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The Governors' Role in Staff Performance Management

Picture the scene; you’ve agreed to be a Governor. You're familiar with the three Core Functions and have got your head around them. You know the time commitment in being a Governor and can find time for that. But then, you are reminded that as Governors, you are the Employers of the staff, which means that you’re responsible for their appraisals and responsible for deciding on their pay awards. Blimey, that’s a bit scary, especially if you don’t come from an education background so do not feel qualified to make judgements on whether staff have met their targets or not.

Ah, maybe there’s more to this Governor stuff after all….

Fear not, we’re here to dispel some of the myths and guide you through the processes involved. The way performance management is carried out and the responsibilities of the Governing Board does vary. In maintained Schools, Governors are totally responsible as they are the Employers in law. In Academies, the Trust Board are the legal Employers, not the Local Governing Board. The Scheme of Delegation will tell you whether the Governors have the delegated powers or not. For the sake of this article, let’s assume Governors have the powers. Otherwise it would be a very short article!

There are two main areas to performance management, the staff and the Headteacher. Let’s look at the area of staff performance management first, although we have two categories here - teaching staff and non-teaching staff. All staff need an appraisal process and the processes will not differ. The main point for Governors to consider is that the Governors delegate the day to day operational responsibility for staff performance management to the Headteacher. Governors do not actually carry out the appraisals, they do not set the targets and they do not look at evidence to see if targets have been met. So that makes things a bit easier straight away. But Governors are responsible for ensuring that performance management takes place and for ensuring that the process is fair and equitable for all staff. The acid test for Governors to consider is whether any member of staff is being treated less fairly or if another member of staff is being favoured. How do Governors know that a particular staff member is not personal friends with the Headteacher, and they meet every Friday night for a swift half? I’m not suggesting this happens, but how do they know?

Governors need to receive anonymised performance management data from the Headteacher and then it is the decision of the Governors to ratify the recommendations of the Headteacher as to whether to award a pay rise or not. It is not the decision of the Headteacher, it is the decision of the Governors, as the Governors are the Employers in law.

Ofsted will look at this information and it is one way that they will consider if Governors are holding the Headteacher to account for the educational performance of the children and holding the Headteacher to account for financial effectiveness. Whoa, hold on a minute – where does data come into this? Actually, it is all around the data. The start point from Ofsted is to look at the trends in the data. If the overall trend is for the outcomes for children to be increasing, then they will not really go into too much detail about why pay increases have been agreed. But what if outcomes for the academic year have fallen compared with the previous academic year? Ofsted will want to know why pay rises have been agreed if results are falling. That’s not to say that Governors cannot ratify increases in these situations, but Ofsted will want to be assured that Governors have challenged sufficiently and listened to reasons why increases have been proposed. It is a broad brush approach by Ofsted, but it is their starting point and so Governors need to be aware of this.

The final point to remember is that all decisions need to be recorded in minutes of meetings. If the discussions are taking place in a Committee Meeting, then that is fine, but record outcomes in the minutes. And remember, the Full Governing Board needs to ratify the decision of the Committee, so again, record it in the minutes. This may need to be a confidential minute, but names must be kept anonymous, so it will depend on the circumstances.

Performance management is arguably the most important process that Governors are involved in. But it is important to remember that Governors are there to simply make sure the process is happening fairly and professionally, not to actually do it. If we keep this in mind, then it is not quite so scary after all. There is a basic principle to keep in mind and that is one of no surprises. No staff member should get to their performance management meeting and be surprised that they have not met their targets. There should be professional review meetings happening throughout the year.

If you wish to find out more about staff performance management, please email governorspace@entrust-ed.co.uk

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