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  • Jonathan Ullmer

Performance management in international schools

As Headmaster at Haileybury Astana, we introduced an online Performance Management system from Blue Sky. I had been involved in developing these systems before and liked the way it gave each member of staff a clear record of their training - not only external, but also all the training we ran in house often with external trainers. The system was linked to whole school and individual agreed targets so staff were fully involved in their performance management and it gave staff a real voice in their appraisals.


Sadly, this is often not how governors and some international leaders treat performance management. A standard feature I have seen is for governors to come over on a ‘jolly’ several times a year, talk to disgruntled staff, listen to gossip, and allow this to form the basis of their decisions on how staff or senior leaders are getting on. My own experience has been of overseas governors not understanding basic ability profiling and advanced systems, and being frightened of giving real staff a real voice. The anonymous staff and parent surveys actually gave a far more accurate picture with high turnout, and it really highlighted how small the number of discontented staff were.

I remember vividly some governors complaining after listening to staff without comprehension

of the big picture, when I refused to

allow some students to sit exams in subject they were going to get low grades in, so they could focus on a smaller number of vital subjects. This is quite in line with Russel Group university advice, but governors preferred to

listen to a small number of inexperienced state school staff with different ideas and less experience of international education. It does highlight the damage I experienced governors can cause to schools fast heading to excellent practice. This approach of coming over and listening to gossip is not the mark of a good school or good governance.


So what do you do if you are looking at going to an international school? Well, check how they do performance management as this is a clear sign of how they manage their staff. Do staff have a real voice, or are they scared of losing their contracts after two years? Do governors really know what is going on, and how do they do this? Do they have quality on line performance management systems they listen to, or is it based on flying in and out and listening to gossip? Trying to understand these issues will give you a clear idea of the quality of the school you are considering going to.

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