Last reviewed 30 July 2012

Tony Powell looks at the new Teachers' Standards and Master Teacher Standards which apply from September.

Overview

There are two main strands of government policy behind the changes in performance management. The first is the drive to reduce bureaucracy by simplifying and reducing the weight of regulations. The second is the more specific aim to “get tough” on teachers. This needs to be considered alongside other levers for change in schools, such as the nature of inspection.

Teacher appraisal

New regulations will come into force to govern performance management/appraisal, although most of them already exist in current legislation. For example:

  • schools and local authorities must have a written appraisal policy for their teachers

  • governing bodies must appoint an external adviser to support appraising the Head

  • objectives must contribute to improving the education of pupils

  • schools must have an annual appraisal process for teachers

  • teachers must be given a written appraisal report setting out:

    • an assessment of their performance

    • training and development needs

    • where relevant, a recommendation on pay progression.

The main changes will be:

  • teachers’ performance will be assessed against the relevant standards, their objectives and their role in the school

  • the standards will no longer be seen merely as a “backdrop” to performance management

  • most of the prescription in the current regulations will disappear, including the three-hour limit on classroom observation.

Teacher capability

The new Teacher Appraisal and Capability optional model policy sets out suggestions for capability arrangements. These are shorter and less complex than the current procedures and are part of the appraisal process rather than separate.

In order to shorten the time spent on capability, there is no informal stage and the suggested length of the monitoring and review period following a first warning has been reduced from 20 weeks to between 4 and 10 weeks. It is important to note that the length of the review period must be “reasonable in the circumstances of each case”.

The Teachers’ Standards

The document is divided into three parts:

  • The preamble — an overarching statement of the practices and attitudes expected of all teachers

  • Part 1 — teaching

  • Part 2 — personal and professional conduct.

Parts 1 and 2 are different in nature. The standards for teaching will be demonstrated in a variety of ways by teachers at different points in their career, appropriate to the setting in which they are working and the duties they perform. In other words, teachers are expected to refine and improve their mastery of teaching skills.

The report describes the standards for personal and professional conduct in Part 2 as “non-negotiable expectations”. These also apply at all points in a teacher’s career and there are no higher expectations, eg there are none attached to the Master Teacher Standard.

Preamble

Teachers make the education of their pupils their first concern, and are accountable for achieving the highest possible standards in work and conduct. Teachers act with honesty and integrity; have strong subject knowledge, keep their knowledge and skills as teachers up-to-date and are self-critical; forge positive professional relationships; and work with parents in the best interests of their pupils.

Part 1: 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 2: personal and professional conduct

The following statements define the behaviour and attitudes which set the required standard for conduct throughout a teacher’s career.

  • Teachers uphold public trust in the profession and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour, within and outside school.

  • 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.

  • Teachers must have an understanding of, and always act within, the statutory frameworks which set out their professional duties and responsibilities.

The Master Teacher Standard

Essentially, what the review panel and this narrative is trying to achieve is an agreed description of an “outstanding” teacher. The report notes “with some regret” that the word “outstanding” in a teaching context has come to be too closely associated with the Ofsted judgement. It makes clear that its own use of the term is as defined in the dictionary as: “one who stands out for or is distinguished by excellence”.

This standard should be considered as part of a profile of a Master Teacher who may have his or her own particular strengths in specific areas. In a telling description, the review recommends that: “a Master Teacher is someone whose professionalism has come to be seen as an integral part of his or her character”.

Knowledge

Master Teachers will be recognised by their “deep and extensive knowledge of their specialism”. They will be passionate about their subject and communicate this to pupils. They are able to deal with wide-ranging questions, lead discussions and help pupils explore the subject. They are reflective and self-critical.

As well as teaching “clearly, intelligently and inventively”, they use a range of teaching and learning strategies to engage all pupils. They also understand the “developmental and social backgrounds of pupils”.

Classroom performance

This section is largely about pedagogical skills; therefore Master Teachers “command the classroom”. They are motivating and often inspiring with high but realistic expectations. Pace is well organised and transitions are seamless. Questioning and discussion are of a high order, relevant and at times deep.

Pupils are consistently focused and engaged and Master Teachers ensure that high-quality assessment and feedback are consistently prompt, rigorous and constructive. They enable pupils to identify and remedy their misunderstandings and build on their successes. They promote pupils’ desire to seek and apply their knowledge further.

Outcomes

Pupils are well prepared and outcomes are outstanding. Master Teachers have extensive expertise in assessment systems and examinations and use of data to underpin and motivate improvement. Pupils understand what they are learning.

Environment and ethos

Pupils feel welcome and valued in a stimulating culture of scholarship, alongside a sense of mutual respect. The classroom environment is stimulating and resources are high quality, so pupils are excited and inspired.

Professional context

Master Teachers are highly regarded by colleagues and play a leading role in the wider life of the school and beyond. They are self-evaluative and open in the giving and receiving of professional advice, which may include coaching or mentoring colleagues and less experienced teachers.

Implications for schools

All schools will be required to comply with the new regulations and apply the Teachers’ Standards. The impact of the Master Teacher Standard is less clear since it will depend on how this is linked to evaluating performance and, in particular, to pay decisions, if at all.

There are also implications linked to inspection and these will vary according to the circumstances of schools. For example, “satisfactory/requires improvement” schools with concerns about the quality of teaching will be expected to use devices such as the capability procedures to address issues.