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The need to secure fair and reasonable objectives for teachers at the start of the appraisal process.

Why securing appropriate objectives is important

Pay progression decisions are now linked to appraisal outcomes and assessments of performance against appraisal objectives and teachers’ standards. There is a clear risk that teachers may face denial of pay progression if their objectives are unreasonable or otherwise inappropriate, or if they are not fairly and properly assessed against them.

The guidance should be read in conjunction with the model policy and checklist drawn up by the NEU and the school leaders’ association, NAHT.

Key NEU principles with regard to objectives

  • objectives fit for purpose
  • limits on objectives
  • consultation and agreement
  • pay progression
  • ensuring objectives are fit for purpose.

Setting meaningful objectives is vital if the appraisal process is going to support student achievement and your own professional development, and also inform pay progression decisions.

Most appraisal policies will refer to objectives being set according to SMART principles - specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-limited.

Do not agree any objectives that do not meet these criteria, particularly any that are linked to factors beyond your control.

If you have any particular individual circumstances, including any disabilities or maternity/adoption leave, which might affect the achievement of your objectives, make sure that you raise these with your appraiser.

Appraisal model policy

The aim of this NEU model policy on appraisal is to provide a framework that schools, colleges and trusts can adopt a supportive and developmental procedure designed to ensure that all teachers have the skills and support they need.

Opposition to numerical targets

Do not agree to your objectives being based on percentage target increases in tests or examinations unless you feel that the use of numerical targets is appropriate. The NEU/NAHT model appraisal policy says:

“Where use of numerical targets is appropriate, these will be reasonable in the circumstances in which the teacher works and it will be recognised that factors outside teachers’ control may significantly affect success.”

Ensuring training and development needs are addressed

Your objectives should support your own professional development as well as reflect your school or department development priorities. Professional development may also be needed to support you in achieving the objectives set for you. Do not agree your objectives unless you are satisfied that your training and development needs will be addressed.

Limits to number of objectives

It is not good management practice to set more than three objectives. Objectives have to be manageable in order to succeed; setting more than three objectives or using sub-targets can lead to unreasonable workload pressures.

Consultation and agreement

Objectives should be set following consultation with you. They should be clearly defined and indicate what success will look like and how progress will be measured.

You are advised to draft your own preferred objectives in advance of any meeting with your line manager. Make sure your appraiser has these in advance of any meeting.

Where there is significant disagreement about what objectives should be set, do not be pressurised into accepting any that you have reservations about. Your school’s appraisal procedure should set out a process for appealing against proposed objectives or registering concerns. If it does not, the school’s grievance procedure allows you to challenge matters. You should seek support from your NEU school rep with the appeal process.

Objectives and pay progression

The relationship between objectives and pay progression should be clearly set out in your school’s pay policy.

The NEU is clear that teachers who have met their objectives and are assessed as continuing to meet the requirements of the relevant teachers’ standards should automatically be recommended for pay progression. The NEU model pay policy – available as part of the NEU pay toolkit – provides that teachers should be awarded pay progression following a successful appraisal review. Some school pay policies may link pay progression to other factors. The NEU view is that all pay progression decisions should be based on evidence considered within the appraisal process and should not be based on matters outside the scope of appraisal.

If you have not met your objectives in full, you can think about whether you can refer, during your appraisal discussion, to other matters that may help you secure a recommendation for pay progression. Failure to meet objectives should not automatically mean that you are not awarded pay progression.

If you are refused pay progression because of failure to meet objectives, use the appeals process or grievance procedure with the support of your NEU school rep.

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Capability procedure

NEU capability procedure sets out the steps to be followed by the head teacher/principal in schools.

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Performance management

The NEU has produced a guidance, including model policies and checklists, to help you with performance management in your workplace, including appraisals and capability.

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