The Department for Education guidance for schools during the COVID-19 pandemic is laid out in the "Actions for schools during the Coronavirus outbreak" found here.
Section 10.3 addresses the question "should appraisals and performance management processes for teaching staff continue during this period?"
The DfE response is reproduced below:
"Yes, maintained schools must continue to adhere to the School Teachers Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD), which includes the requirement to ensure that all pay progression for teachers is linked to performance management. However, we would expect schools to use their discretion and take pragmatic steps, consistent with the Education (School Teachers’ Appraisal) (England) Regulations 2012 to adapt performance management and appraisal arrangements to take account of the current circumstances e.g. by basing performance on the period schools were open, adjusting, if necessary, for expected trajectory had there been no closures".
Academies and other non-maintained schools may choose to follow Government guidance in this respect but, if any are considering adopting alternative practice, this should fall in line with the freedoms previously approved and contained in their pay policies.
Section 10.4 addresses the question of whether the same processes for support staff should continue, with the DfE stating:
“Appraisals and performance management for support staff should be carried out in accordance with the employee’s contract of employment. The department does not specify pay or terms and conditions of employment for support staff.”
Staff are currently operating via a range of means at the moment, from providing services to assist with reduced provision for the children of key workers and vulnerable children, undertaking work at a "hub school" or working from home. Some employees may be unable to work due to the nature of their work or the lack of facilities to work from home. There will of course be many employees shielding and self-isolating because of their vulnerability or illness.
We have seen the coverage school staff have received in the media and how creative and innovative many have been during this time, for example by creating and delivering online learning experiences, delivering free school meals to pupils at home or manufacturing and donating PPE. You will have your own star players who have gone above and beyond for the benefit of the school and/or the communities served by the school. Sadly, you will also be managing the adverse impact of COVID-19 on employees' mental health which, for some, has taken a heavy toll.
It seems a daunting and almost thankless task for any headteacher and governing body to apply a recognition and reward system that caters for these variables and truly recognises the contributions their staff have made, and will continue to make, during these unprecedented times. Our advice therefore remains to stay within the Government guidelines and to follow some key principles when applying your appraisal and performance management system at the end of the current appraisal year, as outlined below.
- Ensure your communications systems are robust and that any employee who is unfit due to illness or bereavement is highlighted by your absence management procedures. This information should then inform decisions about the performance of the employee and allow you to be sensitive and pragmatic;
- Ensure your judgments and measurement system does not discriminate against those who have been unable to undertake work of any kind for the whole, or part, of the COVID-19 period due to, for example, maternity leave, caring commitments or shielding/self-isolation;
- The measurement of performance for teachers and, in some schools, support staff is based on pre-set objectives which, conveniently for most schools, were set at the start of the new academic year before the outbreak of COVID-19. Refer to these objectives when applying any judgment about performance and consider if reasonable progress was made up until the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic commenced;
- For most employees, there will be a need to refer to the previous appraisal year particularly in the final five months up to March 2020 when considering expected trajectory of performance in the current performance year;
- Apply the judgment at 3 above and, where new targets have over ridden the agreed targets e.g. an employee agreeing to work in a hub school, reference to the work they do in the hub school can be made in addition to considering achievement of previously set targets.
Some trade unions and professional associations have taken the stance that schools should automatically progress all staff through pay progression points without exception. Where headteachers and governors have robust systems in place that can take account of all of the variables we have referred to in this note, this blanket approach is not necessary and could actually serve to demoralise employees.
Teams will come back together in the not too distant future and they will be looking at school leaders to apply fair and pragmatic systems that continue to reward good performance and also deal with employees who are not performing to the required standards.
There will be multiple opportunities to recognise those who have gone over and above what would reasonably be expected of them in a way that does not compromise the integrity of the performance management system. However, sticking to Government guidance and applying reasonable judgments will ensure a sense of fairness, which is essential for future employee engagement.
If you would like to speak to someone within our Education team please contact our offices on 01228 552222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please note that both telephone and video appointments can be arranged during this period of self-isolation.