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Empowering staff through Performance Appraisal


Thorpepark Primary School, Hull, is a larger than average urban school in a community facing social and economic challenges. They have been working with Bluewave.SWIFT since July 2010.

Thorpepark Primary School serves the large Orchard Park council estate on the northern outskirts of Hull. It is a community facing serious social and economic challenges – a factor that drives headteacher Simon Witham and his colleagues to provide the very best education they can for the school’s 380 pupils.

Staff professional development and performance management is vital to the school’s mission. If there’s one word that characterises Simon’s approach to this area it’s“empowerment”.

“One thing I persistently believe in is developing my staff. I want to help them to make a difference,” he says.

“Every member of staff is a leader. A teacher is in fact a leader of 30 children. CPD is about empowering people to want to make that difference.”

Bluewave.SWIFT School Edition has been playing a crucial role in that empowerment process at Thorpepark for the past three years. It is an online system that helps schools link together and drive improvement processes including self-evaluation, school inspection reports, strategic planning, professional development and performance appraisals. The system also helps schools keep ahead ofever-changing accountability and inspection requirements while saving time and cutting costs.

"any new member of staff coming in can then take a record of their professional development at our school to another school"

“CPD is a key function of the system for Thorpepark,” says Simon. “I am interested in how CPD impacts upon teaching and learning,” he says. “There is an expectation here that any CPD in the school should justify itself by making a real impact.

“If CPD is identified through performance management or appraisals then staff will attend CPD.

“When they go on a course the record is updated and then they will self review against the course. This process tells us whether the CPD was worthwhile and whether it is making an impact in the school.”

This feedback – linking CPD to actual improvements in practice – can then influence future CPD planning decisions and help the school arrive at a point where all its CPD has an integral part to play in school improvement.

The school development plan provides the starting point for school improvement. Simon also uses Bluewave.SWIFT to write the development plan, which then drives staff development objectives.

Following a performance management objective setting meeting, staff write their personal development plans and review their performance against the plan using the current teachers’ standards. These are built into the system by Bluewave.SWIFT and updated as soon as there are any changes.

“It gives us a tight structure,” says Simon. “It means that when a colleague reviews their performance, for example, they only do it once. We never lose anything.”

Giving individual staff members the ability to input into the system in this way means that theirindividual efforts and achievements feed directly into the development plan. Everyone can see the part they play in moving the school forward.

Bluewave.SWIFT has also helped Thorpepark in its adoption of the International Primary Curriculum (IPC).

“In the last academic year we realised that our curriculum was not broad enough so we brought in the International Primary Curriculum,” explains Simon.

“We set up curriculum teams that met once every half term to use coaching to develop the IPC curriculum. Staff wrote action plans using Bluewave.SWIFT, and reviewed their progress against the new teaching standards using the system.”

The school is also using Bluewave.SWIFT Personal Edition – a career development portfolio for everyone from student teacher to executive head – alongside the School Edition.

“It means that any new member of staff coming in can then take a record of their professional development at our school to another school,” says Simon.

“It’s particularly useful for student teachers that come into school. We get them to review where they are, using the teaching standards, then we can monitor and see what impact we are having on themwhen they are on placement with us. It helps us analyse whether we are doing what we should be doing in bringing along trainee and new teachers.”

Simon adds: “I want to stop CPD from creating a feeling in staff of ‘it’s that time again, let’s go through that hoop’. I want it to be a worthwhile system that enhances the school. CPD is not about having something done to them. It should make a proper contribution to career development and Bluewave.SWIFT certainly helps in this.”

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