inconsistently.

Help is required via a series of constructive observations, not as a rating observation, but as a mirror (or better a video) of what occurs compared to what the individual thinks is occurring.  Help the individual to explore what he/she needs to do differently and how that should be achieved.  Yes, professionals will need such help occasionally as the downward spiral of working hard but being ineffective can prevent the person seeing what needs to be unpicked and changed.

Sustained performance is required so continue with the observations periodically to help the individual to see when they are beginning to regress into the old habit. This time though it will be the individual who can rapidly identify what is going astray in their own practice but he/she is likely to need a few pointers as to how to avoid those issues.

Observer/Reflector/Adviser – skills in short supply

Does the school have a few gifted individuals who demonstrate those three skills and who can work with colleagues to turn performance around and regain an effective and inspired teacher?  A common mistake is to assume those on the SLT have that required combination of skills.

If you do not have such skills available in house, would it be beneficial to identify within your pyramid or locality a few who do and can be released occasionally for such help?  The cost would be justified as you only have to consider the hours of time that are absorbed in dealing with under performance or even exit options.

Effective Leadership in Action

An effective leader will find the person with the right skills and chemistry to ensure the helping relationship is productive. The results will be:

  • a teacher who is once more effective and inspiring for the pupils/students;
  • evidence to colleagues that the school’s appraisal/performance management approach is about focusing on effective performance with help when necessary.

An effective leader allows individuals to take risks to improve performance and to experiment with new ways of doing things. Such leaders free themselves from a defensive, overly cautious approach to appraisal and performance related pay.

Thinking of appraisal as an annual cycle is notorious as a downward spiral and it becomes a chore in the last few months of the cycle. Effective leaders have the knack of intervening at the appropriate time. By developing a regular discipline of reflection on performance in practice compared to what was planned will help individuals, the SLT and Governing Body to see where the trends in performance are going and to head off any significant issues. Such reflections do not have to be overly formal but will give individuals insights into their performance and ways of improving.

Finally read your pay policy again and check that you have not adopted a defensive approach to linking performance and pay. This may be a new venture for you but allow yourself to take risks and watch colleagues and students flourish as they feel able to experiment and to call for real appraisal help when needed.

Make sure that you are alerted to new articles on this blog by clicking on the link in the left hand column of this page. You will then be able to receive alerts by e-mail of new articles and updates.

© 2013 HR Management Dimensions

Web Site and Related Sites

Blogs: Headsup HR; 
HR Management Dimensions
Web site:  HR Management Dimensions
Facebook: HR Management Dimensions.

Appraisals – What Benefits Will You Derive from the Time Invested?

Are you losing the benefits of staff appraisals and making life more difficult for yourself?   Although conducting appraisals for staff is mandatory in maintained schools, as a Head Teacher or Governor, you have a short window of opportunity to consider what you need to achieve from the appraisal process before the mooted changes to the teachers’ terms immerse you in a new round of setting SMART(ER) objectives etc.  This comes at a time when the private sector is once more questioning the value of an appraisal process.

“I have no choice in the matter”, I hear you say with the result that you are likely to carry on with the process without thinking further about it.  While you have the opportunity, pause and think about what you need to achieve from the process to improve learning within the school and achievement of the School’s plans.

For a slightly light-hearted view but with serious underlying questions, read the following article so that you can consider what should be your focus from now on
‘Performance Appraisal – A Time Expired Process

Further articles will be published on what you can do to improve the benefits from the time invested in the appraisal process and also on ways of implementing more flexible pay strategies as the 2013 Teachers’ Conditions are unveiled.

To ensure you are alerted to new articles, click on the receive alerts by e-mail link
in the left hand column of this site.

You are welcome to share articles on this site provided the full source is acknowledged as below

© 2014 HR Management Dimensions

Web Site and Related Sites
Blogs: Headsup HR; 
HR Management Dimensions
Web site:  HR Management Dimensions
Facebook: HR Management Dimensions.