Appraisal and Classroom Observation


  • A fair appraisal system supports staff development needs as well as improving pupil outcomes.  Observations are part of the appraisal process and, when carried out as part of a process of constructive engagement within an atmosphere of support and co-operation, can be beneficial.  However, excessive numbers of observations can be counter-productive and do not necessarily lead to better outcomes for pupils. There are other ways of supporting staff development, for example through a school’s CPD programme.  There is no statutory limit on the number of teacher observations but NUT policy is for a maximum of three per year for all purposes, not exceeding three hours in total.1
  • Ofsted has highlighted that it is important not to confuse the purpose of Ofsted visits to lessons, with those carried out by head teachers for performance management purposes.  In February 2014 Mike Cladingbowl, Ofsted’s National Director, Schools issued a guidance note stating “Inspection is about evaluating the quality of education provided by the school, by considering a range of evidence and not about evaluating individually or collectively the performance of teachers through short lesson observations”.2
  • This Ofsted guidance note further states that Inspectors should not give an overall grade for the lesson and nor should teachers expect one”.  There is a box on the Ofsted evidence form to grade ‘quality of teaching’, but Ofsted is clear that forming a judgement about quality of teaching is not the same as judging a teacher by evaluating his or her performance in a lesson; other factors need to be considered including the standard of work completed in books and quality of marking.
  • Research evidence shows that classroom observation judgements may not always be reliable, particularly where observers have not been trained. It is difficult for an observer not to project their own preferences for particular styles of teaching onto a situation, even where other styles might be equally or more effective.  This is not to say that observation should not take place, rather it is important that observers have received training and are receptive to different styles other than their own.3
  • Assessment of classroom teaching that results in meaningful and actionable feedback for teachers has its roots in a clear, well-designed observation framework.  Any lack of consistency simply erodes trust in the whole enterprise of teacher evaluation.  A number of research studies have looked at the reliability of classroom observation ratings. For example, the recent Measures of Effective Teaching Project, funded by the Gates Foundation in the US,4 was designed to help teachers and school systems close the gap between their expectations for effective teaching and what is actually happening in classrooms.
  • Detailed ‘audits’ against each of the Teachers’ Standards and sub-bullet points is not required.  Teachers do not have to ‘demonstrate’ that they meet the Teachers’ Standards. Even the Department for Education agrees with this5.  No such requirement is imposed by the Education (School Teacher Appraisal) (England) Regulations 2012.6
  • There is no requirement to adopt a matrix approach ascribing certain levels of teaching performance to particular points on the pay scale.  Some employers and private companies/consultants promote such an approach but it has no basis in statute, for example, there is no requirement that a teacher paid on UPS 3 has to teach lessons that are all at least ‘good’ with 50 per cent ‘outstanding’.


1NUT Classroom Observation Protocol here.
2Ofsted guidance February 2014 No. 140050
3‘Classroom Observation: It’s harder than you think’ Professor Robert Coe, Centre for Evaluation & Monitoring, Durham University
5DfE Teachers’ Standards Myths and Facts


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