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Ofsted inspection of performance management

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How will Ofsted inspect performance management? This article explains how Ofsted will inspect the performance management of staff and the headteacher in maintained schools and academies. It sets out what governors should be able to talk about when meeting inspectors.

Overall inspection of performance management

The Ofsted School Inspection Handbook says performance management will be assessed as part of the key judgement that inspectors make on the quality of leadership in, and management of, the school.

Inspectors will look for evidence of a strong link between performance management, appraisal and salary progression

In particular, the inspection handbook says that inspectors will consider:

... the use of performance management and effectiveness of strategies for improving teaching, including the extent to which the school takes account of the teachers’ standards.

Inspectors will look at the performance management of staff, as carried out by the headteacher and other senior leaders (see sections 2 to 3 of this article), and the performance management of the headteacher, which is led by the governing body (see section 4).

Ofsted explains that inspectors will look for evidence of:

  • The effectiveness of procedures for monitoring the quality of teaching and learning, and the extent to which underperformance is tackled
  • A strong link between performance management, appraisal and salary progression
  • The coherence and effectiveness of the programme of professional development and the opportunities provided for promotion. Particular attention should be given to the extent to which professional development is based on the identified needs of staff and the needs of newly qualified teachers (NQTs) and teachers at an early stage of their career
  • The accuracy with which best practice is identified, modelled and shared

Page 17 of the inspection handbook says that assessment of performance management should include:

  • Analysis of the impact of professional development on teaching, and on specific teachers
  • Scrutiny of anonymised information on the performance management of teaching staff and its relationship to salary progression provided to those responsible for the governance of the school (the next sections provide further information on what this information might comprise)
  • Information about the performance management of the headteacher
  • Discussions with the headteacher, governors, senior and middle leaders, and other staff
  • Scrutiny of the school’s records of lesson observations
  • Evidence of improvements in teaching over time and improvement in systems for tracking, monitoring and analysing the impact of teaching on progress
  • Scrutiny of the school’s records on, and evaluation of, professional development
  • Evaluation of the support and professional development provided for newly qualified teachers and other teachers who are in the early stages of their careers
  • Analysis of information from staff questionnaires, where available


The handbook applies to inspections of academies as well as maintained schools. However a footnote on page 47 recognises that academies are not required to apply the teachers' standards as part of performance management arrangements.

In this footnote, Ofsted says:

Inspectors examine closely how the academy promotes high quality teaching through its performance management and professional development arrangements.

Forms for recording and presenting information

Norfolk County Council has designed a form to help its schools meet Ofsted's requirements.A note at the start of the form explains:

School leaders – headteachers and governors – will need to show how the school management of performance is part of a systematic process and to be ready [to] explain the process they use ... during an Ofsted inspection.

Inspection of the headteacher's performance management

Page 49 of Ofsted's inspection handbook says inspectors will assess how well governors:

... use performance management systems, including the performance management of the headteacher, to improve teaching, leadership and management.

We asked John Dunne, a lead inspector and one of our associate education experts, how inspectors will make this judgement in light of the inspection handbook's requirement that information relating to an individual's performance management remains anonymous.

Inspectors will want to see documentary evidence of the headteacher's appraisal

He told us that headteachers are the exception. Inspectors will want to see documentary evidence of the headteacher's appraisal showing that governors have conducted performance management in a robust way.

This might include the minutes of the meeting and/or the appraisal report itself. Inspectors may also question governors on the performance management procedure for the headteacher.

John said that providing anonymised information of the headteacher's appraisal to inspectors is not really possible, even if it were attempted, but he confirmed that the appraisal information for all other staff provided to inspectors should be anonymous.

Similar advice can be found in a guidance document from the National Governors' Association (NGA) on the role of governors in performance management. Page 7 says:

Ofsted inspectors will expect to see evidence of governors performance managing the headteacher rigorously.

Sharing the headteacher's appraisal report with governors

Page 7 of the NGA's guidance says that it is for the governing body to decide whether all governors have access to the headteacher's appraisal report or whether it remains confidential to the review panel. It goes on:

If this information remains confidential from the rest of the governing body, the governing body as a whole does need to be assured the appraisal process is robust.

One way to do this may be to receive an independent summary report from the external adviser, or alternatively, a governor who is not on the panel could be appointed to review the heateacher’s performance management and report back to the full governing body.

Meeting inspectors: what should governors be able to talk about?

John said that when inspectors meet the governors, they will be assessing:

  • Whether they understand how the school's performance management system delivers better outcomes for pupils
  • Whether they ensure the system functions robustly and in line with school improvement priorities

Inspectors want to see whether governors are fully involved in ... the performance management system

In other words, inspectors want to see whether governors are fully involved in and knowledgeable about the performance management system, or whether it is something they leave to the school leadership team.

A key thing that inspectors check is whether governors can talk about how they have 'triangulated' different sources of information to assess the effectiveness of their performance management system.

Below we have linked to guidance from the NGA, setting out how governors can do this.

What level of detail?

John said that governors are not expected to possess a full and comprehensive knowledge of teachers' performance and pay levels across the school. In any case, inspectors will have anonymised data on performance management outcomes, which they may refer to when speaking with governors.

Governors may, however, be questioned about significant individual cases where particular teachers are either underperforming or excelling. In these cases, inspectors may ask what actions the school has taken in response.

It is likely that the teacher would not be identified by name, but John says he would expect governors to still be aware of the individual in question.

Performance objectives

John explained that inspectors will also want to see that governors are aware of the kinds of performance objectives that teachers have been set, and whether governors are aware of how these relate to the priorities identified in the school development plan.

In particular, governors should show awareness of objectives that focus on key groups in the school, such as free school meals (FSM), and where objectives have been tailored to specific individuals, departments or phases as a result of improvement priorities.

Salary progression

Where a significant proportion of teachers are rewarded with salary progression, inspectors will want to hear from governors about why this has been the case.

Where pupil outcomes are not improving, yet a significant proportion of teachers are receiving salary increases, inspectors may focus more sharply on this issue.

Assessing the robustness of performance management

Guidance from the NGA explains that governors can gain an understanding of the effectiveness of their performance management system by monitoring the correlation between the quality of teaching, pupil outcomes and other indicators with appraisal outcomes and teachers’ (and headteachers’) salary progression.

If standards are staying level and appraisal objectives have all been met, it may suggest that objectives are not sufficiently stretching

The guidance says that to do this, the governing body first needs to fully understand the school’s performance and the outcomes for pupils.

It then needs to compare standards and outcomes with the percentage of objectives met at appraisal, making one of the following "initial hypotheses":

  • If standards are falling but most appraisal objectives have been met, it suggests that appraisal is insufficiently robust
  • If standards are staying level and appraisal objectives have all been met, it may suggest that objectives are not sufficiently stretching
  • If standards are staying level and appraisal objectives are not generally being met, it may be indicative of problems to come. Possibly some objectives are unrealistic or staff development is not having the required effect
  • If standards are rising and appraisal objectives have been met, it suggests that appraisal is probably sufficiently robust

Sources and further reading

Elizabeth Furness is an education consultant and coach who works with schools and local authorities. She specialises in performance management and NQT induction training.

Gulshan Kayembe is an independent consultant who has worked as a lead inspector and an external adviser on headteachers’ performance management. As a consultant she provides mentoring for senior leaders.

John Dunne is a lead inspector for the CfBT Education Trust. He has extensive experience of school leadership in secondary schools.

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