What can I do to ensure objectives set for me are reasonable in the current circumstances?
In order to be fair, objectives must be based on what will definitely be in the control of the member of staff concerned. Objectives must be capable of being objectively justified and pass the SMART test (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound). There are a number of issues caused by the coronavirus crisis which must be taken into account to ensure any objectives set are fair and SMART.
We are campaigning to get rid of performance-related pay (PRP). Many academies and schools have seen that the impact of PRP is even more unfair under the current circumstances and have reflected this in pay progression decisions for 2019-20. We want to build on this success by ensuring that appraisal discussions and objective-setting for 2020-21 also take account of the impact of the coronavirus.
Objectives have often in the past included exam results, but with arrangements for exams extremely uncertain and exams to be possibly determined in a way which ignores the impact of teachers' individual work with students, it would be unfair to set exam-related objectives. Such objectives would be neither achievable nor realistic, therefore failing the SMART test and fundamentally unfair.
Partial or full closure of schools, and the impact of the crisis on normal school operations even where they are fully open, will have a significant impact on observations and on appraiser/appraisee contact. There may be reductions in the number of review meetings during the year and delays in providing feedback on the previous academic year. There will also be reduced access to coaching/mentoring support and to professional development opportunities. These factors must also be taken fully into account in setting objectives.
We know that the impact of the coronavirus crisis has been particularly marked for groups with protected characteristics. Pay arrangements including the setting of objectives must take account of the impact of the crisis on vulnerable/extremely vulnerable groups, and on those affected by childcare and other issues.
Successful completion of objectives and pay progression should be the norm. Appraisal should be a positive process and reviews should be deemed to be successful unless significant concerns about standards of performance have been raised in writing with the teacher during the annual appraisal cycle and have not been sufficiently addressed through support provided by the school by the conclusion of that process. Objectives set should therefore be positive, developmental and fair and impact-assessed by schools to ensure that the unprecedented challenges of coronavirus are not used to penalise education staff.
The NEU will support members on this crucial issue. Please seek support from your workplace rep in the first instance. If you don't know who your rep is, you can seek support from your NEU branch or district here https://neu.org.uk/contact-us