I have been asked by a few physiotherapists how teachers are regulated, how (and if) they are re-validated, and how their performance is monitored and improved, and so I have written this short blog.
How are teachers regulated?
The Teaching Regulation Agency (TRA) have responsibility for the regulation of the teaching profession, including misconduct hearings and for the maintenance of the database of qualified teachers.
In England teachers must have Qualified Teacher Status (QTS) to take up a teaching post in all maintained schools, and also non-maintained special schools. Theoretically you don’t need QTS status to teach in an independent school, although of course most teachers probably do.
All schools in England are required to have a published complaints procedure. It is expected that any complaint about a teacher will first go through this procedure. In cases of serious teacher misconduct, where the local complaints procedures have already been utilised, a referral can be made to the TRA. The TRA investigates cases of serious teacher misconduct and decide whether to refer a case to a professional conduct panel. The panel then investigates whether a prohibition order should be issued.
Serious misconduct is when a teacher’s behaviour is fundamentally incompatible with being a teacher or could lead them to being prohibited from teaching.
The regulations don’t cover the cases of less serious misconduct, incompetence or under-performance. A teacher’s employer deal with these cases.
Employers are able to check the record of a teacher. They can check a teacher has QTS, whether they have completed their period of teacher induction, and whether they have any prohibitions, sanctions, or restrictions that might prevent the individual taking part in certain activities or working in specific positions.
Leaving to one side the possibility that a teacher may have a sanction or prohibition made against them, teachers do not have to re-validate their registration, or prove competence to the TRA during the course of their teaching career. In general, once they are registered with the TRA when they gain Qualified Teacher Status, they remain a professionally recognised teacher for the rest of their career.
How is a teacher’s performance monitored and approved?
This is predominantly done at a school level. The following description describes my overall experience based on having worked in a number of schools, primary, secondary and special, and a Local Authority Advisory service. I have worked in maintained schools, non-maintained special schools, and independent schools. Please bear in mind throughout this section though that schools do work in different ways, and that I am 10 years out of active teaching.
All teachers have a line manager, usually more senior to them.
During the year it is likely that the line manager will undertake formal lesson observations with their teachers, with formal written and verbal feedback. The headteacher, governors, Local Authority advisors, or other senior staff may also undertake lesson observations.
All teachers are expected to keep detailed records of pupil progress. At key points (maybe at the end of each term) this data is likely to be fed into a computerised pupil assessment system. These systems predict what a pupil’s progress is expected to be in each subject, which is then compared to their actual progress. As well as indicating an individual pupil’s progress, the system also gives an indication of how successful an individual teacher is being (eg if all pupils in a history class are making poor progress then this could be due to teacher performance).
Appraisals and Supervision
Schools have an appraisal policy, designed to be supportive, agreed by their governors. The Department for Education publish a model Teacher Appraisal and Capability policy which can be found here.
In my experience teachers have an annual appraisal cycle. Objectives are agreed between the teacher and their line manager at the beginning of this cycle. These are (or at least should be!) SMART. Emphasis is placed on how they will be measured, so that at the end of the year it will be clear whether the teacher has met them or not. From memory I think there are usually four or five targets, with at least one related to pupil progress, and one related to whole school improvement.
During the year some line managers will formally meet with their teachers for ‘supervision’ sessions but, in my experience, this varies greatly from school to school. Many informal discussions take place throughout the year. Line managers will be reviewing pupil progress data throughout the year and undertaking lesson observations and so it is unlikely that any teacher’s poor performance will go ‘under the radar’.
At the end of the appraisal cycle (after a year) the line manager and teacher meet for at least an hour, hopefully two, to review the year’s work. It is likely that this meeting will be used to set next year’s targets.
In my experience all schools have published capability procedures. Although not used very often, they are used by the school to address a teacher’s poor performance and can, and do, result in dismissal. They are designed to be supportive, with a number of different stages involved.
Ofsted and Independent Schools Inspectorate
Maintained schools, and non-maintained special schools, are inspected and regulated by Ofsted, whilst independent schools are inspected and regulated by the Independent Schools Inspectorate. The cycle of inspection varies, with some schools being monitored more closely than others.
At the time of an inspection pupil progress data is looked at in detail and inspectors may undertake lesson observations, talk with pupils and parents and review examples of pupil work. They will discuss with the headteacher any concerns they have about particular teachers, or departments, which will be considered and hopefully followed up by the school after the inspection. This provides an external look at how an individual teacher is performing.
My thoughts on the comparison to physiotherapists
I need to stress that I am not a physiotherapist and have not worked in a hospital or other medical setting, and so my very few thoughts are basic and may well not be valid. Having said that they may be of some interest.
For me, this is a major difference between teachers and physiotherapists. Teachers are now used to providing pupil assessment data and measuring pupil progress, which is carefully monitored by the individual teacher, the school and external agencies such as Ofsted. This provides them with the ability to ‘prove’ they are a successful teacher, and the ability for concerns about performance to be raised and looked at. (Although pupil progress is only part of the picture of a teacher’s success, it is a very important one.)
As far as I am aware physiotherapists do not have a universal way of proving patient outcomes, or for this to be recognised and measured in the same way it is for teachers. Patients may be ‘happy’ but not actually have made either ‘satisfactory’ or ‘better than expected’ progress. Teachers didn’t like it when rigorous collection and analysis of pupil assessment data was first introduced a number of years ago, but the analysis of assessment data is now a large part of their work and is used to not only review an individual pupil’s progress, but that of the teachers themselves and the school.
The HCPC is the regulating body for physiotherapists and the TRA for teachers. Physiotherapists have to re-validate periodically, whilst teachers don’t. My impression (and it is only an impression) is that the HCPC considers misconduct cases that are at a lower level of seriousness to that which would be considered by the TRA.
In general teachers work for schools. It is very unlikely that a teacher would work in a school comprising only one or two teachers. It is possible to work as a teacher in an independent school, and I think possibly in an academy, without Qualified Teacher Status, but in my experience this is unusual. All independent schools I have worked in have had adequate appraisal, supervision, capability policies etc. Misconduct cases can be referred from independent schools to the TRA, obviously as long as their ‘teacher’ has QTS and is registered with them.
Physiotherapists could be working, for example, in large hospitals or in GP practices. However, many operate in independent practice, some of them working alone. I assume that the NHS organisations have adequate appraisal and monitoring systems, although I don’t know that. I do wonder if the systems in place in ALL of the small independent practices are adequate. I’m sure they are in many, hopefully most, but are they in ALL? There must be a greater risk of poor, and maybe outdated, practice, which is not adequately addressed, in some of these smaller provisions. I don’t know what is done to safeguard against this, but it is of concern to me as a patient, particularly as there seems to be no robust universal method of measuring outcomes and progress. I’m not sure the regulation/re-validation processes that the HCPC provides sufficiently mitigates these concerns. They don’t seem to, but I don’t know for sure.
So, no conclusions to this blog as it has been written purely to inform the physiotherapists that were keen to understand how regulation and monitoring works in the teaching profession. I hope it has helped.