Getting the most out of your performance review: coaching tips for headteachers

Posted by Nadine Powrie

Getting the most out of your performance review: coaching tips for headteachers


When I’m working on performance management with groups of educationalists in the UK or around the world, I ask two questions. The first is, ‘Who had a performance review last year?’ This usually will result in most hands going up. I then follow up by asking, ‘Who had a really positive experience in that performance review?’ Only a few hands will go up. What can you do to make performance management a positive experience for you?

It is December, you will be meeting with your governors or trustees to review the targets you have been set and to set some new ones. The key word will be ‘impact’. Whatever you do for each of the three objectives that you have been set, it has to be about ‘impact on performance’. What can you do to maximise ‘impact’?

If you are working in a maintained school: regulations require governing bodies to appoint an external reviewer to support and advise them on your performance management. 

If you are working in an Academy: academies are free to determine their own processes. It will be for each academy to determine whether the relevant people have the skills and experience to carry out your performance management without an external adviser.

If you are working in a multi-academy trust (MAT): it will be for the academy trust board to determine who carries out your performance management. Depending on the size of the MAT this could be the trust board, the executive principal/chief executive or the local governing committee.

'What can you do to make performance management a positive experience for you?'

Know the procedure

The national standards of excellence for headteachers falls under four headings: qualities and knowledge, pupils and staff, systems and process and the self-improving school system. Under each heading sit six ‘standards’, yet they have no statutory basis. Those should not be used as a checklist against which to assess your performance, but they may, however, provide a useful basis for discussing future opportunities and objectives for your professional development.

Your professional development needs and the actions needed to address them will also be assessed. A recommendation on a Headteacher’s pay progression must be done by 31 December. You will receive a written report of your appraisal, which will include assessments and the decision on pay.

There is no legal requirement for academies to have appraisal processes in place, but it is good practice. In addition, academies are subject to the same Ofsted inspection regime as other schools such as evidence of appraisal systems and their effect on school standards. They are key questions that a governing body should ask and as a Headteacher, it is important that you keep these in mind for your bigger picture:

  • Do all staff receive an effective annual performance management?
  • How effectively does the governing body appraise the headteacher?
  • What should the school/academy/MAT pay policy say about performance and progression?
  • What is the correlation between appraisal outcomes, pay, and the quality of teaching and learning in your school?
  • How effective is performance management in improving teaching and learning?

Organise yourself strategically

'I’ve learned that you can’t have everything and do everything at the same time' Oprah Winfrey

You are in control of your targets once they have been agreed. Use your time effectively and organise yourself. It is common to create one electronic folder for each target where you upload on a regular basis the documents (emails, files) that you need. This does not take much time and the technology is here to help you. For example, Google Drive allows your governors or trustees to view any file or folder you choose when you have informal discussions with them. This is a good way to prepare for your review meetings as you do not need to waste time collecting all the paper documents into one folder. You are building your performance management over time.

Things to consider:

  • What are the other ways that could help you organise yourself?
  • How are you locally and nationally benchmarking what you are achieving?

Prepare what you are going to say

'Plans are nothing. Planning is everything' Dwight Eisenhower

Prepare what you are going to show as ‘evidence’ for each target and plan what you are going to say. You don’t have to write a script, just bullet points as a reminder. How do you think you will feel if or when you achieve this?

The panel will set your objectives after consultation with the external adviser and discussion with yourself. It is important that you fully understand the expectations of the governing body. Ascertain clarity in what is being said.

Your objectives will be linked to the school improvement plan or school development plan so look for the correlation with the priorities identified in the school strategy. Have a copy of those with you when you are discussing.

Things to consider:

  • How is your leadership style supporting you to be at your best and to get the best from your colleagues?
  • To what extent do the objectives correlate with the schools’ key priorities?
  • Are the objectives sufficiently clear and precise so that there is no possible misunderstanding on each side?


Prioritise Tasks

Performance Management is about process and timing. How you prioritise dates and deadlines is key. The 2012 Regulations provide for an annual performance management cycle. This will normally be a 12-month cycle. Performance management planning and review should be completed for Headteachers by 31 December each year. In between, you will have your review meetings to measure the ‘distance travelled’. Make sure you are ready for those key dates.

Look after yourself

‘We need to do a better job of putting ourselves higher on our own “to do” list’ Michelle Obama

Being a school leader is a demanding job because it does not stop once you leave the school. You need to look after yourself. Your personal health and well-being play a crucial part in your ability to perform well and to have an impact. What is your well-being programme? An overwhelming number of teachers in the UK have suffered either physically or mentally because of their jobs. The research, commissioned by the charity Education Support Partnership, indicated 75% of teaching staff in schools and colleges experienced symptoms stemming from their work. Press Pause and Stop when you have a choice.   

What would you like to do to ‘look after yourself’ in your busy schedule? Exercise, recognise that food and nutrition matters, meditate, sleep, socialise, relax?

And now think about these coaching questions for a moment:

  • How do you replenish your physical and emotional energy?
  • How do you spend your time?
  • How do you boost your energy?
  • Which aspects at work are truly fixed and which ones can you change?
  • How can you build positive and supportive relationships to counteract the ones that drain you?
  • What assistance are you seeking out?
  • How does your professional development help you?
  • How do you break out of a negative cycle?

‘It’s all to do with the training. You can do a lot if you are properly trained’ Queen Elizabeth II

It is important that you find professional development opportunities for you and pursue them yourself. Your governing body are busy people and nobody knows better than you what you need, so look up courses, conferences or training that can make a difference in your daily teaching and discuss them in your regular meetings.

Celebrate Success

‘Success is nothing more than a few simple disciplines practised every day’ Jim Rohn

I have always encouraged people that I have been working with to celebrate their success, or to acknowledge what they have done well, what they are proud of each day or each week. Your performance review is a time to reflect upon these.

  • What were your biggest achievements this year?
  • What are you most proud of?
  • What have you achieved that has surprised you?
  • What 'smaller', less obvious things are you proud of achieving this year?
  • What do you get complimented on most?


Tribal’s highly qualified education specialists are on hand to provide supportive challenge, coaching and mentoring, tailored to your exact needs.

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