SDPR : a vehicle for staff development?
Staff Development and Performance Review (SDPR) was introduced in Northern Ireland in 1992, in compliance with the Education (School Teacher Appraisal) Regulations (1991) in England and Wales. This qualitative study examined issues relating to SDPR and staff development. Qualitative research was chosen because the research involved an in-depth examination of social processes and the researcher would be closely associated with the research, the findings of which would have direct implications for her professional practice. The research involved four case studies, each conducted in four post-primary schools in Northern Ireland, a voluntary grammar school, an integrated school, a maintained school and a controlled school. Twenty-five semi-structured interviews were carried out. Findings showed that there is a close relationship between the management of SDPR and the perceptions held of it. When the principal for example embraced SDPR in a positive light, other teachers in the school did likewise. Constraints to SDPR included: lack of time; SDPR being perceived as appraisal; the difficulty of choosing a suitable focus for review; concerns about writing up the report following the review; and inadequate training. Personal professional development was being encouraged and supported in all four schools. Two of the schools offered funding for in-service degree courses. The other two did not. This highlighted inequity in relation to financial support for teachers undertaking part-time degree courses. A number of respondents thought that the introduction of performance related pay (PRP) would have a positive effect on the staff development aspect of the SDPR process. Others believed that if performance related pay and SDPR were to be linked, the purpose of SDPR would be defeated. The study refers to a number of recommendations. These include the fact that money should be held centrally by the Department of Education in Northern Ireland for the purpose of supporting personal professional development.