With pupils from more than 50 countries, the British International School of Stavanger (BISS) in Norway encourages high attainment for all its pupils, and helps learners to become responsible, global citizens who are equipped for life in the 21st Century. Rated “Excellent” in its last inspection, the school is recognised for its high-quality provision and holistic approach to education, and is committed to ensuring that teaching and learning consistently remains at a high standard. In order to do this, performance management across the school was essential.
Anne Howells, principal of the school, discusses how BISS put the success of the school in the hands of its teachers, encouraging a hands-on performance management system that allows teachers to take ownership of their progression and gives them a platform for celebrating their achievements.
We are proud of our reputation as an encouraging place for our students to learn and grow, but we recognised that in order to ensure our students were receiving the very best learning opportunities, we needed to support our staff in better managing the performance management process.
Traditionally, all of our processes were paper-based; this included our performance management and staff appraisals.We found that the main disadvantage of a paper-based system was that documents easily became buried in piles of paper, and lost within the demands of the job. It also meant that it was a challenge for staff to take ownership of their performance management, and they often needed reminders to be proactive. With responsibility falling solely in the hands of the manager, the success of this system was reliant on the line manager also setting aside time to do it. As I’m sure we’re all more than aware, the very nature of school life means unexpected incidents occur all the time, so it is very easy for managers’ time to be filled up quickly and, as a result, performance management processes can easily fall to the wayside.
Not only that, but evidencing and supporting objectives were also a challenge for staff, as gathering and recording evidence using paper trails was inefficient, and meant that documents could easily be misplaced or go missing throughout the year.The constraints of this traditional approach created a lot more work for our staff,and made it difficult to regularly update evidence and store important information and evidence.
Looking for a solution
We knew our teachers needed a new performance management system that wouldn’t impact their already busy workloads and would instead streamline the process and enable them to regularly – and simply – manage and keep a track of their evidence.
When looking for solutions, we quickly realised that digitising the whole process, with everything managed in a centralised system, was the way to go. Using the SchooliP software, staff are able to easily and immediately see their agreed objectives and standards for the year, on any internet-enabled device.
Having everything in one place means that staff are able to identify if their performance is slipping, even if unintentionally, and they can subsequently rectify it before it comes to an interim review or end-of-year appraisal. And, as a result of a new digital process, training opportunities have been made more obvious to staff, giving continuing professional development (CPD) value and bringing it to the forefront of their priorities.
Before, our teachers held the impression that performance management was something done to them;now, they appreciate that it’s something done by them. Going digital has given them a lot more ownership; having individual portfolios online allows them to access their own objectives and standards, and also see how it links into the overall school priorities. This enables them to see how they are directly impacting the improvement of the whole school and, as the Principal, I can clearly see how our school is progressing with our development points. At any point throughout the year, I can check the progress of staff towards completing development plan activities, review any supporting evidence and action any next steps.
Staff now also have the ability to easily add and link evidence, empowering them to take control of their own performance, including being able to rate their own performance against set standards, which used to be controlled by managers.
The whole process has become a lot more objective, eliminating those ‘awkward’ or ‘uncomfortable’ conversations; it is very clear what each member of staff must do and what evidence must be provided. It puts the responsibility for professional development very much in the hands of the teacher.
It also gives staff the ability to have their say and make any justifications to explain why something may not be quite as it should. We don’t always have time for face-to-face meetings throughout the year, so by capturing all the data online, and being able to continue conversations digitally allows managers to see these comments and offer help or assistance as and when it is required. As this forms part of a staff members’ portfolio, we can ensure that they are getting the assistance they need and any issues are resolved swiftly. Staff can be confident that the evidence is there and easily accessible should they ever need it.
Meeting international needs
Holding all of our data in a central place, including proof of our rigorous school processes, means that should something be requested during an ISI inspection we can very easily demonstrate what we have done or are doing to rectify it.
Our new digital approach has proved to be extremely beneficial for performance management. It’s a reliable way of working and is far superior to the old paper-based approach. As part of teachers’ performance management, we can now better manage lesson observations, send reminders for staff and of course, provide the opportunity for staff to take complete ownership of their performance. Our teachers are happy, which in turn positively impacts our students’ attainment and progress; it’s a win-win situation for everyone.
For more information on professional development, school improvement and self-evaluation, click here.
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