It is that time of the year when the teaching profession begins to look back on the academic year that has just about gone and begins thinking about next year. There is also some light at the end of the tunnel – the summer break!
Often school leadership teams are now focusing on school priorities for the coming year and writing these into the School Development Plan. SEFs are being updated ready for the new year and in anticipation of examination results. Ofsted preparation is tidied up. Subject and key stage leaders review their schemes of work and work with colleagues to improve resources and, maybe, even begin to think about sorting out that filing cabinet that you said you’d do last year. And the year before, come to that.
What is often overlooked at this time of the year, however, is the responsibility schools have for ensuring that colleagues are appropriately supported in order to meet their appraisal objectives. Back in October, appraisal objectives were set for all teachers and as part of that process the evidence needed in order for the teacher to be judged to have met the success criteria would have been identified. The next few weeks are a good time for appraisers to re-visit this aspect of appraisal and ensure that the necessary actions have been taken to generate the evidence. Often this is from lesson observation, book looks, learning walks, data drops, coursework grades, meeting notes and the like.
What is crucial at this stage in the year is that any gaps are filled, or at least planned to be filled over the coming few weeks. It is unacceptable for an appraisee to not meet their objective because the appraiser has not collected the necessary evidence that was agreed at the planning meeting last October. Also, if appraisal is to be an important mechanism for developing staff and for supporting whole school improvement, poorly executed appraisal holds back both colleagues and the school.
It would be useful for appraisers to meet promptly this half term with their appraisees and agree both the gaps in evidence and to map out the action each needs to take over the coming weeks before the end of term. This should then be stuck to! If a lesson is to be observed then ensure the focus of the observation is agreed in advance and make sure the focus will generate clear evidence for a later appraisal review.
It is very important that there are no surprises at the review meeting. Although late in the year, it is also important for reviewers to have a secure view on whether there are going to be any difficult conversations about poor performance. Appraisees should know if this is the case and be given clear guidance and advice on what the issues are and how the school, through appraisal, is going to support them. It is still not too late to amend the objectives and CPD support to address performance issues and collect evidence to support a judgement at the review stage.
Appraisal should be part of this last half term’s work schedule and not left now until the review meetings. Make sure the evidence is collected and both the appraiser and appraisee are clear about how the process is going. Be honest with each other; keep communicating and keep records.
The next blog will consider making arrangements for the review meetings, how to use the evidence to form judgements and how to write a review that is a valuable record of a year’s work. In the meantime, best wishes for the coming weeks.