Betsy Maytham

Product Development Manager

  • Experienced teacher and trainer
  • Specialises in writing outstanding model texts and poetry, and designing resources to support teachers in their classrooms

See more articles by Betsy Maytham
See all news and articles

What’s the Problem with the School Performance Management process?

All schools need some kind of performance management process. But how can they make sure that the process of performance management doesn’t take precedent to its very purpose – the development of their teachers and staff?

I’m a big believer in process. I’m going to lay that out at the start. To me, it’s really important that, for the day-to-day running of a school (or any organisation), there are clear processes and procedures that everyone knows how to follow, in order to ensure clarity, transparency and, also, to support staff in feeling secure in what they’re doing. There’s nothing worse than feeling completely at sea, because you don’t know what the process or procedure is to handle a situation. Processes and procedures are how we implement and work towards our shared vision, as a school – they are a vital part of a teacher’s toolbox and they help to ensure the smooth running of the school, because everyone is pulling together.

So, when it comes to performance management, there needs to be a procedure, right? Right. Of course there does. However, this is where I get a bit twitchy! Procedure is important, of course, but it’s not the most important aspect of … well, anything. Let’s take an example: marking. All schools now have a marking policy. This is right and proper and I’m 100% on board with this. However, the most successful schools have scrapped the more complicated systems such as triple-impact marking, recognising that it simply is not useful. As Sean Harford, HMI National Director for Education puts it: “There is remarkably little high-quality, relevant research evidence to suggest that detailed or extensive marking has any significant impact on pupils’ learning”. Why? Because this is a perfect illustration of process over content – doing paperwork to show how well you can do paperwork, not to actually move children’s learning forward.

So yes, there should be a policy – for marking, for safeguarding, for any significant areas a school needs to regulate. But this does not mean that the best schools have extensive policies, causing extensive work, often thereby creating the minimum of impact. The best policies are concise, succinct and cause the minimum of workload for the maximum of impact. As David Hopkins says of School Development Plans in ‘Every School a Great School’, “The length of a school’s development plan is in inverse proportion to its impact on practice”. I would argue that this holds true for any school policy.

Coming back, by a slightly meandering route, then, to performance management. Yes, of course there ought to be a policy and a procedure, but let’s not mistake lengthy, complex procedure for efficiency. Let’s not mistake depth of paperwork for depth of impact. Performance management comes in many shapes and sizes – some schools use paper forms, others use online systems; some schools use email-linked calendars to schedule reviews months in advance, others catch one another in the hall to arrange a time for a chat – but there are several key areas in which the most effective schools are the same:

1. They treat performance management as an ongoing process – not something that is only ever referred to once a year/term/half term, but something that is pervasive and significant in everyday conversation;

2. They have a clear balance between performance MANAGEMENT, performance MEASUREMENT and performance MOVEMENT, by which I mean they recognise the difference between simply having a meeting (i.e. an act of MANAGEMENT), performing a learning walk (an act of MEASUREMENT) and spending time training or coaching staff (an act of MOVEMENT – something which actually means that staff are moving their practice forward and improving). Each of these is necessary, but the balance is key;

3. All performance management is conducted with the school’s and the individual’s predetermined goals in mind – without a clear vision for success, performance management is doomed to ineffectiveness;

4. They treat performance management as an emotionally intelligent enterprise that supports, coaches and inspires staff to improve in an organic, cohesive and holistic way.

There are, of course, many different ways of doing this. However, at TT Education, we’ve spent a lot of time thinking about performance management, because our entire purpose is to improve children’s life chances by empowering staff, and one of the most significant ways to empower staff is with rigorous, inspiring, supportive performance management. This is why we created our brand new School CPD Tracker portal. Now please bear with me, because I don’t want to become too sales-y, but this is an exciting system and it makes performance management just so simple, straightforward and effective, I can’t help but get a bit enthusiastic! School CPD Tracker: 

  • has a simple calendar that allows leaders to see at a glance when each staff member has their next review and/or CPD training course;
  • allows you to set targets either chosen from a bank of recommended targets (based on your school’s priorities) or add and save your own bespoke targets;
  • shows you with colour-coded tabs how each staff member is progressing towards meeting their targets;
  • allows you to save notes and reflections on conversations in review meetings;
  • allows your members of staff (either reviewer or reviewee) to upload documents as evidence and tag them against not just their own personal targets, but also the teaching standards and your school’s targets;
  • produces analytics and reports to show staff development in key Ofsted/school-centred areas (based on individual staff KPIs/targets).

Best of all, it’s just so simple to use, with everything together in a single online portal. Performance management is not about complicated procedures, piles of paperwork or adding to teachers’ and leaders’ already overburdened workload. It’s about recording the great practice, reflecting on personal progress, and – this is the key – developing your staff (and thereby your children) to be the best they can be. After all, isn’t that what education is all about?

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------