News story

Schools get more freedom to manage teacher performance

Schools will soon find it easier to manage their teachers and help ensure they are performing to the best of their abilities.

  • Shake up of system will allow schools to sack weak teachers in a term
  • Plans for schools to share more information on teacher performance with prospective employers

More freedom to manage teacher performance

Schools will soon find it easier to manage their teachers and help ensure they are performing to the best of their abilities.

Ministers today published new arrangements for teacher and head teacher appraisals in maintained schools in England, and for dealing with underperforming teachers.

It will come into effect from September 2012 and includes:

  • giving schools more freedom over managing their teachers through simpler, less prescriptive appraisal regulations;
  • removing the three-hour limit on observing a teacher in the classroom (the so-called “three-hour observation rule”) so that schools have the flexibility to decide what is appropriate;
  • a requirement to assess teachers every year against the new, simpler and sharper Teachers’ Standards - the key skills that teachers need;
  • allowing poorly performing teachers to be removed in about a term - the process can currently take a year or more;
  • an optional new model policy for schools that deals with both performance and capability issues; and
  • scrapping more than 50 pages of unnecessary guidance.

Ministers are also consulting on new proposals to help schools when they recruit new teachers. This will mean that schools will have to pass on information to prospective employers, on request, about whether a teacher is or has been subject to capability procedures. This would help deal with the problem of ‘recycling’ of poor teachers, by helping schools make better, more informed decisions when recruiting.

Recent research from the Sutton Trust shows that during one year with a very effective maths and English teacher, pupils gain 40 per cent more in their learning than they would with a poorly performing teacher.

Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

We have many excellent head teachers and teachers in the country. They do an outstanding job. We want to help them to do their jobs even better.

These reforms will make it easier for schools to identify and address the training and professional development teachers need to fulfil their potential, and to help their pupils to do the same.

For far too long schools have been tangled up in complex red tape when dealing with teachers who are struggling. That is why these reforms focus on giving schools the responsibility to deal with this issue fairly and quickly.

Schools need to be able to dismiss more quickly those teachers who, despite best efforts, do not perform to the expected standard. Future employers also need to know more about the strengths and weaknesses of teachers they are potentially employing.

Nobody benefits when poor teaching is tolerated. It puts pressure on other teachers and undermines children’s education.

Amanda Phillips is head teacher at the Ofsted-rated ‘outstanding’ Old Ford Primary in Bow, east London. She dealt with underperforming teachers at the school when she took over in 2003, when it was failing. Welcoming the changes she said:

No head teacher wants to dismiss a teacher, but when they are not performing to the required standard despite support, it is not in anyone’s interest - the pupils, colleagues, school and teacher themselves - for that teacher to remain in post.

When I took over at Old Ford Primary School I had to work with the current complex and time-consuming system for managing teachers’ performance. The changes being made now will help head teachers, schools, governors and HR advisers make sure we have the very best teachers working in our schools.

Russell Hobby, General Secretary at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), said:

After teaching, performance management is one of the most important things that happens in schools, because it’s the way we make sure that teaching keeps getting better.

Great performance management is a right, not only for the pupils of a school, but for the staff themselves. Everyone deserves to know how they are doing and how they can develop. And this needs to be done out in the open. The revised procedures reflect a large proportion of NAHT’s hopes. They are simple and flexible, firm but fair. A streamlined approach to capability will, on the rare occasions that it is needed, help schools act more decisively in pupils’ interests and reduce the conflict that these actions can generate.

We believe that the vast majority of teachers are dedicated, talented professionals who do an essential job in often challenging conditions. Better performance management will celebrate this fact. It is not easy; and it is also about far more than policies and procedures. We recognise the duty of school leaders to ensure they apply procedures with integrity and empathy.

Brian Lightman, General Secretary at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said:

ASCL welcomes the clarity of the new teacher appraisal and capability model policy for schools and as such we hope it will be adopted by school governing bodies in maintained schools and academies across the country.

One of the strengths of the policy is the way in which it clearly separates the appraisal process from any formal capability procedure. This new model policy helpfully clarifies the role of lesson observation for the purposes of appraisal and the use of “drop-in” observations by head teachers and other leaders with responsibility for teaching standards to evaluate the standards of teaching and check that high standards of professional performance are established and maintained. We are also pleased to see the retention of the use of an experienced external adviser for the appraisal of head teachers.

The current system for managing teachers’ performance is set out in ‘The Education (School Teacher Performance Management) (England) Regulations 2006’. These regulations are complex, detailed and prescriptive, telling schools what to do at every turn. The overall system fails to respect the professionalism of head teachers and teachers, and makes it harder for schools to manage how staff are trained and rewarded.

In addition to this, the current ‘School Staffing Regulations 2009’ require governing bodies to have “capability procedures” for dealing with poorly performing teachers. Schools are expected to follow a complex “model capability procedure” which means that it can take a year or more to dismiss an underperforming teacher. The performance management arrangements and capability procedures were developed separately and this has created further complexity, overlap and duplication.

More than four out of five respondents to the Government’s consultation supported the overall changes to the system. Previous plans to require schools to pass copies of teachers’ annual appraisal reports to prospective employers are not being taken forward. Responses to the consultation on this proposal were split as to whether it would be an effective way of dealing with ‘recycling’ of poor teachers.

Sutton Trust research shows that heads and teachers support the aims of these proposals. More than half (57 per cent) of those surveyed in November 2010 agreed or strongly agreed that there was not enough freedom for schools to dismiss poorly performing teachers. Less than a quarter (21 per cent) disagreed or strongly disagreed.

Notes for editors

  1. Further details on the new arrangements for the appraisal of teachers and head teachers in maintained schools in England, and for dealing with underperforming teachers can be found on the Department’s website.

  2. A summary of the consultation responses can be found in the consultations section of the website.

  3. The six-week consultation on proposed changes to the School Staffing (England) Regulations 2009 to require schools to pass on to prospective employers, on request, information about whether a teacher is or has been subject to capability procedures can be found in consultations section of the website. It closes on 24 February 2012.

  4. Sutton Trust research on teaching and its impact on pupil performance, “Improving the impact of teachers on pupil achievement in the UK - interim findings, September 2011” can be found on the Sutton Trust’s website.

  5. Studies in the US have also shown that a pupil taught for three consecutive years by a teacher in the top ten percent of performance can make as much as two years more progress than a pupil taught for the same period by a teacher in the bottom ten percent of performance. More details online.

  6. The new Teachers’ Standards, which set out the key skills that teachers need to improve students’ performance, come into effect from 1 September 2012 and can be found on the Department’s website.

  7. Old Ford Primary School in Tower Hamlets, London, focused on teaching and transformed standards in every classroom. The school had suffered from ten years of poor results. A large school by primary standards, the proportion of pupils on free school meals is very high, with a majority speaking English as an additional language. In 2001, Ofsted judged the school to have serious weaknesses.

New head teacher Amanda Philips took a rigorous approach. In her first week Amanda, with two senior local authority officers, undertook a full review of the quality of teaching and gave direct and detailed feedback to each teacher, along with strategies to improve. A rubric for teaching good lessons was introduced, and dates were set to reassess the quality of their teaching. Each teacher received tailored support on what needed to improve, including one-to-one mentoring, modelled support and opportunities for teachers to observe those performing better. Formal observations were used and day-to-day drop-ins became part of accepted practice.

Today, Ofsted reports are glowing - now rated outstanding. By the end of key stage two, pupils in the school are working to national expectations. The school has won numerous awards and has been designated a National Support School in recognition of the role it plays in helping other schools to improve. In September 2011, it was also awarded Teaching School status.

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