The research, by Richard Murphy of the London School of Economics, looks at the three most common ways of assessing teachers, and finds that improvements in pupils test scores are the best single measure of long-run teacher performance. They are nearly twice as effective as student surveys and nearly three times more effective than classroom observations, even by independent, well-trained assessors.

However, the report concludes that to achieve a reliable and fair measure others aspects of teacher performance should be included.

The Government expects teachers to be paid according to their performance and has also made it easier for schools to develop their own approaches to teacher appraisal. So it is increasingly important that schools have a clear and consistent approach to teacher evaluation.

Sir Peter Lampl, the chairman of the Sutton Trust and of the Education Endowment Foundation, said today:  “Michael Gove is hoping that schools will use appraisal and evaluation to achieve real improvement and reward the best teachers more effectively. Unless schools and their leaders develop their own clear appraisal standards there is every danger that these changes will be no more effective than what went before.”

The report notes that evaluations are most effective when value added scores are combined with other classroom measures, such as observations – which provide opportunities for school leaders and line managers to see teachers in action – and surveys of pupils about the quality of teaching they receive.

The research also suggests that schools should distinguish between observing teachers to help them improve and doing so to assess their performance.

The study, by Richard Murphy from the London School of Economics, suggests ten tips that schools should use for effective evaluation of their teachers:

  • Schools should not rely on one single approach to teacher appraisal or evaluation. Instead they should consider using a mix of value added or progress measures, classroom observations and pupil surveys. Ultimately the mix chosen should be at the discretion of the headteacher with knowledge of the strengths of each.
  • A clear system should be developed for teacher appraisal that is implemented fairly and consistently for all teachers.
  • External advice should be used, where possible, to assess the quality and standards of a school’s system and to assure staff of its fairness and governors of its robustness.
  • Staff sessions should be used to discuss the new system and help shape its effective implementation.
  • Staff involved in evaluation should be properly trained, and school leaders should ensure that they are working within the agreed standards for the school.
  • Good feedback is at the heart of successful evaluation, if it is to lead to improved teaching. School leaders should ensure that there is proper one-to-one discussion about the results of any evaluation.
  • While appraisal and evaluation should focus on classroom activity, teachers’ contributions to extra-curricular activities, including sports, trips and clubs, should also be recognised.
  • Value added or progress measures, rather than absolute test or exam results, should be the primary data used in evaluating performance, as they are the most objective and comparable assessment of a teacher’s contribution. It is important that robust baseline data is used.
  • Developmental and evaluative classroom observations should be carried out separately to promote honest feedback. It may make sense for peers to be involved in developmental observations but those for appraisal purposes being conducted by members of the school leadership team. There should be clear standards and protocols for observations, perhaps in a school handbook.
  • Pupil surveys should be clearly structured, be age appropriate, and should complement other measures.

Sir Peter Lampl added: “With 440,000 teachers in English classrooms, and 35,000 new teachers recruited each year, it is not enough simply to raise the quality of new teachers. It is more important to raise the standard of those already in the classroom, many of whom will be working with young people for decades to come.”

The report’s author, Richard Murphy, of the London School of Economics, said: “There is growing evidence from the UK and the United States showing that there is a significant correlation between teacher evaluations and exam results. Effective evaluation is good for pupils and good for teachers.

“It can improve the quality of teaching, provided it is accompanied by good feedback, and it can lead to better results for pupils and improved learning.  However, the evidence also suggests that schools should rely on a combination of approaches to gain a fuller picture of teacher effectiveness, and that teachers should be assessed on their cumulative performance over several years rather than on the data from a single year.”


1.       The Sutton Trust is a foundation dedicated to improving social mobility through education. It has published over 120 research studies and funded and evaluated programmes involving hundreds of thousands of young people of all ages, from early years through to Access to the Professions.

2.       The report, Testing Teachers: What works best for teacher evaluation and appraisal, is available on the Sutton Trust website at  The research was conducted by Richard Murphy of the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics.

Media enquiries

If you're a journalist with a question about our work, get in touch with Ruby. If it's out of office hours, you can call or text 07834 461299.

E: [email protected] T: 020 7802 1660

Keep up to date with the latest news