HR Support

Using appraisal as an effective HR tool

Workload struggles, financial restraints and Ofsted pressures are all in the mix when handling staffing issues and staff morale. Appraisal however, is one of the many management tools available to support the performance of both teachers and support staff working in your school.

By Pam Mason on 23 Mar 2017


Workload struggles, financial restraints and Ofsted pressures are all in the mix when handling staffing issues and staff morale.

Appraisal however, is one of the many management tools available to support the performance of both teachers and support staff working in your school. To ensure your staff do not see it as a worthless tick-box-exercise resulting in non-engagement, appraisals must be delivered robustly and consistently. If carried out and managed well, your appraisal system should support the engagement, development and sustainability of your entire workforce.


All teachers working in a maintained school, are entitled to an appraisal, including a pay review every year. It is a real opportunity to set targets with your teachers which will both support the needs of the school and their personal CPD. Support staff should be managed in a similar way to teaching staff. This will not only provide a consistent management style but will help with staff engagement across different staffing groups, whilst embedding the understanding of school objectives for the whole workforce.

The headteacher’s appraisal must be carried out by two to three members of the governing body alongside an external advisor to the establishment.


Your school or academy should ensure it has a regularly reviewed and agreed appraisal policy in place, which is adopted annually by the governing body. Managers need to understand their role within the appraisal procedure and be given sufficient training to undertake the role of appraiser in an effective manner. Likewise, staff also need to understand what their part is in the appraisal cycle and how to get the most from these meetings. Support should be provided to allow staff to prepare appropriately for appraisal meetings.

The managers who will be agreeing targets with teaching staff must be aware of, and understand the Teachers’ Standards and how the appraisal policy interacts with the establishment’s pay policy; another policy which needs amending annually to reflect the changes to national terms and conditions.


The objectives set for each member of staff will, if achieved, contribute to the school’s plans for improving the school’s educational provision and performance and improving the education of pupils at your establishment. SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) targets support the development of measurable goals.

Before, or as soon as practicable after the start of each appraisal period, each member of staff should be informed of the standards against which they will be assessed. In the case of teachers, it will be the Teachers’ Standards, for teaching assistants it may be the recently published Teaching Assistant Standards.

To ensure the best possible targets and outcomes, appraisers also need to be aware of the career stage of the appraisee. There are factors for appraisers to take into account, such as if an employee is working on the upper pay spine and should be undertaking higher level targets than a recently qualified teacher.

Governors who are assessing the headteacher’s performance should also be well informed regarding the appropriate policies. The chair of governors needs to be aware of the implications of the Individual School Range (ISR), whether it can be amended, and how. (Watch out for our blog on ISR reviews after Easter!)


It is an important factor of effective management that all staff should receive constructive feedback on their performance throughout the year, not just at a final appraisal meeting. Feedback should highlight particular areas of strength, as well as any areas that need attention.

It is good practice for the appraiser to have regular one-to-one meetings with their staff throughout the year and have a calendared mid-term appraisal booked in. There should be no surprises delivered to a member of staff at their final appraisal meeting. Concerns should have been raised as and when they occur with the aim of ‘nipping things in the bud’, they should not be stored up for a formal appraisal meeting.

The appraisal cycle is the ‘infrastructure’ which provides the opportunity for an appraisee and appraiser to develop a supportive relationship, where the member of staff feels valued and listened to. To have a consistent one-to-one meeting programme, as part of an on-going process within your establishment will also support your wider communication strategies and an ethos of staff development.


A record of one-to-one meetings and mid-term reviews is crucial and should not only be maintained by the appraiser but also shared with the appraisee. This practical point is one which often lets down an otherwise robust system and relates to the understanding, or lack of, with regard to the role for an appraiser.

Naturally, staff performance should be formally assessed at the end of an appraisal period, with the result being a written appraisal report.

The appraisal report should include:

  • Details of the member of staff’s objectives for the appraisal period in question
  • An assessment of their performance of their role and responsibilities against their objectives and the relevant standards
  • An assessment of their professional development needs and identification of any action that should be taken to address them
  • A recommendation on pay (for teaching staff).

The assessment of performance and of professional development needs will inform the planning process for the following appraisal period. Don’t forget the employee has the right to comment on this report too.


One Education offers a range of model policies to support the appraisal cycle (pay policy, appraisal, capability, CPD etc.) and can provide support and advice on all aspects of appraisal systems, in all types of educational establishments.

We regularly deliver bespoke in-house training sessions for your governing body, appraisers, and for staff to help them prepare for their appraisals and their particular roles from a practical perspective. See our helpful ‘Top Tips for Appraisals’ guide as a useful reminder for all staff involved in appraisal.

For more information on One Education’s HR Support, please contact Pam Mason on 0844 967 1111.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Pam is one of our Senior HR managers, with a chartered CIPD qualification and has been advising in schools and academies for over 10 years.

Please get in touch or visit this page for more information.

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