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How many observations should teacher have?

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by stress_head, Jan 7, 2010.

  1. Hi,
    Wondering if anyone can help with this one....
    First day back after the Christmas break the head of our school told all teaching staff she would be observing a lesson next week. All the staff have already had performance management observations.
    I thought SMT were only supposed to do 1 observation per year unless there is a cause for concern. Am I right? Am I wrong?
    Are teaching staff right to be unhappy about this unexpected observation?
    Any advice on this would be much appreciated.
  2. Hi,
    Wondering if anyone can help with this one....
    First day back after the Christmas break the head of our school told all teaching staff she would be observing a lesson next week. All the staff have already had performance management observations.
    I thought SMT were only supposed to do 1 observation per year unless there is a cause for concern. Am I right? Am I wrong?
    Are teaching staff right to be unhappy about this unexpected observation?
    Any advice on this would be much appreciated.
  3. becktonboy

    becktonboy New commenter

    Schools must have a lesson observation protocol attached to the performance management policy. There is a limit on the max no of hours of observation for PM purposes (3) but a head can observe whatever they want, whenever they want - it just isn't valid for PM purposes. Too much for an individual could be challenged as harrassment or unequal treatment. Consult your local union office if you are concerned about your own school's practice.
  4. I think you will find that a head cannot observe what they want or when they want.
  5. cannot?
  6. 03KILNERS

    03KILNERS New commenter

    Count yourself lucky, it sounds like you are not in special measures. We get a visit from the LEA every 6 weeks and OFSTED. On top of that we have SLT dropping in, i am so glad i am a TA.
  7. The only restriction is the number of hours of observation allowable for the purposes of Performance Management (3 hours per year).
    There is no restriction on any other types of observation, including 'pop ins'. So, a headteacher CAN observe as much and when they like- without notice.
    However, you would probably have grounds for complaint if this is not clearly communicated in the form of a policy, ratified by the GB.
    As a headteacher, I try to be fair and clear with my staff. However, in the end, I am responsible for ensuring consistent quality of learning in every classroom and I can't do that based on one, prior notice, observation per year.
    On the other hand, I realise that if I make my teachers feel under constant stress by over-observing them and not sharing my intentions and foci for the observations, the standard of provision will only decline- it's a fine line!
    And, to be honest, sometimes I just 'pop in' to spend some time with children who are learning! It's not always possible for me to find time to plan and teach a lot of lessons, but it's lovely to go and join in the learning experience when you find you have 5 minutes spare.
  8. I would never work in your school, you sound like an awful headteacher. The headteacher cannot simply 'oberve as much as they like when they lioke- without notice. The NUT guidance refutes this- if you did this then an individual would be perfectly within their rights to seek union advice and take action.
    Just a few snippets from the guidance:
    22. Classroom observations should be multi-purpose. Therefore classroom observation for
    the purposes of performance management and evaluating the standards of teaching
    and learning should not exceed a total of three hours within each performance
    management cycle.

    23. Classroom observation for the purposes of performance management should be limited
    to one observation of a maximum of 60 minutes in length per performance
    management cycle, subject to the reviewee choosing to request a further observation
    within the three-hour maximum.
    24. Classroom observation conducted by head teachers or delegated to other staff for the
    purposes of carrying out the statutory duties of head teachers to evaluate standards of
    teaching and learning, should be limited to a maximum of two additional observations
    per year. The maximum number of times each teacher experiences classroom
    observation for the purposes of performance management and the evaluation of
    standards of teaching and learning should be three per performance management cycle.
    "There should be a reasonable amount of time between classroom observations
    irrespective of the purpose of those observations. Classroom observations generated
    by requirements on the school should not take place immediately after an inspection
    conducted by Ofsted, for example. A bunching of classroom observations, albeit for
    different purposes, is unacceptable. The primary purposes of each classroom
    observation should be specified as should any specific aspects of the teaching
    performance of the reviewee that should be evaluated during each observation."

    The head teacher should consult on the pattern of classroom observations which
    teachers can expect annually. Agreement should be sought by head teachers with their
    teaching staffs and their recognised organisations on these arrangements.
    31. Teachers should be observed on an equitable basis. In any one school, the number of
    classroom observations per year within each performance cycle should be the same for
    every teacher.
    The Conduct of Classroom Observations
    32. Teachers should be made aware of the purpose or purposes of any proposed
    observation before it takes place. Observations should not take place in a negative
    atmosphere. They should be conducted in a supportive and professional manner and
    should be neither intrusive nor threatening.
    33. Classroom observations:
     should be undertaken with professionalism, integrity and courtesy;
     should involve objective evaluation;
     should be reported honesty and fairly;
     should involve accurate communication about its purpose and outcome;
     should be conducted in the best interests of the pupils at the school; and
     should ensure that information gained through the observation is confidential to the
    reviewer and the reviewee.
    Before the Observation
    34. The purpose or purposes of any observation should be made clear before it takes place.
    The reviewer or the observer conducting the observation should respond positively to
    any reasonable request from the reviewee/observed teacher on when the observation
    should take place. Sufficient time should be allocated within the school day to enable
    the participants in the classroom observation to discuss and agree the arrangements
    for the observation. The information and arrangements should be available to and
    accepted by both the observer and the observed beforehand. The information and
    arrangements should include:
     the reasons why the observation is taking place;
     the procedures to be followed;
     an agreement about the recording of any evaluation outcomes made and their
     a discussion about the aims and objectives of the lesson; and
     where relevant the identity of the person or persons from who further information
    may be obtained if required.
    35. All teachers should be given at least five days’ notice of the observation of any
    36. The checklist below should be used for discussions between the observer/reviewer
    and the observed/reviewee.
     Has the purpose of the observation been made clear?
     What is the focus of the observation?
     Which lesson or parts of lessons are going to be observed?
     Has there been an opportunity for the teacher being observed to describe the
    context of
  9. is what it says, guidance not regulation. There is a difference.
  10. jazz2

    jazz2 New commenter

    If that was aimed at MrsC, I completely disagree. I think a Head who recognizes that too much observation causes stress to staff, while trying to balance that with the needs of a manager to stay in touch with what is going on,sounds very positive.
    Also a Head who comes into the classroom to engage with the kids, not judge the teacher, is a good thing.
    Which is not to say that I don't mind observation - I hate it - but it goes with the job. A necessary evil, perhaps.
  11. Hello Tacman,
    The NUT can refute as much as it likes, but all that you quote is simply its own guidance and it has no bearing in law- absolutely right jackie3.
    NAHT advice is that headteachers (and members of the senior team charged with monitoring standards of teaching and learning) can observe, outside the performance management cycle, as much as they wish and without notice.
    My understanding is that, the law specifies a limitation of 3 hours per year for the purposes of performance management. However, outside of the performance management cycle, no limitations are set, the only other legal requirement (under Teachers Pay and Conditions) is on headteachers to ensure the monitoring of standards of teaching and learning- there is no mention of how!
    You will find this issue has been discussed on the forums before and other members confirm this.
    You may also find the following links helpful:

    In 2007, the (then) DFEE set out a model policy for Performance Management . www.teachernet.gov.uk/_.../PM%20Model%20policy%20FINAL%20Mar%2007.doc
    <font size="3">It includes the following paragraph: </font>
    <font size="3">A head teacher has a duty to evaluate the standards of teaching and learning and to ensure that proper standards of professional performance are established and maintained. Heads have a right to drop in to inform their monitoring of the quality of learning.</font> There are no further changes to the law since 2007, that affect this policy.
    By its own admission, the Northahmpton NUT organisation accepts that (whilst they disagree with it) this is the legal stance (www.ntuc.org.uk/affiliates/NUT/October%20newsletter%202006.doc)

    5.18 A head teacher has a duty to evaluate the standards of teaching and learning and to ensure that proper standards of professional performance are established and maintained. Heads have a right to drop in to inform their monitoring of the quality of learning. In large schools they may delegate drop in to appropriate members of the leadership group. Clearly the performance management arrangements are integral to fulfilling this duty and head teachers may consider the classroom observations they have agreed for performance management are sufficient and that drop in will not be needed.
    RIG is made up of the following unions: ASCL, ATL, DfES, NASUWT, LGE, and PAT thus unions do recognise the legal context.
    Document can be found at: http://www.tda.gov.uk/upload/resources/pdf/p/pm_guidance_october_2006.pdf
    </font>So, as you see, it is entirely legal for headteachers to observe beyond 3 horus for performance management and for those observations to be in the form of drop ins and the NUT Guidance goes beyond the requirements of the law.
    Any member of staff is always within his/her rights to seek union advice (indeed I recommend that my staff join a union and take an active part in it). The right to 'take action' depends on the 'action'!

    I am so glad you would not want to work at my school, as I would be highly unlikely to employ a teacher who demonstrated a lack of understanding of the importance of lesson observations as part of requirements for self-evaluation in schools and does not recognise (however much teachers dread them) that observations- carried out in the right way- can be a very effective tool in improving personal practice.
    Nor would I be likely to employ someone who does not ensure the factual accuracy of his/her statements.
    Thanks for the vote of confidence jazz2.

  12. Any 'good' manager will understand why union guidance is there and will follow it! I see the importance of observations and have had two observations every year. I do not think that observing 'whenever you want' is conducive. In fact it can be a tool to victimise and harrass. Most of us are professionals who care about our teaching and the students we teach- we should be treated as such unless there have been problems identifies.
  13. used as a tool
  14. Any teacher who ensures effective teaching and learning is happening in their classroom on a day to day basis, should have nothing to fear from anyone popping in to share part of the lesson, and a lot to gain.
    And, indeed, if a teacher is having difficulties, a head needs to know as soon as possible so support can be given.
    Observation and feedback is an effective way of supporting staff in developing their practice and identifying good practice in the school so it can be shared. I am sure it can be used to victimise, but this is certainly not the way managers in my school use it, and it shouldn't be restricted simply because it has the 'potential' for abuse. Lots of things have the potential to be abused but we do not make them illegal.
    As a head, I need to be sure that there is consistently effective learning happening in classrooms and make sure the that senior team have an accurate view of pratice in the school.
    The more observations that are done, the more accurate the view about the teacher. If only 2 lesson observations are conducted across the year and the teacher just happens (and it happens to all of us) have a poor lesson or it isn't as good as it normally is, then that is the judgement that sticks with them.
    Having said all that, lesson observations are a small part of a wider monitoring picture which includes work scrutiny, progress data and discussions with children and teachers.
    I can understand teachers being upset about misuse of observation, but can't understand why they would be so defensive about the simple principle that managers need to be able to stay in touch with what is happening at the chalkface in their schools. I was pleased when my heads wanted to know what was going on in the classrooms and how initiatives are working.
    For me monitoring includes trying to get in to teach the classes, and sometimes do demo lessons/activities when I can if I think it will help the teacher. I have had 2 teachers observe me with one of their classes and then grade the lesson and we all found it a good way of reflecting on practice.
    I agree that teachers, on the whole, are a very professional body with a passion for their vocation (my teachers are highly committed and I have to tell them to go home some nights!) And, therefore, they should welcome observations (when used in the right context) as an opportunity to celebrate good practice and for further development.
    The NUT should focus its efforts, not on trying to limit observations but developing observation properly in schools and fighting against misue.
  15. Out of interest, I am trying to imagine another 'profession' where observations of the professional carrying out their role are deemed necessary. Are GPs watched while carrying out patient assessments and producing a diagnosis? Are police officers watched while carrying out arrests and reading the detainee their rights? Are solicitors observed when giving legal advice to their clients?

  16. gilly33

    gilly33 New commenter

    Hi Mrs C.
    As a parent as well as a teacher I welcome your approach. You have a good balance between supporting your staff and aiming to provide first class experiences for the children.
    You obviously enjoy grass root level as well, which shows you manage well not from an ivory tower.
    I wish all heads I've had contact with were as forward thinking.
  17. laticsbird

    laticsbird New commenter

    Hi all,
    Just wondered what you think about observations of Form time. We've recently experienced these with very vague crieria given to us - collective worship is one. All teachers observed have been given an OFSTED grading for their Form observation.
    Has anyone any comments?
  18. Well said, I totally agree! It is all to do with getting the balance right and it sounds to me like Mrs C is doing a great job!
  19. Thank you gilly and midget for your comments. I'm not sure about great job, we have lots of issues to continue to improve and I often feel torn away from focussing on teaching and learning which is my real passion.
    My children, parents, governors and staff keep me going when health and safety, safeguarding, buildings, SEFs, Ofsted framework changes, red tape and procedures get to me!

  20. Do you issue criteria to staff for judging observations in advance? If so, what are they?

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