How to review your staff capability policy and procedures

Get information on how to review your school's staff capability policy, including questions you can ask. Save time with our policy checklist, and use our model policy to see what good looks like.

Last reviewed on 4 April 2024See updates
Ref: 38505
Statutory/mandatory for:
Maintained schools
Academies
Free schools
Independent schools
Pupil referral units
Contents
  1. Key facts
  2. What this policy needs to do 
  3. 3 key questions to challenge the policy 
  4. Model policy and policy checklist
  5. Examples from schools and trusts
Please note: This policy currently appears on the new list of statutory policies for maintained schools but not on the list for academies.

We’ve reached out to the DfE to clarify some of the details on the statutory policy list, and we will update our related articles in due course. Select ‘save for later’ at the top of this page to be notified when this article has been updated.

Key facts

  • This policy is statutory (see note above)
  • The governing board in a maintained school can delegate approval to a committee or individual governor 
  • Academies can set their own terms of approval
  • The DfE advises that it's reviewed annually
  • The headteacher and senior leadership team will write and be responsible for the implementation of this policy

What this policy needs to do 

When carrying out capability procedures, governors must make sure they abide by the Equality Act 2010, including the duty to make reasonable adjustments for staff with disabilities.

Aside from this, there are no statutory requirements for what the policy needs to include, just that you need to have one with procedures in place. 

The following is based on the DfE's model policy on teacher appraisal and capability, and the Acas Code of Practice on disciplinary and grievance procedures.

Capability procedure

This section includes how the capability procedure will work. It might include:

  • What happens at the formal capability meeting 
  • The possible outcomes of the meeting 
  • What happens after the meeting 
  • The monitoring and review period that follows
  • What happens at the formal review meeting and the decision meeting
  • Details around potential dismissal 

Right to appeal

This includes information on what a staff member can do if they feel that the decision to dismiss them is wrong or unjust. For example:

  • How to appeal 
  • When their appeal will be heard 
  • How their appeal will be dealt with 
  • When they'll hear the results from the appeal 

Confidentiality

Information on how the capability process will be treated confidentially. 

Consistency of treatment and fairness

This section highlights the governing board's commitment to making sure everyone is treated consistently and fairly. It includes the board's awareness of the Equality Act 2010.

Roles and responsibilities and monitoring arrangements

This includes:

  • The roles and responsibilities of those involved
  • Who has responsibility for monitoring the policy 

3 key questions to challenge the policy 

1. How have you made sure that your capability procedure avoids increased workload for everyone involved? 

The DfE's model policy explains that the capability process should avoid increasing the workload of all parties involved. Your senior leaders should be able to tell you how they've made sure this is the case – e.g. how they've:

  • Reviewed the number and frequency of meetings and observations
  • Made sure the process for collecting evidence is proportionate

2. How do you know this policy is working and doing its intended job? 

Senior leaders should be able to explain:

  • How they know staff are aware of the policy, when formal capability procedures are used and what happens
  • How implementation will be monitored and reported  

3. How do you know the policy and capability procedures are clear and fair?

Senior leaders could explain that they've:

  • Made sure the policy is clear and understood by staff
  • Built the policy on fairness – e.g. by allowing an appeals process and making that process clear 
  • Worked with or had the procedures reviewed by an HR specialist 
  • Consulted unions where appropriate 

Model policy and policy checklist

This model document is not meant as a guide for writing a staff capability policy, as that's your school or trust leaders' job – but you can use it to give you a sense of what a good policy looks like. 

Our model policy is from our sister service, The Key Leaders, and:

  • Has been approved by Forbes Solicitors
  • Is designed for your senior leaders to adapt to suit your school or trust's context
  • Was developed in consultation with NAHT

It's recommended that you consult with the unions represented at your school before implementing a new policy that refers to the employment of staff.

Model policy: staff capability

Use our checklist to make sure your school or trust's policy covers everything it needs to. 

Download: staff capability policy checklist

Please note: the model policy is aimed primarily at maintained schools and academies, but can be easily adapted to suit any school. If your school wishes to use the policy in a different type of setting – such as a pupil referral unit or non-maintained special school – we recommend that your school leaders check this policy against any requirements or considerations specific to your context and adapt it accordingly.

Examples from schools and trusts

Primary school

Heath Hayes Primary Academy in Staffordshire uses its trust's capability policy. In addition to information on formal capability meetings and formal review meetings, the policy covers topics such as:

  • Sickness
  • Grievance
  • Record keeping

Secondary school

Patcham High School in Brighton and Hove has a capability policy that applies to all staff employed at the school.

It covers topics including:

  • Responsibilities for leading the proceedings
  • Timescales
  • Representation at formal and informal meetings

Multi-academy trust

The capability policy from the Arbib Education Trust refers to the Acas Code of Practice for disciplinary and grievance procedures.

In addition to information on formal capability meetings and formal review meetings, the policy covers topics such as:

  • Confidentiality
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Retention of records

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