Reflections on Educate’s inaugural conference on teacher appraisal

On the 19th of September we hosted our inaugural conference: “Teacher Appraisal: A Key Factor in Determining Student Outcomes – A Global Perspective”. We were delighted to welcome over 130 guests from all over the world to London.

As an organisation, we decided to convene a conference focused around teacher appraisal because we believe that teacher performance is a key driver in determining student outcomes. Through our work with schools, we have seen first-hand how much an effective teacher performance management system can help a school by identifying key areas of development.

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Jim O’Neill, the renowned economist, set the scene with an interesting analysis of the emerging global economies and how the world economic power will change over the next decade or two. Emerging economies such as Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey will rapidly advance up the league tables of GDP. However, in order to sustain their growth they will need to invest in education to ensure that their population is able to meet the increasing demands of a more sophisticated economy. High performance in PISA tables for South Korea was matched by its economic performance.

Jim O'Neill - Non-Executive Director, Department for Education

Jim O’Neill – Non-Executive Director, Department for Education

We also heard from Professor Kai-Ming Cheng of Hong Kong University – his first time speaking in the UK – who led us through the approach taken by the so-called “chopstick countries”. Many of these countries show strong academic performance on measures such as the PISA tables and yet they used a light touch approach to teacher performance management. The aim in some of these countries was to deal with underperformance in a harmonising way.

It struck me that that the cultural context was as important as the systems in place. Data from Finland showed a general apathy towards feedback and appraisal in their schools and a lack of engagement; perhaps re-engaging with their teaching staff in a meaningful way might arrest this decline.

Billie Miller showcased the Charter Schools movement in the USA and we had a contrasting discussion from Coreen Hester from the American School in London. ASL adopts a two stage process whereby new teachers are appraised in their first two years and the system switches to a more formative model in subsequent years.

Our very own Nigel Middleton proved very popular with a very practical example of how to approach appraisal taken from his years of experience at Educate.

Within the English context we were joined by Marcus Bell from the DfE who explained the policies behind appraisal in England and the link to performance related pay with the schools having the autonomy to mould and create their own systems with the freedom devolved to them.

Simon Connell, Professor Kai-Ming Cheng, Billie Miller, Nigel Middleton

Simon Connell, Professor Kai-Ming Cheng, Billie Miller, Nigel Middleton

This proved an interesting book end to the Minister for Schools and Families, Nick Gibb, who described the purpose behind this governments reforms in closing the attainment gap and improve the overall quality of education at our inaugural dinner the evening before.

Brett Wigdortz from Teach First described the fantastic impact his organisation is making by encouraging the best graduates to join the profession, and stay in teaching. Teach First are now mandated to grow outside of London and other cities and move into rural areas so we should expect to see more and more Teach First alumni in our schools.

Finally we were able to compare our systems in education to those in healthcare – Steve Melton the CEO of the highest performing healthcare company Circle described how culture is ingrained in his organisation and how staff adhere and perform in line with this culture of values.