This guidance is for members in England who are subject to annual performance management or appraisal arrangements.
It is relevant for members working in maintained schools, academies and free schools.
It will also be useful for members working in the independent sector or sixth-form colleges, although members in these settings are advised to check their relevant policy documents and seek advice and guidance from the NASUWT if they have any concerns.
A note on terminology
The review stage
- Statutory provisions governing your performance management
- The review of your current performance management cycle
- Documentation and evidence
- Professional reflection in advance of the review meeting
- Preparing your arguments
- In the meeting
- If you are not satisfied with the outcome of the review
The planning stage
- About your objectives
- Your objectives - ten key tests
- At the conclusion of the planning meeting
Performance management is a critical process for teachers and school leaders in England.
In maintained schools and many academies and free schools, the successful completion of performance management is central to accessing pay progression and movement between pay ranges.
In some schools in the academies sector, employers have decided to end the link between pay progression and performance management. However, even in these settings, performance management is the key means employers use to evaluate the effectiveness of teachers and school leaders’ practice.
It is also commonly used as the basis for securing access to professional development and training.
In all cases, therefore, members must ensure that they take every possible step to secure a successful outcome to their performance management review and give themselves the best possible chance of a successful outcome in the following year by agreeing to appropriate objectives.
This guidance is intended to assist members to this end.
The NASUWT has well-established principles of effective performance management that are set out in its checklists. The checklists Performance Management/Appraisal Checklist For Employers With a Link Between Pay and Appraisal and Performance Management/Appraisal Checklist For Employers With No Link Between Pay and Appraisal can both be downloaded on the right/below.
The Union continues to work to ensure that the provisions of these checklists are in place in every school. Members concerned that their schools’ performance management policies are not consistent with the relevant checklist should contact their Local Association or National Executive Member.
The NASUWT is also campaigning for all teachers and school leaders in every school to benefit from pay progression that is not dependent on performance management outcomes.
However, there are steps that individual members can and should take regardless of the performance management policy in place in their school to give themselves the best possible chance of securing positive performance management outcomes.
The terms ‘performance management’ and ‘appraisal’ usually refer to the same process in which teachers and school leaders are set objectives to achieve during the performance management cycle and are assessed against these objectives at the end of the cycle. The term ‘performance management’ is used in this guidance.
A ‘reviewee’ (or ‘appraisee’ in some schools) is the person subject to the performance management process. A ‘reviewer’ (or ‘appraiser’) is the person tasked with undertaking the reviewee’s performance management. This guide uses the terms ‘reviewee’ and ‘reviewer’ to describe these roles.
It is essential to note some of the statutory requirements that regulate how schools should undertake performance management.
While these provisions apply legally to maintained schools, they are also important in determining practice in academies and free schools.
However, it is always important to check the particular provisions that apply to your workplace.
Performance management in maintained schools takes place within the context of the Education (School Teachers’ Appraisal) (England) Regulations 2012. These Regulations are important as they set out requirements about how performance management must be undertaken.
These requirements include:
ensuring that reviewees are provided with all documentation relating to the performance management process in their school;
confirming that assessment must take place with reference to the Teachers’ Standards (see NASUWT advice on the use of the Standards in performance management);
that performance should take place over a 12-month cycle in most cases; and
that any objectives set must relate to the reviewee’s contractual role and responsibilities.
Maintained schools must also ensure that performance management is undertaken in line with the provisions of the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).
The NASUWT also expects these provisions to be reflected in practice in academies and free schools.
These provisions include:
The relevant body must consider annually whether or not to increase the salary of teachers who have completed a year of employment since the previous annual pay determination and, if so, what salary they should receive within the relevant ranges.
The decision whether or not to award pay progression must be related to the teacher’s performance. A recommendation on pay must be made in writing as part of the teacher’s performance management report.
Pay decisions must be clearly attributable to the performance of the teacher in question.
Continued good performance as defined by an individual school’s pay policy should give classroom or unqualified teachers an expectation of progression to the top of their respective pay range.
Qualified teachers may apply to be paid on the upper pay range at least once a year in line with their school’s pay policy.
It should be noted that the NASUWT’s performance management and pay policy checklists are consistent with all of these provisions.
It is vitally important that you plan carefully for the meeting that will take place to review whether you have met your performance management objectives over the past year.
The first step is to collect all the relevant documentation you will need to support you in this process. This documentation will include copies of:
your school or academy trust’s pay and performance management policies;
the planning information produced at the start of the cycle and any revised statement if changes were made during the year;
details of any training and development needs that may have been identified and the support provided to you during the year;
written feedback on any classroom observations;
your job description;
the school or trust development plan;
pupil assessment information for the classes you teach; and
any additional evidence you may have been asked to collect during the year.
You should also ask your reviewer well in advance of the meeting to provide you with copies of any further documentation to which they intend to refer. When you receive this documentation, you should check it to ensure that it does not contain anything that you have not seen before or has not been raised with you during the cycle.
If you are not given this information, or are made aware of any information that might lead to a negative review, you should request a postponement of the meeting and seek further advice and support from the NASUWT immediately.
In preparing for the meeting, it is essential that you take time to reflect on any key issues or events that may have arisen or occurred during the previous cycle and that may have implications for your performance management outcomes.
The NASUWT does not condone the use of employer-imposed template forms for this purpose. Reflecting on professional practice should be a personal activity in which the teacher or school leader decides how much and with whom this reflection should be shared.
Before the review meeting, teachers and school leaders may want to reflect on the following issues:
Were any changes made during the cycle? For example, to:
your responsibilities; or
any other aspect of the original planning statement?
Did any changes occur in your working environment? For example:
high pupil turnover in your timetabled classes;
absence of support staff; or
classroom or resource changes?
What impact did the need for schools to employ remote working during the coronavirus lockdown have on your ability to meet your objectives?
It might be particularly helpful to reflect on how effective your school’s practice was in this respect. In particular, many teachers and school leaders reported significantly increased workload burdens due to the use of remote learning, which may have impacted on your ability to achieve your agreed objectives. It is also the case that many teaching and learning-related objectives may not have been achievable without sustained pupil attendance on site.
The NASUWT’s advice and guidance on good practice for remote education might support your reflection on these issues.
Were there any circumstances that meant you were not in work for the whole of the performance management cycle? For example:
long-term sickness absence;
self-isolation and other absences because of the coronavirus pandemic;
developing a disability;
you were working on a temporary contract of less than a year’s length; or
maternity, parental or adoption leave?
You should be particularly aware of any issues that may be brought up in support of a claim that you have not met your objectives. It is worth reflecting on whether:
the objectives you agreed or that were imposed on you were not achievable during the year and why this might be the case;
if any issues arose following classroom observations, including in any written or oral feedback you received;
whether you were asked to complete any documentation relating to your performance against the Teachers’ Standards; or
whether you were compelled or agreed to participate in an informal ‘support programme’ due to concerns about your performance during the cycle.
You must prepare your arguments in advance of the meeting, especially if you are concerned that your reviewer might assert that you have not met your objectives.
If you work in a school where your pay progression is linked to the outcomes of performance management, it may be helpful to consider in advance of the meeting:
whether you are eligible for pay progression under the school’s pay and performance management policy;
that you have a legitimate expectation that you will receive pay progression if you have met all the objectives set at the start of the performance management cycle;
that there should have been no retrospective changes to the performance management process that was in place when your objectives were set;
if you were unable to continue working during the performance management cycle for any reason covered by equalities legislation (for example, reasons related to pregnancy, maternity or disability), it would be potentially unlawful for pay progression to be determined by the completion of objectives set with an expectation of continuous working or with no reasonable adjustment because of your absence; and
it is unacceptable to postpone pay progression because of an absence caused by a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010.
It is worth reflecting on whether you think that you are performing at a level below the school’s expectations and, if so, what the reasons for this might be. If you believe that this may be a result of a failure to achieve your objectives, it might be helpful to use the information in this briefing to consider:
what evidence might be presented to suggest that this is the case;
whether there are any barriers you faced to achieving your objectives; and
what evidence you might offer to challenge any suggestion that you have not completed performance management successfully.
It is unacceptable to the NASUWT for your school to determine that you are performing below a previously expected level because you have been prevented from completing your objectives by the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
The DfE has stated: ‘Teachers must not be penalised during the appraisal process or any subsequent pay progression decisions because of the decision to restrict pupil attendance at schools’.
Further advice from the NASUWT on dealing with the impact of the pandemic on performance management is available on Performance Management and Covid-19 (England).
While it is an essential aspect of professional practice to reflect honestly on your performance, there is no room for false modesty in the review meeting. You must prepare to give the best possible account of yourself in this meeting.
It is helpful to keep the following points in mind:
Only you and your reviewer should be present during the meeting. It is not acceptable for others to observe the discussion or seek to contribute to it.
Try to adopt a positive and confident approach, remembering that you are a highly qualified professional. You should confirm that you have achieved your performance management objectives and, where relevant, that these are the success criteria for pay progression. Therefore, you should be clear that you have a legitimate expectation that pay progression will be awarded, which you expect your school to meet.
Do not focus on or volunteer information about any problems or offer your perceptions of your shortcomings - if you have prepared for the meeting thoroughly, you will be in a stronger position to refute any negative issues that your reviewer might raise.
Remember that the review meeting should be a professional dialogue in which you are an active and respected participant. Performance management should not be seen as something that is ‘done to you’.
There should be no surprises in the meeting, such as a document produced by your reviewer which you have not seen and which has a material bearing on your review or negative information that has not been shared with you in advance. You should always be prepared to request the adjournment of the meeting if this occurs.
As the review meeting progresses, continue to check that:
the written assessment against the Teachers’ Standards is that you are continuing to meet them;
the written assessment against the objectives is based on the criteria set at the start of the cycle;
your reviewer has recorded the overall assessment in writing;
you agree with the wording of the overall assessment;
if you are eligible for pay progression, your reviewer has made a written recommendation to this end;
you have been given the opportunity to make any written comments;
if you agree with the statement that you and your reviewer have signed it; and
you have been given a copy of the written statement.
If you do not agree with any aspect of the statement prepared by your reviewer, you should carefully record all your comments and concerns. If it is not possible to do this during the meeting, you should do so as soon as possible after the meeting has ended.
In these circumstances, you must not sign the statement and should seek advice from the NASUWT as soon as possible. You should ask for a copy of your school’s appeals procedure and must not proceed with planning for the next cycle.
Objectives represent the key means by which your performance is evaluated during the performance management process and, in many cases, how your ability to access pay progression is determined. They can also be critical to the professional training and development opportunities you are given.
It is, therefore, essential that you avoid agreeing to objectives that will set you up to fail - the adverse consequences can be significant. The information below will help you test whether a proposed objective is suitable or not.
Every teacher and school leader is unique and each individual’s circumstances are unique. Objectives should therefore be tailored to the needs of each individual - even if they are whole-school or departmental/team objectives. The use of pre-written ‘cut and paste’ objectives is always inappropriate.
Objectives should be set in the context of your role, responsibilities and job description. They must not relate to any tasks, activities or duties that you cannot reasonably be expected to undertake as a qualified teacher.
The NASUWT’s position is that there should be no more than three objectives set per cycle. This limit allows you, your reviewer and all other colleagues involved in supporting you to focus effectively on your professional practice priorities.
An excessive number of objectives dilutes this focus and undermines the process.
You should also not agree to objectives that are broken down into multiple subsections.
Are your objectives clear?
Your objectives should be:
It is important to remember that a critical feature of effective objective-setting is to ensure no ambiguity or confusion arises later about whether an objective has been achieved at the end of the cycle.
Drafting objectives is a joint responsibility and you should not have it delegated solely to you.
It is poor practice for the reviewer to seek to impose predetermined individual objectives, as the purpose of the meeting is to support professional dialogue about your needs and aspirations as well as the priorities of the setting in which you work.
Do your objectives contain data-based pupil performance targets?
Official indicators of pupil performance are a central element of the current school accountability regime.
These indicators are based on measures of pupil progress and are constructed from data generated from the outcomes of external assessments such as national curriculum assessments or qualifications.
There can be severe consequences for schools if this data indicates that they are performing below expected standards.
This data is also important in judgements made by Ofsted during inspections although, as noted below, Ofsted has potentially helpful views on how this data should be interpreted and used in performance management.
Many schools seek to transfer the pressures of the accountability regime down to individual teachers by setting performance management objectives based on pupil performance targets.
Such data-based targets generally take the form: ‘More than X% of pupils in class Y (i.e. your class) will be assessed as achieving (pupil outcome Z) by the end of the year.’
While data can have a vital role to play in informing professional discussions about objectives, the use of data targets as objectives is unacceptable because:
no credible pupil assessment has been designed to generate data to measure the performance of teachers - instead, these assessments are intended to describe the progress and achievement of learners;
no test or assessment is perfectly valid or reliable and so should not be used to determine potentially highly consequential outcomes related to the performance of teachers, such as their pay or perceptions of their effectiveness;
how pupils perform in tests and assessments is influenced by a range of factors outside the reasonable control of any one individual teacher; and
data-based targets are often derived from commercially produced value-added systems that are clear that they can only generate estimates of potential pupil performance, never hard and fast targets.
The 2018 report of the Independent Review Group on Teacher Workload, Making Data Work, recommended against using pupil data as performance management targets. The Group’s recommendations were accepted by the DfE and have been incorporated into the revised Ofsted inspection handbook.
The review stated:
‘…if teachers are held to account for things that are largely outside their own control, such as a pupil’s test performance or progress based on flight paths, it is not only unfair but induces high levels of stress and is likely to lead to burnout and ultimately attrition from the profession’.
Although crude data targets are unacceptable, many schools insist that data is included in objectives in some form.
While, as the Making Data Work report confirms, it is preferable to exclude such data from objectives, there are ways in which data might be referenced to avoid the problems associated with using pupil targets directly as performance management objectives.
For example, the following type of objective is acceptable: ‘I will contribute to the achievement of (a pupil performance-related target) by (e.g. adopting a particular teaching strategy, deployment of teaching assistants, adopting a new approach to the use of resources, accessing CPD, etc.).’
In this case, achievement of the objective depends on an outcome within the teacher’s reasonable control that may contribute towards pupils meeting the data target that has been set for them. If the target is not met, the teacher can still demonstrate that they have met the objective as long as they have undertaken the activity specified in it.
Even if objectives exclude unreasonable data-related targets, it is important to ensure that such targets are not included in any success criteria that may be identified to help determine if an objective has been met. Success criteria should reflect the professional practice agreed in the objective, not pupil-performance data. For example:
‘Teaching assistants were deployed appropriately to meet the needs of learners, evident through the outcomes of lesson observation.’ or
‘Use of assessment for learning is evident in pupils’ books.’
Is the objective within your control or influence?
An essential purpose of performance management is to allow you to develop your professional practice.
If an objective does not relate to your professional duties, your role and responsibilities or your job description, it cannot fulfil this function as it is outside your direct influence or control. It is, therefore, not appropriate as a performance management objective.
Examples of inappropriate objectives of this nature include:
pupil attendance targets - no teacher or school leader can control directly the extent to which pupils attend school;
securing particular levels of parental engagement, such as how many parents attend an open evening - you can provide opportunities for parents to engage with your school and encourage them to do so, but you cannot control whether they choose to engage or not;
for line managers, objectives based on data indicators of the performance of your team - you can seek to create an environment that allows each team member to perform to the best of their ability, but you cannot control their performance directly.
In considering this aspect of a potential objective, it is essential to remember that factors relating to your pupils or your wider working environment over which you have no control or influence can significantly affect what happens in your classroom.
You cannot be held accountable for these factors and they should not be included in your performance management objectives.
Is the timescale in which you must meet the objective reasonable?
In almost all circumstances, objectives are designed to be completed over the entire performance management cycle. You should, therefore, think carefully about whether it would be reasonable to expect you to achieve the objective within this period.
If it is agreed that you will need less time than the entire cycle to complete the objective, you should not agree to the remaining time being used for a new or additional objective.
The timescale for completing an objective may be longer than the performance management cycle, but in such cases, the extent of progress expected by the following planning and review meeting should be clear.
This approach allows for a judgement to be made about whether you have completed performance management successfully at the end of the annual cycle.
Will the objective result in excessive or unnecessary workload?
Workload remains the primary concern that teachers and school leaders report about the quality of their working lives.
You should not agree to an objective that will involve unreasonable workload demands. In particular, you should not agree to objectives that will require you to gather extensive portfolios of evidence or that will require you to work during the evenings, weekends or during the holidays.
If workload is an issue across your school, you should raise the matter with your Local Association or National Executive Member.
Does the objective involve graded lesson observations?
It is not appropriate for objectives to include reference to the achievement of Ofsted-style grades following classroom observations.
Since 2014, Ofsted inspectors have not graded teachers’ performance in individual lessons. Inspectors do not observe lessons; the purpose of inspectors’ visits to lessons is to gather evidence about the curriculum and teaching and learning in order to make school-level judgements about the quality of provision.
Inspectors do not seek to make judgements about individual teachers. The current Ofsted inspection handbook is clear on this point:
‘Ofsted will not grade individual lessons. Ofsted does not expect schools to…use the Ofsted evaluation schedule to grade teaching or individual lessons’.
You should seek support from the NASUWT directly if your school grades individual lesson observations using Ofsted criteria or any other grading system.
Does the evidence to be used to support evaluation of the objective involve lesson observations?
The NASUWT believes that there should be no more than three lesson observations per teacher per cycle. The total amount of time a teacher is observed should not exceed three hours in total.
Further information on the Union’s expectations on the conduct of lesson observations is available in the Classroom Observation Protocol which can be downloaded from Grading Of Lesson Observations.
Before deciding whether lesson observations would provide meaningful evidence for evaluating an objective, it is essential to consider the nature of the objective and whether the information gathered by observing teaching would be of use in this context.
If it is not possible to identify a clear purpose for lesson observation, then you should not agree to it being used as a way of gathering evidence.
If you decide that lesson observation would be appropriate, it is essential that the planning meeting is used to determine:
the amount of observation;
the focus of the observation;
the duration of the observation;
when during the performance management cycle the observation will take place; and
the identity of the person conducting the observation.
Before any classroom observation is undertaken, there should be an opportunity for the reviewer and reviewee to meet within directed time so that the context of the lesson to be observed can be discussed.
Under no circumstances should you consent to evidence from observations that have not been agreed, including ‘drop-ins’ or those undertaken as part of learning walks, being used for performance management purposes.
Will you have the right support to achieve the objective?
Objectives have to be considered in the context of the conditions and environment within which you work. You may, therefore, require access to additional information, advice, training and professional development to help you achieve the objective.
For an objective under discussion to be reasonable, it may also be necessary to provide you with additional resources, including staffing, equipment and time.
You should ask your reviewer to confirm that they have the authority to agree to this support and that a request for it to be provided will not be interpreted as a sign of any professional shortcomings on your part.
The DfE states:
‘Conversations about professional development and a teacher’s individual needs should be part of the appraisal process and in planning and review meetings in particular. It is good practice to consider school improvement needs alongside the personal development needs of teachers’.
Participation in professional development might be a reasonable objective in itself, but you should not agree to access professional development and related activities in your own time.
Professional development includes, but is certainly not restricted to, participation in courses or attendance at events. It can also involve working with in-school colleagues, participating in professional networks or research and investigation.
Remember that the performance management process can also be used to seek professional development and training that is not related directly to achieving your objectives. These might include opportunities to help you develop your wider skills and experience or training that would support your career progression.
Any agreed support should be recorded clearly in your performance management planning documentation.
Is the objective linked to extra-curricular activities?
Given the focus of performance management on your professional duties, roles and responsibilities and areas covered within your job description, it is not appropriate for objectives to relate to any voluntary or extra-curricular activities you may undertake.
Such objectives may be discriminatory as you may not be able to participate in voluntary activities due to personal or family circumstances.
While your involvement in extra-curricular activities is a matter of personal choice, under no circumstances should you agree to any reference being made to them in your performance management objectives.
Do the objectives take account of your personal circumstances?
Your objectives must reflect your personal circumstances and any barriers you might face to achieving them successfully.
If you work part-time, your objectives should take this into account. Although you may still be set three objectives, these should reflect the hours you are contracted to work.
If you have a disability or some other medical need, it is essential, and a legal obligation on your employer, that your objectives reflect this as well as any reasonable adjustments that have been made to support your employment.
Account should also be taken of any planned absences, such as parental leave or medical treatment, which may require you to be away from work for a significant period.
It is important to remember that if you are unable to continue working during the performance management cycle for any reason covered in equalities legislation, such as reasons related to pregnancy, maternity or disability, it is not appropriate for an employer to expect you to meet objectives set with an expectation of continuous working during the whole of the cycle. It would also be potentially unlawful for pay progression to be determined by such objectives.
In these circumstances, your objectives would have been agreed on the basis that you would have worked throughout the performance management cycle. It is not reasonable to expect you to meet these objectives if circumstances mean that you cannot work to the extent or in the way envisaged at the start of the cycle.
Your school should have a standard recording format, including sections for objectives, classroom observation, where appropriate, and training and development, timescales and success criteria.
All these points should be recorded where practical during the meeting by the reviewer or, if necessary, as soon as possible after the meeting.
You may request changes to this record before agreeing to it and you should seek to resolve any disagreement about it by discussion in the meeting.
You should sign the statement if you are content with it. If not, you should seek to record your concerns and disagreement and should not sign the statement until these matters have been addressed.
You should seek advice from the NASUWT if you have not agreed on the content of your performance management planning statement.
Ensure you are given a written copy of the statement, as it will be important to have access to it at the review meeting at the end of the cycle.