John Port School has a growing reputation for excellence, but it wanted to do more to celebrate achievements, not just those of the students, but those of its staff too.Phil Smith, Deputy headteacher, John Port School, Derbyshire
We are a large academy with more than 2,000 students, and we believe that every single one of them has their own individual talents and potential, which we help them to realise.
So, in order to achieve this, we have over 115 teachers in the school, again, all with their own strengths which we want to help cultivate.
We wanted to empower them to be proactive in their own progression, and in contributing to our whole-school development plan, which is committed to providing top-quality teaching and learning.
Research from the National Union of Teachers (NUT) and the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) last year showed that, when it comes to performance-related pay, many schools, ourselves included, have found themselves under much greater scrutiny when it comes to handling appraisals.
We had always used a paper-based review system, which was becoming unwieldy due to the amount of paper needed for so many staff members.
This process also led to issues with the consistency and fairness of our reporting; coupled with the frustration that teachers and line managers often only had time for one review meeting per year, it was clear that we needed to change our tactics.
Moving our professional development and performance management reporting to a digital platform (we decided to use SchooliP) meant that we could access and contribute to all the necessary information in one place. It allowed our teaching staff to be proactive in providing evidence of their own practice to be used in appraisals, as well as giving us the ability to see progress at an individual or a whole-school level. By just clicking a button, we can pull together reports for governor meetings and inspections.
Starting a conversation
Each academic year, we dedicate an inset day to performance management, where our teachers conduct their own self-evaluation to establish their goals, which is followed by a detailed review meeting halfway through the year.
On top of this, we encourage an open dialogue that continues throughout each term, using the technology at our disposal to ensure that this happens, even if the teacher and line manager simply can’t be in the same room at the same time. This provides the added benefit of quick feedback from line managers, so teachers feel supported at every stage of their development journey.
We wanted to investigate the impact of the CPD courses we allocated to staff in order to find out what is most effective in driving real improvement. Logging these sessions has been really powerful. Line managers and teachers can review the comments of colleagues about training courses, and make informed decisions as to whether it would benefit them also.
Performance management can often feel like a process of jumping through hoops, but we believe that appraisals should be as much a time for celebrating achievements as it is for addressing areas for development.
At John Port School, we have devised a system called JPS10, which looks at the 10 key areas we believe help students to make progress in the classroom, whether it’s engagement, productive relationships, innovation, challenge or perhaps even the big picture.
We encourage our staff to consider all these elements (and more) so that they can see both where they might improve, and more importantly, where they are thriving.
It can be difficult for teachers to stand up and say “Hey, look how great I am!”, so we wanted to give them a platform where they could do this privately with their line manager. This way, they can still promote themselves and we can see how well they’re doing.
This being said, it has become a bit of a bragging platform for our teachers as they all try to use their successes as further inspiration. Giving teachers that freedom and responsibility has been an incredible motivator and we are able to share best practice ideas with one another to help improve and maximise the teaching across the school.
Every student and every teacher at our school has the opportunity to discover their strengths, talents and potential; as leaders, it is our job to encourage this across the board. We believe that John Port is a school that people should, and are, proud to be a part of.
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