Mary-Jo Hill

05 Dec 2022
Only two weeks to go until the end of term and we are now clearly in the run up to Christmas with fairs, Christingles, and play rehearsals. For some, Ofsted have made their call this term and I hope that the inspection went as well as you had anticipated, with few surprises. The last few weeks has been really tough for many with staff absence rates so high and so I wonder how many of you have managed to complete all performance management reviews this term?

Have you completed your staff’s performance management this term or are there a few still outstanding? I hope that you have you had your own headteacher review which was useful, and that as a leader you have booked some 121 external and independent coaching for the next two terms ahead.

It is now 22 years since Performance Management was introduced into schools in England as a formal process- as an audit mechanism for improving the performance, productivity and accountability of public services. Various methods and versions adopted. How useful is your current school process?

How much time have you been able to devote to this process?

For PM to be meaningful and aligned to the whole school development plan, there is a requirement for a shared understanding by all parties of the objective and processes involved. This takes considerable time and effort, and a real commitment by all to create something meaningful. I have, on so many occasions, seen this process treated by both sides as a tick box paperwork exercise to get through rather than the powerful conversation and interaction that can happen between leaders and their staff. However, this takes so much time, which we know is limited if it is all about making sure every class has an adult in front of them.

An example appraisal objective for a middle leader

To further develop the professional skills needed to hold colleagues accountable for key attainment targets and support them in their efforts to achieve them (Subject Leader National Standards 1998 – Section 2b.

A daunting prospect for many middle leaders

Where to start on this one, not only the necessity of teaching your own class or classes, there is a clear mandate for ensuring one is holding the support staff in your classes to account but also, probably as a subject leader to hold all other teachers and other support staff accountable as well. I find many middle leaders ill-equipped to manage such roles successfully through lack of access to training, the use of dynamic influencing ‘soft skills’ and the inheritance of pervasive cultures that are hard to shift but most importantly right now, because of the natural restraint to not burden colleagues with what can be seen as more workload for others. How do you successfully shift this, with both compassion and accountability?

The answer to this challenge

If only there was a straight-forward and easy response to this. There isn’t. All staff and parents and of course, the children, just want more of you. You are the leader that contains and inspires us. We all want more of you! Hopefully, for some, cover is delegated (wishful thinking?), for some, these last two weeks can be filled more with your presence; in the playground, in the staff-room, in the assemblies and school fairs, popping into class, recognising the pressures and most importantly ensuring that carving out some time to think as a leader, and not as a reactive manager is in the diary for early next term. Good luck.