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School & trust leaders

Exploring headteacher appraisal

A report on the current headteacher performance appraisal landscape in English schools

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In the wake of changes to the educational landscape, this research has been conducted to explore how schools are currently conducting headteacher appraisal, including the challenges they face and the obstacles they need to overcome to ensure an effective, robust and meaningful process is in place.

Research overview

The report investigated the headteacher performance appraisal landscape in English schools in 2018. It drew upon a survey of 1,164 chairs of governors and trustees of state-schools in England and interviews with 10 individuals (headteachers, chairs of governors and external advisors) involved in the appraisal process.

The aim of this paper is to make a useful contribution to the current literature by providing an updated assessment of performance appraisal in schools. To do this, the project aimed to answer three overarching questions:

  1. What arrangements do governing boards make for headteacher appraisal?
  2. How are performance objectives set?
  3. How is performance against objectives measured?

Key findings

  1. Despite having more legislative freedom, many of the schools surveyed continued to follow historic practices based on old regulatory procedures.
  2. While the appraisal regulations make no reference to panel size, most respondents said that their school, including a large number of academies, put together a panel of two to three governors/trustees.
  3. 87% of academies surveyed still appointed an external advisor, with many maintained schools and academies who took part in the study using a school improvement partner (SIP) as the external advisor, or using an external advisor recommended by the local authority.
  4. Although free to choose any time of year, the majority of respondents noted that their schools continued to conduct the headteacher appraisal in the autumn term.

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