Precis: Amongst all the computer based, E Performance and On-line Systems for School Improvement and Performance Management The iAbacus is unique in meeting the new requirements of the Professional Associations. Consequently it is benefitting and appealing to an increasing number of colleagues.

whenIs Performance Management benefitting all your colleagues?

There is huge pressure on teaching staff, more than ever before, and understandably, Professional Associations are wary of extra work and worry related to Performance Management and that awkward link with Capability Procedures. You’ve invested time and energy embedding your Appraisal Policy, met statutory requirements but have you won the hearts and minds of all colleagues? How can you reassure those who still have concerns about the personal and professional benefits of getting fully engaged?

Three questions that capture teacher concerns about appraisal and performance management

  1. Will this help my Professional Development?
  2. Will it increase my Workload?
  3. Will my personal data be confidential?

Will Performance Management help my Professional Development?

The 2012 Joint Union Guidance Document “Model Policy”, in line with the similar DfE document, was clear:

“Appraisal will be a supportive and developmental process designed to ensure that all teachers have the skills and support they need to carry out their role effectively. It will help to ensure that teachers are able to continue to improve their professional practice and to develop as teachers.”

Model Policy: https://www.atl.org.uk/Images/model%20appraisal%20policy%20updated%20-%20may%202012.pd

Since this 2012 guidance most schools and academies have embraced a teacher centred approach but some colleagues have the concerns below.

Will Appraisal increase my Workload?


Teacher unions have reported examples of over-bureaucratic, time consuming and inefficient systems in use, some having little to link them to Professional Development. We are finding iAbacus users praise the simplicity and personal benefits of our process. These comments are typical,

“Middle leaders are appreciative of iAbacus, they find it’s useful and gives them more time to have an impact in the classroom, a place where we feel they can do their best work”

Andy Finlay – Deputy Head Park View School – Case Studies

“The iAbacus demonstrates real and immediate impact on collaborative thinking and produced stimulating and challenging discussion. A self-evaluation and development plan followed very quickly. It has successfully been road tested through an Ofsted inspection”

Andrew Clay Headteacher Coundon Court – Case Studies

Will my personal data be confidential?

Teacher unions have reported significant issues around the misuse and potential abuse of teacher personal data and information used in the appraisal process. This, in particular, makes data protection a key determinant in choosing on-line self-evaluation and performance management systems. A major concern has been administrator and senior leader access to information and data entered into, “electronic filing cabinets” by teachers.

Using the iAbacus for professional development with teaching staff.So, in recent guidance, July 2016, The NAS/UWT highlighted concerns about some on-line E Performance Management Systems, singling out the BlueSky System for special mention. This has led some heads to ask, “Are our IT systems compliant with this new guidance?” and if not, “How can we reassure those who still see Performance Management as a threat, or an imposed process?”

This is where iAbacus is making a unique contribution to data safety and protection as it was designed specifically to meet stringent criteria related to confidentiality, use of data and simplifying workload. We did this precisely to allay legitimate fears about access to data and, having checked are confident that iAbacus meets the requirements as detailed below.

What are the new requirements for Performance Management?

The NASUWT document “Taking Control of Performance Management” identified the following concerns about some E Performance Management Systems. Ways in which iAbacus meets the criteria follow in bold.

http://www.nottsfednasuwt.org.uk/pdf/Taking Control of Performance Management.pdf

  • confidentiality may be compromised, as often a range of people have access to the information held on the database about the reviewee;

This is NOT the case in the iAbacus system – which is unique in ensuring all data in each teacher’s account is confidential to them, unless and until they wish to share it with others. Each account has a unique access code and is password protected by the user. Our software engineers do have access but will not divulge information to other than the individual user. We have refused to provide the iAbacus system to Senior Managers who requested access to teacher data.

  • teachers are required to post planning, schemes of work and pupil outcome data onto the system, adding to teachers’ workload and detracting from meaningful school improvement and teacher development strategies;

This is not a requirement in the iAbacus. Teachers, who choose to do so may reference critical evidence and data held elsewhere, as a reminder. The iAbacus does not contain any data, or evidence other than this.

  • the Teachers’ Standards are used in the system as a checklist against which teachers are expected to self-assess;

This is not a requirement in iAbacus. Indeed, teachers make their own professional self-assessments and, only if they choose to do so, review this against relevant criteria. Sets of criteria, or templates, are made available in iAbacus e.g The DfE Teachers Standards and Ofsted Criteria. This allows teachers to see and understand the expectations placed upon them. Most importantly The iAbacus has editing facilities to allow these criteria to be used “as is” or modified to suit local circumstances.

  • the planning and review meeting is replaced by an email exchange between the reviewee and the reviewer and there is no professional discussion;

This is not a requirement in iAbacus. The iAbacus Modelwww.iabacus.co.uk/model explains how the iAbacus process combines the emotional intelligence in effective coaching and mentoring with the rigours of criterion referenced inspection and review. Exchanging information and collaboration using emails is an option in iAbacus which can be chosen by the individual teacher to reduce workload.

  • teacher workload increases because the system has not been workload impact assessed.

The iAbacus has been “workload assessed” and found to be time saving. Consistent comments by teacher users state that the iAbacus Professional Development process is simple and saves them time.

All of these are unacceptable and members should alert the NASUWT if the system in their school has the above features. Members should ensure that they are fully conversant with all the information held about them on the E Performance Management System.

How does iAbacus meet and exceed these guidelines?

There are many descriptions, videos and Case Studies on this website but here is a short explanation.

We designed iAbacus to reassure, build confidence and develop teachers’ skills, knowledge and understanding of self-evaluation and action planning. Individuals and teams develop a culture of, “looking at what we do with a view to doing it better”. The iAbacus places them at the centre of their development and takes them through the critical stages about school improvement:Teachers using iAbacus for Performance Management using standards

  • assess the quality of your current provision, by sliding a bead in the key area
  • review your own judgement against given, or agreed criteria and modify the criteria to suit local circumstances (if you wish)
  • identify factors hindering your progress and consider what might help you improve (in order that they can go on to work with others to) and;
  • plan detailed actions to improve and develop.

A final, important factor – iAbacus is a true self-evaluation system because users elect to use it. Who could possibly object to being offered a system that builds their professional skillset? It allows the individual to tell their own story and share it when they are ready. It encourages dialogue and enables collaboration in making things better. The iAbacus supports a “can do” culture, encourages working together and is a powerful tool in the, “professional talks first” approach to Performance Management and School Success.

John Pearce – 2017