Thursday, 31 May 2012

Let's tackle the observations onslaught!

In the light of the new regulations brought in by Michael Gove, some Local Authorities and schools are opening discussions over new appraisal and capability procedures. 

The starting position in negotiations will be to stick with the 'status quo' where acceptable procedures are already in place. However, the NUT, ATL and NAHT have now agreed a joint appraisal policy to offer as an alternative to the punitive DfE model policy - a policy that links appraisal to fast-track capability procedures. The contents of the joint union model policy have been negotiated between the three unions - although in the end the ASCL rejected it.

The NASUWT have issued their own model policy - but, in the light of the joint declaration this week, let's hope that there can be agreement between the NUT and NASUWT over other key issues, not least an 'observation protocol'.

The joint model policy does include some safeguards on observations, for example stating that feedback from lesson observation should be developmental and not simply a judgement using Ofsted grades.
However, no agreement over limits on classroom observations, especially unannounced 'drop-ins' and 'learning walks', was reached. 

But this is a key issue for many teachers who are facing an increasingly bullying observation regime, with teachers being criticised, demoralised and branded as 'failures', particularly through application of the harsh Ofsted framework. This is a framework which, after all, seems to be designed to 'fail' schools - perhaps so that they can be forced into becoming Academies!

That's why, backed up with the forthcoming ballot, NUT members need to fight to make sure that the NUT's reissued Classroom Observation Protocol (and the policy on Learning Walks and Drop-Ins) is adopted across schools in their area. 

You can find the joint policy and the classroom observation protocols on the National NUT website on:

Some of the key points in the protocols are: 
  • Classroom observation for the purposes of performance management/appraisal will be limited to one observation per teacher, of a maximum of 60 minutes in length per performance management cycle, except in exceptional circumstances. Those exceptional circumstances are where the reviewee chooses to request a further observation, or where concerns have been raised about a teacher’s performance which require further observation to take place. 
  • In the exceptional circumstances in which more than one observation of a maximum of 60 minutes is to be conducted, this governing body agrees that the amount of observation will be kept to the shortest necessary period on the fewest number of occasions, with a maximum overall limit of three hours of observation, made up of observations on no more than three occasions. This overall limit will apply to all observations carried out for the statutory purposes of performance management/appraisal and evaluation of standards of teaching and learning, meaning that no teacher will be observed on more than three occasions of up to one hour over an academic year, including drop-ins and learning walks.  
  • The date and time of observations conducted for the purposes of performance management/appraisal or for the evaluation of standards of teaching and learning (or for both purposes) will be fixed at least five working days in advance. 
  • Before any performance management/appraisal observation is conducted, there will be an opportunity for reviewer and reviewee to meet in order that the context of the lesson to be observed can be discussed.
  • The arrangements for classroom observation for performance management will be included in the planning and review statement and will specify any particular aspects of the teacher’s performance which will be assessed
  • Oral feedback from classroom observation at a pre-arranged time for the purposes of performance management will be given as soon as possible after the observation and no later than the end of the following working day. Written feedback will be provided within five working days of the observation taking place.
  • The purpose or focus of a ‘learning walk’ should be explained to all relevant staff prior to its commencement. There shall be no evaluation of an individual teacher during a ‘learning walk’.
  • Any teacher whose classroom is visited during a ‘learning walk’ will have the visit counted towards the overall maximum of three observations per year, each of up to an hour in length

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