Carrot vs Stick…Fight!!! (Steps to better Performance Management)


Lets be clear Performance Management by its very name has negative connotations. The process has been used by some schools to save money…to stop people moving through pay progression. In school this has more often than not been tied to data and progress measures, a very blunt tool to explore a teacher’s work. Equally it in many schools it has been based on mistrust, on a perception (That stemmed from messages from DfE and Ofsted)   that all teachers are lazy and do the minimum. Well I fundamentally don’t believe that. Personally I believe that the teachers in our school (and most teachers to be fair)  want to do the best job they can. If you believe that then you have to look at Performance management/development as a potential tool to improve the job we do in school rather than a thing to beat people up with.

What is clear is that currently in general this is not how people feel about performance management in their schools. (I did a quick twitter poll… I know…) but the results were quite stark.

PM teacher view

4/5ths of those who responded said they didn’t value the procedures in their school. If staff don’t believe in the process they won’t effectively engage with it.

PM improve

Again more than 4/5ths  said that their performance management did not help improve their work in the classroom. Now I don’t know about other school leaders but I for me the biggest way to improve what happens in a school is by developing and improving the teaching in the classrooms. I think with performance management we are missing a trick if it doesn’t engage staff in exploring their work and how they can do it better.

PM data

84% also said that they had data targets as part of the performance management. This was mainly around the percentage of children making expected progress or attaining and expected point.

I  however think setting data targets whatever they are as part of  PM creates a few issues. What PM did do in my experience was create false data. (Pretty sure lots of us have been on the receiving end of data where children were not where the other  teacher they were. )

That’s not to say we don’t have targets in our school…we do. We however treat progress and attainment as a collective. As a head I have as much responsibility if not more for the progress in our classrooms. Having data targets as part of PM did not make teachers any more  responsible for the progress in their class, equally it doesn’t improve outcomes. We have honest data in our school we talk about the children all the time, teachers pro-actively try to ensure the provision is right for the children…honesty however allows us to put the right resources in the right place and use what we have more effectively.

PM and data was used as a stick to beat people with, it was and has been used to stop people progressing up the pay-spine equally it was intrinsically linked by the government with capability. We cannot however blame the DfE and Ofsted for how some SLTs have decided to implement this. I was horrified on twitter yesterday with some of the targets people were being set including one where a teacher was set a class attendence target.

The DfE in their model policy set it out as follows.

The objectives set for each teacher, will be Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound and will be appropriate to the teacher’s role and level of experience.

The objectives set for each teacher will, if achieved, contribute to the school’s
plans for improving the school’s educational provision and performance and
improving the education of pupils at that school

If some of the targets being set currently are beyond achievable you have to question why that is. Essentially Performance management has been used by some as a tool to check up on what people are doing rather than supporting people in developing their practice.

Dr Gary Jones from the University of Bristol summarises in his review of Performance Related Pay in schools…see link
  • Performance related pay is not suited to complex tasks such as teaching
  • Performance related pay may reduce intrinsic motivation
  • The impact of performance related on pupils’ results is just above zero
  • Male teachers tend to respond more positively to PRP than their female counterparts
  • The introduction of PRP may lead to female teachers reducing the number of hours taught
  • More experienced teachers are more likely to display negative reactions to PRP compared to early career teachers
  • Job satisfaction is by far the biggest predictor of teachers’ intention to stay in the profession

So where does that leave us? Well I think school leaders need to ask themselves some questions about what they want Performance Management to do. If we want it to improve performance we need to break the link between improvement conversations and pay. If the process is about improving the capacity of our staff rather than measuring them then we need to change the focus…

Here are my 10 steps to changing the Performance Management approach in schools so the focus is on improvement…

1) Empower teachers to drive their own development.  Giving employees more and more autonomy, while providing the right tools and resources, will empower employees to push their own limits.

2) Plan effectively for improvement. Get the CPD right, invest the necessary time into growing them. Think about each person and their needs and how you can support their improvement  (It’s personal)

3) Listen. Never skip the “why”. People are not machines, they are driven by ambitions, desires and thoughts. Not having a clear perspective on their actions and the related impact affects their performance in a negative way.

4) Don’t forget the big picture. Remind people how each of their actions influence the overall big picture. Link them with your School Improvement Plan so that you get a clear perspective. Think about how individuals development can impact on others practice.

5) Set goals. Start with the end in mind. This goes for both an employees’ career path as well as the School’s Plan. Working without clear goals that can be easily tracked and evaluated is a recipe for disaster when it comes to employee performance. Set individual performance milestones as well as general team milestones and make a habit out of checking them regularly.

6) Be clear about you feedback. People need to be aware of what they should keep doing well, and clear-cut questions and suggestions on what they can improve. Over emphasising the negative is a cl;ear way to damage engagement with the process.

7) Give it value. Invest in it, time, resources Even how and when you hold the meetings.

8) Think about what measurable and achievable look like. Spurious data targets do nothing but damage. Be realistic, open and honest. By being honest, both yourself and the employee treat each other with respect and see each other as working for everyone’s benefit.

9) Keep the focus on developing the staff.  If teachers get better at the ‘work’ the other stuff will follow.

10) Light a fire. I have never been a big fan of the term ‘inspire’. However, the level of motivation that your teacher leaves the meeting with shows how well your performance review went.

So here are the questions if you’re a school leader…

What do you want performance mangagement to do in your school?

Is it focussed on measuring staff or developing them?

What impact do you want to see? More importantly what impact do the staff want to see?

6 thoughts on “Carrot vs Stick…Fight!!! (Steps to better Performance Management)

  1. Pingback: Carrot vs Stick…Fight!!! (Steps to better Performance Management) – Excellence in Specialist Education

  2. Hi Simon
    i read this post with interest. This is an area i don’t feel i get quite right (targets focus on teaching, data, plus something like leadership/subject). Staff vary between feeling the process is carrot and stick but i know before my time data was used to withhold pay increments.
    Did you have any issues with not including data as a target with LA/governors?
    How do you hold anyone to account if their data is below targets?
    Do your staff come to the appraisal meeting with what they’d like to set a t heir targets etc?
    Would you have a sample (anonymised) performance management document you’d share?
    I’m def putting more emphasis on 2) this year in an aim to get CPD right – based on their individual needs
    many thanks


  3. Pingback: TRUST…(You gotta have it!) | Being Brave! a first time headteachers blog.

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