Largely unheralded to classroom teachers, education minister Michael Gove implemented a new and reduced set of Teachers’ Standards which came into effect on September 1.
These standards replace the previous 32 core standards and further 72 standards covering all classroom teachers at all levels. The thousands of green and yellow wallcharts pinned to staffroom walls over the photocopiers will have to be removed. Tied to these new standards are revised appraisal and capability arrangements that also come into force with effect from September 1.
Finally, Ofsted is aligning its work to the new standards focusing for the most part on those teachers on the upper pay spine and ensuring performance management delivers value for money.
The new Standards
The secretary of state set up an independent review of Teachers’ Standards in March 2011 that was conducted in two phases. The first phase made recommendations, accepted by Mr Gove, to replace the existing QTS and Core standards with a single set of Teachers’ Standards and associated “descriptors”.
These set the baseline expectations for all teachers’ practice. They are intended to make it easier for teachers and headteachers to assess teacher performance. The review aimed to provide a clear set of expectations which would help teachers plan their own professional development to become good or outstanding classroom teachers.
The 104 standards have now become eight focused on teaching with an additional section on personal and professional conduct (see boxout opposite for an overview of the new Standards).
Sally Coates, chair of the Teachers’ Standards Review and principal at Burlington Danes Academy in London, said: “Clear and focused teachers’ standards that are relevant to classroom practice are key. They need to reflect the craft of teaching and be meaningful to teachers so that they can teach and develop to the best of their ability.”
The second phase of the review looked at the remaining tiers of the existing framework of professional standards – Post-Threshold (upper pay spine 1, 2 and 3) Excellent Teacher and Advanced Skills Teacher Standards.
Recommendations relating to the second phase were published in a final report in December 2011. They recommended that existing Post-Threshold, Excellent Teacher and Advanced Skills Teacher Standards should be discontinued. They said that there should be a new higher-level standard introduced which builds on the new Teachers’ Standards and which will be called the Master Teacher Standard.
It should be in the form of a narrative statement, setting out the characteristics of excellent teachers and incorporating an external assessment element. They also recommended that there be no expectation of a minimum length of service before an individual can be assessed against the standard. So it could be available to a teacher with three or 33 years’ experience.
Mr Gove accepted the principle and wording of the proposed Master Teacher Standard and has agreed to give further detailed consideration as to how this might be implemented.
Consideration of standards for school leaders, including those for headteachers was outside the scope of the review and these are being developed by the National College for School Leadership. Teaching and Learning Responsibility allowances and their award are also unaffected by these changes.
New appraisal regulations
Simultaneously, Mr Gove has published new regulations covering appraisal (The Education (School Teachers’ Appraisal) (England) Regulations 2012) and capability procedures for teachers.
The appraisal regulations are not very different from the previous ones apart from allegedly giving schools “more freedom to design appraisal policies to suit their own circumstances”.
The new Teachers’ Standards are seen as a backdrop to the appraisal process. The often-misinterpreted three-hour limit for classroom observation has been abolished. The revised capability procedures modify the processes already in place in schools with a reduction in the number of review periods that can be allowed before dismissal. The capability procedure only applies where there are serious concerns about performance that the appraisal process has been unable to address.
Schools must still have an appraisal policy for teachers and one which deals with lack of capability. Unusually for this secretary of state, he has allowed a helpful model policy for appraisal and capability to be published by the Department for Education (DfE). This applies only to teachers, including headteachers, and is a useful reference point as you review and develop your own policies to reflect the 2012 regulations.
The model is in two sections. Part A covers appraisal for teachers and headteachers. Part B of the model policy sets out the formal capability procedures reflecting the ACAS Code of Practice and replacing Capability Procedures for Teachers 2000 (see boxout for a link to the model policy).
On their own these changes are fairly run of the mill and are easily assimilated into school life. We already have well developed appraisal schemes and capability processes. However the timing, or some may say mis-timing, of their introduction has highlighted a clash with a key element of the system – the link to pay.
The Standards Review was not remitted to make any recommendations relating to pay, and Mr Gove has confirmed that he intends to ask the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) to consider the implications of the Review’s proposals.
The restructuring of the pay spine to remove Threshold, Upper Pay Spine 2 and 3, Excellent Teacher and Advanced Skills Teacher means the STRB has a significant change to consider.
Today, for teachers in maintained schools in England and Wales, the provisions in the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD) continue to apply and the above categories continue to exist. Any changes to the STPCD provisions will be for the secretary of state to determine, following recommendations from the STRB and will hopefully materialise in January, half-way through the next performance management cycle.
The 2006 regulations continue to apply to any performance management cycle which is in progress on September 1, 2012, unless governing bodies decide to end that cycle early and to begin a new appraisal period starting on or after that date.
Many academies have a commitment to adhere to the STPCD. Those that do will have to co-ordinate their work with the new standards and regulations being introduced. National pay arrangements, performance management, capability processes and exposure to Ofsted in this area will have an impact on academies as well as maintained schools.
It is good practice for schools to consult staff on their appraisal and capability policies. The DfE model provides a sound basis for those discussions. All staff are expected to meet the personal and professional conduct standard.
Embedded within the detail is a concept of Career Stage Expectations (CSE). As their careers progress, teachers are expected to extend the depth and breadth of knowledge, skill and understanding that they demonstrate in meeting the standards, as is judged to be appropriate to the role they are fulfilling and the context in which they are working.
So a Middle Pay Spine 2 or 3 teacher may be expected to demonstrate “proficiently” the descriptors without significant errors while a Middle Pay Spine 4 to 6 teacher should be able to do so consistently so meeting the standard. An Upper Pay Spine teacher should be able to demonstrate the descriptors consistently, accurately and efficiently and be exceeding the standards.
If teachers do not meet the standards then support through CPD included in the appraisal process should focus on areas where improvement is required.
For most staff, the important changes that need to take place are during the appraisal or performance review meetings that are happening now and are to be completed by October 31.
The 2013 performance management reviews will take place based on targets set in 2012. Current meetings should assess current performance against the new Teachers’ Standards and base targets on developments around those standards. It is highly likely that the STPCD will have an effect on next year’s (2013) appraisal meetings and schools will find that they are not disadvantaging their staff by adopting a pro-active approach during this year’s meetings. Appraisers and appraisees should all be fully briefed on these changes to support them in their meetings.
The main implication for schools regarding capability is the removal of the “support” phase from the process and the significant reduction in the length and number of review periods from a standard three or four to one or two. The assumption is that support will have taken place as part of the appraisal process.
The new Teachers’ Standards and school-agreed CSEs will form the reference points for capability. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “For those who are clearly unsuited to teaching, it is in everyone’s interest – not just of the pupils but of the profession’s reputation – that after a fair process, they should be helped to pursue their career elsewhere.” This new protocol speeds up that process.
Brian Lightman, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “The production of one explicit and concise set of professional standards for the whole teaching profession has the potential to greatly assist school leaders to maintain a consistently high standard of teaching throughout the service. There are currently too many sets of standards relating to the teaching profession.”
We now have a set of standards which can be applied to the whole profession and once the links to pay and progression have been resolved along with the position of the Master Teacher Standard we will be working with a much simpler and more transparent performance management scheme that focuses on the core of our work – teaching and learning.
Teachers’ Standards (abridged)
Part one: Teaching
A teacher must:
Set high expectations which inspire, motivate and challenge pupils.
Promote good progress and outcomes by pupils.
Demonstrate good subject and curriculum knowledge.
Plan and teach well structured lessons.
Adapt teaching to respond to the strengths and needs of all pupils.
Make accurate and productive use of assessment.
Manage behaviour effectively to ensure a good and safe learning environment.
Fulfil wider professional responsibilities.
Part two: Personal and professional conduct
A teacher is expected to demonstrate consistently high standards of personal and professional conduct. Teachers uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school, by:
Treating pupils with dignity, building relationships rooted in mutual respect, and at all times observing proper boundaries appropriate to a teacher’s professional position.
Having regard for the need to safeguard pupils’ wellbeing, in accordance with statutory provisions.
Showing tolerance of and respect for the rights of others.
Not undermining fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect, and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs.
Ensuring that personal beliefs are not expressed in ways which exploit pupils’ vulnerability or might lead them to break the law.
Teachers must have proper and professional regard for the ethos, policies and practices of the school in which they teach, and maintain high standards in their own attendance and punctuality.
Brian Rossiter was formerly head of Valley School in Nottinghamshire and is now an education consultant.