How will schools operate from September 2020?
Thinking about teachers, not pupils, how will schools have to adapt to maintain, promote and resolve teachers’ working conditions…
It is reassuring to see school leadership unions, ASCL and NAHT joining forces (alongside the National Governance Association) to offer schools advice on professional matters for the year ahead. I’ve offered a summary for teachers on a variety of complex matters which school leaders and governors have to manage.
Whole-school appraisal has been a fascination of my work for over a decade. Next month, I will be publishing my own research-based process for whole-school transformation to empower teachers to develop their knowledge using research-informed methods for performance and management.
I’m delighted to have already received numerous requests from school leaders who are seeking alternative ways for target setting and professional development.
Union advice suggests: “The DfE’s states that performance management requirements remain in force.”
How little they know about that reality of PM in schools.
“However, it states that it expects schools ‘to use their discretion and take pragmatic steps, to adapt performance management and appraisal arrangements to take account of the current circumstances’.
There’s no better time to reform the entire system!
2. Pay Progression
Since 2013 when Micahel Gove made performance-related pay statutory, despite no academic research to suggest it works in teaching, we now have an education system where teachers doing the same job can be paid differently working in another local school.
Welcome to neoliberalism and the marketisation of state school education…
Union and DfE advice suggest: “Schools must ensure that teachers are not penalised during the appraisal process or in respect of any subsequent pay progression decisions as a result of partial school closures.”
Put simply, your line-manager should have already reviewed your 2019/20 targets based on three months of lockdown.
A topic I know very well when a multi-academy trust decided to begin the process of restructuring two schools into one.
It was relatively rare ten years ago, but is far more common for many schools and teachers; not because of school funding per se, but due to academy freedoms.
Union advice suggests: “We urge schools to ‘pause’ all such procedures until the normal operation of schools has been re-established.”
It will be interesting to see which large MATs ignore union recommendations. Make a note.
4. Academy conversion
I’ve been part of two academy conversions in my leadership career.
One in an Outstanding school, the other was in a Special Measures school.
Worth noting, neither school delivered better teaching than the other. Quite the opposite.
In fact, both schools taught in the exact same way, with a mixture of progressive and traditional methods evident in corridors and classrooms.
We are kidding ourselves if we believe that conversion leads to better, long-term outcomes for pupils.
After 10 years of academisation, what we need to do now is research if academisation has actually improved school standards, or if it’s merely folklore. The jury is out…
Union advice suggests: “Ofsted has ceased all inspection activity, meaning that no academy orders will be made as a result of an inspection outcome. Furthermore, the DfE advice to governing boards is to prioritise providing support to their school leaders and staff where needed, to allow them to get on with operational matters. Our view is that it may be prudent to ‘pause’ until schools have re-established normal operations.”
Given that pause, take the time to read the academic research on conversion and if it actually improves school standards, or just gives you access to more cash.
Note, Ofsted is starting to publish pre-lockdown inspection reports. This new research published during lockdown suggests Ofsted overall judgements is a weak predictor of school quality.
How long is it before the walls come closing in on Ofsted?
5. Disciplinary and capability
I’ve had to lead several disciplinary and capability procedures in my leadership career. Oh, the stories I could tell…
There are two matters when it comes to tricky staffing issues: They either can’t do it, or they won’t do it. If it’s the former, then its a matter of capability; perhaps a need for training (or an improved appraisal process on the part of the leader). If it’s the latter, then it may be a disciplinary issue.
Difficult conversations are one of the hardest tasks for any school leader to do; middle leaders often tell me on their travels that this is their greatest CPD need.
Union advice suggests: “Partial opening, social distancing rules and self-isolation mean that it may not be possible for schools to meet the timeframes associated with a fair process for disciplinary, capability and /or ill-health hearings.” Furthermore, “the impact of a hearing conducted in a home environment with children and dependents, or in a shared dwelling during ‘lockdown’ should be considered.
In ‘very serious cases’ employees may need to be suspended on full pay and employers may need to proceed with investigations. However, no decision should be taken to terminate the contract of an employee unless and until they have had the opportunity for a full hearing to be conducted ‘in person’ according to fair process.”
Read more on this delicate issue…
At the start of lockdown, I was contacted by many teachers who feared for their livelihoods; most came from the independent sector who were being ‘let go’ or furloughed.
Despite a recruitment crisis, I’m predicting a large influx of teachers into the state school system throughout 2020/21.
Union and DfE advice suggest: “The government has confirmed that state-funded schools will continue to receive their budgets for the coming year, as usual, regardless of any periods of partial or complete closure. This will ensure they are able to continue to pay their staff and meet their other regular financial commitments.”
Let’s see what happens…
Education is a complicated business, made more difficult by the pandemic and I suspect its impact will continue for several years. Thank you to our unions for their excellent work during this time…