By Phil Smith, deputy headteacher, John Port School in Etwall, South Derbyshire.
We are a large academy with over 2,000 students, yet our aim is to nurture each and every one of them, and the same ethos applies to our teaching staff of which there are over 130 staff members. In order to keep track of each staff member’s professional development, we needed a new way of centralising the process to make sure they could be proactive in their own progress, while also contributing to the whole-school development plan.
As you can imagine, with more than 130 individuals, the existing paper-based system just wasn’t working; the sheer amount of paper and the process itself was becoming unmanageable, problematic and tedious. In addition, our teachers and their line managers were frustrated that the only time they had for reviews had been reduced to just one meeting in September.
We decided that digital was the way to go, giving our staff the flexibility and fluidity to manage their own professional development and performance throughout the year. Storing information in one central place meant that it could be accessed by the appropriate individuals easily and line managers could keep track of their performance as and when required. It also meant that staff could be proactive when it came to uploading evidence; no longer did they have to file pieces of paper and information. Instead, they can simply add evidence at the click of a button and it will be stored alongside their objectives.
Keeping it up
At the start of the year, we dedicate an INSET day to performance management, where our teachers conduct a self-evaluation to establish their goals. This is then reviewed half-way through the year. However, as all of our staff members are at different stages in their careers and development, we wanted to be able to support them throughout the year. Therefore, maintaining conversation between staff members and their line managers was also a key factor for us, which is one of the reasons we chose SchooliP. It allows us to record conversations, monitor continuing professional development (CPD) and document teachers’ evidence and lesson observations. Because of this, there is always an ongoing line of dialogue between staff members, and any concerns or questions can be raised and addressed at any stage.
We were also keen to assess the impact of the training allocated to staff in order to find out what is most effective in driving real improvement. Our system allows us to log the CPD sessions that our staff members complete so we’re able to see exactly what has been done and what the school needs both in the short and long term. Line managers and teachers can review the comments of colleagues about the training they’ve received, and make informed decisions as to whether they would also benefit from the programmes.
Looking to the future
As a school, we pride ourselves on our collaboration and innovation in everything we do, including performance management and CPD. Giving teachers the freedom and flexibility to take ownership of their performance has been an incredible motivator and we are now able to share best practice ideas with one another in a more effective way to help improve and maximise the teaching across the school.
We encourage every student and every teacher at our school to grow and uncover their strengths, talents and potential and as leaders, it is our job to support this across the board.
Being able to work together in finding new and effective ways to develop practice will drive school-wide improvement far more than just working individually, and having a digital platform has certainly helped to facilitate and simplify this process.