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How To Give Feedback To Your Work Mates

Updated: Jul 15, 2022

This blog post is part of an ongoing series on subject leadership in the primary school. You can read the rest of the blog posts here: Subject Leadership In Primary Schools Blog Archive

I recently blogged about Why Subject Leadership Training Is A Top Priority. Part of the training I do with subject leaders is about how to carry out the more difficult aspects of the role. Here's a taster of what I advise subject leaders who aren't looking forward to the prospect of leading their peers:

A recent piece of research, summarised here in PsyPost, suggests that we underestimate other people's desire to receive feedback. This is a huge encouragement when it comes to carrying out monitoring and evaluation processes in school. One area of worry for leaders is how they will monitor, evaluate and provide feedback to their colleagues, many of whom they consider to be friends.

The first I thing I would say to anyone who finds themselves in this position is that it can be done and that the thought of it is worse than the reality. It will be achieved by having the right mental attitude and approach to it. It’s the development of that mindset that can be difficult, but there are things that we can remind ourselves of and practical steps that we can take that will help.

Things to remember:

1. Your colleagues and peers will not be expecting preferential treatment. They won’t be expecting you to tell them anything other than the truth about what you have seen in their lessons and they will be expecting to be able to learn from you and be supported by you. As part of your existing relationship there will be trust – they will be trusting you to be honest and open and in fact being the opposite will negatively impact that trust more. Knowing this should empower you to be able to share any next steps for development with confidence.

2. Good relationships are always a prerequisite for being able to give feedback to members of staff so that fact that you already have these should work in your favour. The fact that you know these teachers well will allow you to tailor your approach to providing feedback. Good existing relationships mean that they will already feel like you are supportive of them, and therefore will be more likely to interpret your feedback as supportive rather than judgemental. In fact, in reality it is more difficult to provide feedback to someone who you don’t already have a good relationship with as they can feel like you are being judgemental. The NPQLT framework points out that you should be ‘Building a relationship of trust and mutual respect between the individuals involved’ (in expert-led conversations).

3. You do not act alone – you act as part of a bigger organisation and SLT should support you with any difficulties that arise.

4. It’s your job. Your work friends are a perk of the job, and certainly make the job more enjoyable and bearable, but they are not the priority. You are there to carry out your job and friendships mustn’t get in the way of this. Sometimes, relationships might be affected, but, if you do things well, only because you are doing what you are there to do. Having said this, we have to be careful not to contribute to poor working practices which create a judgemental environment, rather than a genuinely developmental one.

Things to do:

1. Be open and honest. Say what you have seen in a matter of fact way. Don’t make it personal – use distancing language which separates the work from the person such as “I noticed that...; This appears to be the case; I wonder what this means?; Tell me if I’ve got this wrong; I might have got this wrong, but this appears to be the case; I’m not sure about this, can you let me have more information? (see Mary Myatt's excellent Twitter thread on this)

2. Don’t jump to conclusions and make judgements about what you have seen based on little evidence. Treat everything you see as a clue and follow lines of enquiry. Get impressions of what is happening rather than thinking that you know for sure exactly what is going on.

3. Give people the benefit of the doubt. Think empathetically about what happens in lessons. This is not about making excuses for people, but it is about acknowledging that there are many factors that can make a lesson go awry.

4. Ask questions – as mentioned before in the point about distancing language – and always give teachers a chance to respond. Their response to the questions you ask is part of your gathering of information. Teachers may have missing pieces of the puzzle which help you to understand what you have seen. However, if you feel strongly about something you have seen, and the teacher disagrees, you may have to stand your ground – this will be best achieved with point 1.

5. Pick your feedback points carefully by prioritising. If you think there are lots of potential development points, it isn’t realistic to think that a teacher can work on them all at once – you must select the most pertinent feedback to deliver to them. There will be feedback points which you keep for yourself – things that you may need to act on in the future. As a leader, particularly one being questioned in a deep dive, you need to show that you aware of all the needs but that you communicate which ones you have prioritised and why. If you can communicate with this level of clarity you will be showing yourself to be a good leader – one who is knowledgeable, in control and sensible about what can be achieved.

6. Be aware of when situations are becoming difficult. Seek support from SLT in these cases, and use conversation structures such as NEFIART ( to plan your conversations carefully.

I asked about how others address this and got loads of great replies, some of which you've seen already. You can have a read yourself by heading over to Twitter:

If you would like Aidan to work with the leaders in your school, visit or use the details on this page to get in touch.


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