Is PRP preventing open and honest dialogue?

I’ve just completed the performance management review process this year, experiencing my schools new PRP policy, both as a line manager and as someone who is being line managed. These are my initial thoughts on the process:

PRP

My personal experience:

As usual I prepared fully for the meeting as I usually do. I had documented evidence for last years targets prepared and thought carefully about linking my targets this year to the school development plan as well as my own personal development. I also reassessed myself on the teaching standards and threshold standards and had shared this with my line manager in advance in the hope it would generate discussion. Finally I had logged all school and personal CPD, with evidence, I had undertaken over the last year. The conversation was brief, solely about targets, and had nothing to do with my personal development as a teacher. I was thanked for meeting my targets last year and was told I would be staying at my current level.

These were the targets that were set in the meeting:

1. GCSE PE Targets to be achieved

2. AS PE Targets to be achieved

3. To increase participation in house sport in 6th Form to over 30%

4. To increase participation in school sport by offering a greater number of competitive sports than currently offered

I was in, last year reviewed, targets set, and out in under 30 minutes. If I’m honest the targets set are a challenge but I believe realistic. I’m quite looking forward to trying to meet them this year, but how I do that was not discussed with my line manager. I’m guessing that I need to choose my CPD opportunities carefully this year to ensure I have the best possibility to meet them. I suppose I will develop as a teacher if I am to succeed in meeting these targets, but I feel that this is a  secondary thought to actually meeting the targets.

 

My experience as a line manager:

I have always believed that the Performance Management Review for the people I line manage should be a positive, supportive and developmental process for them. However something has changed. The conversations I had with my department were cagey. The language was defensive and there were frequent conversations of justification. I tried to get them to open up and talk about areas they would like to develop, where their interests lie and where they want to go with their career. These were dead ends. After my third performance management meeting of five I gave up. The members of my department had enough evidence to show they met targets from last year, wanted me to set the targets this year, and only engaged in a conversation if they felt it was unrealistic. I made sure I thanked them for their efforts, that I valued what they do for the school and completed the form that put them forward for a pay rise. The final decision for that would be left to the Head. Reviewing the targets they set, if they achieved them, it would look great for the school. What I’m not so sure is whether it will help with professional co-operation within the department and personal and whole school improvement.

 

My concerns:

Performance related pay has, in one swift movement, cut out the tongues of my department. Where I have spent years working on building trust with the colleagues within the department, and working on an open dialogue of personal improvement and development, it has become a process of target setting and data. In previous years we would speak about personal strengths and concerns of their teaching and the hopes and dreams they had within the profession. Now its all about being SMART. Perhaps this is the future of the profession, with quality assurance of teachers through targets being set, met and reviewed. However this becomes an impersonal process. A successful school, I believe, is fundamentally based on relationships. The strength of those relationships, especially between leadership of the school and its teachers, is paramount for self improvement. If you can get the relationship right between colleagues, line managers and SLT (and obviously between teachers and students) then I believe the school will thrive. Turning teachers futures and livliehoods into data and targets undermines, in my opinion, the strength, depth and openness of those relationships. I understand my colleagues concerns about it being divisive, time-consuming and the potential to be used as a way to reduce staff costs within the school (either by delaying pay progression or even possibly moving senior teachers who are considered not meeting threshold targets down the pay scale).  Before PRP I had been entrusted with the development and performance of the teachers within my department. I see and work with them every day but I never really get to watch them teach as I have a full timetable myself. I believe if you really want to assist me in developing teachers and therefore raising standards within the school then I recommend this;

1. Remove PRP and trust my judgement on my colleagues (why else pay me to line manage them?)

2. Give me and others time to support and coach colleagues within the classroom

3. Give my colleagues the time to reflect on and refine their own practice

On reflection if performance management is now about meeting targets, how about taking HoDs out of that process? Give them time to support the teachers in their department and assist in developing them and have SLT manage the data and the targets.

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