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Heads told what to expect on targets

The head of the Inspectorate has taken what he calls the "unusual" step of + writing directly to all headteachers alerting them of the need to prepare for + target setting. Douglas Osler says heads should reserve space in their + development plans for "action to raise attainment". The timetable for target + setting was agreed yesterday (Thursday) by the Education Minister's action + group on standards. The details will be revealed to education conveners and + directors at a seminar on March 4. Shelagh Rae, president of the Association + of Directors of Education, said directors would be concerned if there was + "overprescription". The issue was not target setting itself but the way it was + done. "Education authorities must have the freedom to discuss targets in + partnership with their schools and not simply confirm those laid down by the + centre."Mrs Rae said: "If there was room for negotiation between an authority + and its schools and between authorities and the Scottish Office, that would be + acceptable."Targets for improving Higher and Standard grade performance will be+ issued to schools in early April and confirmed by education authorities to + HMI's audit unit in early June. For 5-14 attainment, schools will complete + surveys between early April and the second Friday in June. Provisional targets + will be issued between October and November and then confirmed by education + authorities. The composition of the targets is also now clear, if complex. The + Scottish Office will use the school characteristics index to identify schools + of similar nature. For each school a "starting level" will be fixed by + averaging its last three years' attainment. Then, using the similar attainment + from the 10 schools immediately above it, a benchmark will be produced. The + position of a school's starting level in relation to the benchmark will show + the scope for improvement.For many schools the provisional target will be the + equivalent of the scope for improvement, and no provisional target will be + lower than the average improvement across all schools over the past three + years. No provisional target will be higher than the level of improvement + needed for the school to have been in the top 10 per cent of all schools.It + will be up to each school to decide with its education authority what level of + improvement appears in its development plan. In most cases that will be the + provisional target, but it could be higher. It could also be up to 1 per cent + lower unless that put the school below the minimum target.A Scottish Office + paper for the action group meeting emphasises: "The targets that will be set by+ schools are not an end in themselves. They are a focus for planning for + improvement. Having set targets, schools will have to plan how they are to be + achieved."

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