How to conduct appraisals in schools

When conducted well, appraisals can play a fundamental role in enabling education leaders to achieve and maintain successful school or academy status. They allow employees to realise their potential and understand the expectations of them while providing you with an opportunity to increase employee engagement and motivation, as well as improve school-wide performance.

Our specialist HR team is committed to delivering excellent results and driving continuous improvement in the schools we work with. We support education leaders with appraisal and capability procedures in a variety of ways, from providing timely advice notes on legislative changes and best practice for managing poor performance and conducting appraisals, to providing unlimited access to model letters, policies and documentation.

Here are four key tips to help you successfully conduct appraisals in your school:

1) Agree a suitable time and location in advance

In education, it is common for meetings to be moved around, shortened or to have their time and location changed. However, when it comes to appraisals, you should agree a time and location in advance and stick to it. This will reinforce the credibility of the appraisal to the employee.

Arrangements should be made to avoid any interruptions to appraisal meetings and it is recommended that you allocate at least an hour for them. This is so that the meetings do not feel rushed and an employee does not leave feeling like you do not have time to focus on your employees.

You should also carefully organise the environment where the appraisal meeting will take place. For example, you may wish to arrange chairs side by side rather than across a desk, as this may help to create an environment which feels less confrontational and is more conducive to sharing ideas.

2) Thoroughly prepare

Prior to appraisal meetings, you should review previous appraisal forms. Recent events might be the freshest in your mind but may not be representative of the employee’s long term performance. You should assess what objectives have been met and any patterns in terms of the challenges that they are facing. It is worth noting, however, that failed objectives are not always the fault of the employee and you should consider the reasons why objectives may have been missed. For example, it may be that priorities have changed since the objectives which were originally set meaning that they have been justifiably sidelined.

It is also advisable to organise the meeting in plenty of time and communicate all arrangements with the appraisee, as this gives them plenty of time to prepare also. You should ensure that documents which need to be completed are easily accessible, as well as providing copies of any relevant previous documents e.g. the result of their last appraisal.

3) Conduct appraisals regularly

Regular appraisals allow you to identify performance issues at an early stage, meaning that you can address small issues before they escalate into larger ones.

Regular appraisals can be particularly beneficial for new recruits. Recent recruits may simply not be up to the job, but regular appraisals ensure that they feel supported and have an opportunity to raise any issues that they have, allowing you to also identify areas where additional training may be valuable.

For longer term recruits who have no history of performance issues, there may be other factors affecting their performance. Appraisals allow you to discuss their pain points, identify available support and training to them where relevant, and perhaps discuss alternative employment opportunities within your school which might be more suitable for them.

4) Agree on follow-up actions

An appraisal should conclude by summarising what has been discussed. You should agree on actions that need to be taken, identify clearly who is responsible for what and set some deadlines.

This can be difficult for employees who have worked for you for many years, as they may feel that they do not need any further training. However, legislative changes and the constant state of continual change within working environments mean that all employees need to review their skills frequently.

It is vitally important to be realistic and agree on an action plan with your employee that is achievable, as underdelivering and overpromising can lead to a loss of motivation and credibility.

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