Your browser is no longer supported

For the best possible experience using our website we recommend you upgrade to a newer version or another browser.

Your browser appears to have cookies disabled. For the best experience of this website, please enable cookies in your browser

We'll assume we have your consent to use cookies, for example so you won't need to log in each time you visit our site.
Learn more

TEACHER UNION CHALLENGES THE GOVERNMENT'S TARGET SETTING TACTICS

  • Comment
The National Association of Head Teachers has issued guidance to its members on the subject of target setting. Key ...
The National Association of Head Teachers has issued guidance to its members on the subject of target setting. Key points in the guidance are:

* NAHT is concerned that the government, despite promises to the contrary, is proposing to pursue its target setting tactics with little or no attempt to change their unacceptable features. In particular 'top-down' targets at national, and local authority, level are used to try and force schools to sign up to targets which bear no relation to the situation in individual schools.

* This is a monumentally prescriptive and centralising agenda. Target setting needs to be both flexible and pragmatic. Schools must exercise their own judgment, not least because the circumstances in each school are different and only the school knows how its 'cohorts' will vary from year to year.

* Target setting from now on must not replicate the model adopted in the past. NAHT does not believe that LEAs should 'drive' this agenda or that they should attempt to force schools to agree unreasonable targets in order to meet their own blanket targets set by government.

* Top down pressure from government and LEAs is detrimental to schools. It is absolutely crucial that schools 'own' the target setting process. Otherwise all the government's promises to support self-management are of no value whatsoever.

* Accordingly NAHT is strongly advising its members to put aside their local education authority wide targets, and to agree targets for their own schools which they regard as challenging but realistic. They should not get into a debate with their LEA as they have complied with their obligation based upon the sound data that they have for their schools and their pupils.

* It is time that heads, deputy heads, assistant heads and other teacher colleagues 'seized back' the professional agenda. They are prepared to be fully accountable but they are not willing to be dictated to, or pressurised by, government or LEAs. NAHT's advice is the way by which school leaders can protect themselves and their staffs from the excessive workload created by an over-bureaucratic and prescriptive target setting agenda.

David Hart, general secretary, comments as follows:

'The government's unrelenting emphasis on target setting means that primary and secondary schools face unbelievably tough challenges.

'Heads object strongly to the government's 'top down' approach which uses LEAs as 'battering rams' in an attempt to force schools to agree targets that match those set for LEAS by the government.

'The DfES promised to change the whole way it approached target setting. This has proved to be yet another example of 'spin doctoring'. The reality is that nothing has changed. Accordingly, we have advised our members to put aside their LEA-wide targets and to agree targets for their own schools which they regard as challenging but realistic.

'The government cannot expect school leaders to follow its line on target setting unless and until it recognises and acts upon, the critical issues of excessive workload, underfunding, teacher recruitment and retention and the rising tide of pupil misbehaviour, all of which have a massive effect on standards.'

NOTES

The government is proposing the following targets:

Key Stage 2 (2004)

85% at Level 4 and above in English and Maths and 35% at Level 5 and above in the same subjects.

Key Stage 3 (2004)

75% of 14 year olds will achieve Level 5 in English, Maths and ICT and 70% in Science.

By 2004 no LEA will achieve less than 65% at Level 5 and above in English and Maths and 60% in Science.

The NAHT represents well over 30,000 school leaders, including virtually every Special School head, 85% of all Primary School heads, over 40% of all Secondary School heads, and over 9,000 deputy heads.

A Guidance Document from the National Association of Head Teachers,

First Issued October 2001

Note: For information only to members in Wales and Northern Ireland.

1.In January 2001 NAHT sent to all members a document entitled 'Turning the Tide'. It emphasised the importance of management time, non-contact time, excessive class sizes and the lack of adequate administrative support as key issues in the drive to reduce workload.

2.Since then the NAHT has been closely involved in the Price WaterhouseCoopers study, commissioned by the government, to examine Teachers' Workload. The results of that study will be known in November. It will lead to vital talks with government and the School Teachers' Review Body, leading, we sincerely hope, to solutions that can be fed into the 2002 Comprehensive Spending Review. These solutions must include the issues set out in Paragraph 1.

3.In June 2001 National Conference passed a resolution emphasising the urgent need to restore a proper work/life balance for NAHT members. The PWC study outcomes must achieve that balance if it is to succeed. In the meantime, further developments have only served to add to the pressures on NAHT members:

- Recruitment and retention problems;

- Significant growth in overseas recruitment and supply cover costs;

- New KS3 strategies, GCSE changes and 'botched' Post 16 developments;

- A real increase in pupil and parental violence or threatened violence;

- Government's unrelenting emphasis on target setting.

4.Some of the issues listed in Paragraph 3 are the subject of current discussions with STRB and with government. But National Council, at its September meeting, was concerned that the government, despite promises to the contrary, was proposing to pursue its target setting agenda with little or no attempt to change its unacceptable features.

5. So Local Education Authorities will be required to tell government their LEA-wide targets for:

- KS2 at both Level 4 or above and 5 or above for 2002/3 and 2003/4, plus a breakdown by ethnic origin;

- KS3 at Level 5 or above for years 2002/3 and 2003/4, plus a breakdown by ethnic origin;

- GCSE (plus vocational qualifications), for five or more subjects (grades A* to C) and for English, Maths and three or more other subjects (grades A* to G) plus a breakdown for looked-after children for the years 2002/3 and 2003/4.

In addition LEAs must tell government what targets each school has set for 2002/3.

This is a monumentally prescriptive and centralising agenda. Target setting needs to be both flexible and pragmatic. Schools must exercise their own judgment, not least because the circumstances in each school are different and only the school knows how its 'cohorts' will vary from year to year.

Target setting from now on must not replicate the model adopted in the past. NAHT does not believe that LEAs should 'drive' this agenda or that they should attempt to force schools to agree unreasonable targets in order to meet their own blanket targets set by government. We fully support internal individual or group target setting as a significant contribution to teaching and learning but management freedom, linked with accountability, over the whole school target setting process is absolutely crucial.

6.Furthermore, the government has issued a consultative document on targets for KS2 in 2004. This proposes 85% at Level 4 and above in English and Mathematics and 35% at Level 5 and above in the same subjects, plus a compulsory requirement on each KS2 school to set Level 5 and above targets in addition to their Level 4 and above targets.

7.Workload is affected by the whole question of ownership and control of work. The balance between accountability and trust is crucial. The school improvement climate can increase bureaucracy and add to teacher workloads.

NAHT fully supports target setting by schools as a key part of improving levels of attainment and the performance management process. But top down pressure from government and LEAs is detrimental to schools. It is absolutely crucial that schools 'own' the target setting process. Otherwise all the government's promises to support self-management are of no value whatsoever.

8. Accordingly NAHT strongly advises its members to put aside the government's national targets, and their Local Education Authority wide targets, and to agree targets for their own schools which they regard as challenging but realistic. This means that heads will be complying with their obligation to set targets which have been agreed by their governors. They can then inform the LEA of the targets for their schools. They should not get into a debate with their LEA as they have complied with their obligation based upon the sound data that they have for their schools and their pupils.

It is time that heads, deputy heads, assistant heads and other teacher colleagues 'seized back' the professional agenda. They are prepared to be fully accountable but they are not willing to be dictated to, or pressurised by, government or LEAs. NAHT's advice is the way by which school leaders can protect themselves and their staffs from the excessive workload created by an over-bureaucratic and prescriptive target setting agenda.

9. NAHT urges members to follow this advice. We will support all members who act in accordance with this guidance document.

  • Comment

Have your say

You must sign in to make a comment

Please remember that the submission of any material is governed by our Terms and Conditions and by submitting material you confirm your agreement to these Terms and Conditions.

Links may be included in your comments but HTML is not permitted.