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How performance indicators give us edge

"What we're doing internally has not given anyone a heart attack. There's still a feeling that when external inspectors are around, you do not reveal your weaknesses. The advantage of self-evaluation is honesty," says Anne Park, headteacher of Cornhill primary.

A pilot primary in Aberdeen for the new model of self-inspection, the school is already beginning to benefit in the first full year, Ms Park believes, even if it has dented the budget.

The need for positive behaviour strategies across the school was one area thrown up by the self-examination process and staff, collectively, opted to spend most of the training budget to bring in consultant Jenny Mosley to deliver sessions on circle time. This led to a demand for resources - timers costing Pounds 15.95 which regulate the "golden time" sessions when pupils sit round in a huddle. Multiply that by 20 staff and the bill runs to several hundred pounds.

Ms Park says: "You won't get policy implemented if you do not have the resources to follow through what's being discussed."

The process also revealed flaws in the religious education programme, which was meeting curriculum requirements but was seen to be English-oriented. "It was an area of the curriculum where staff were frustrated and they now know it's going to be addressed," says Ms Park.

Questions were also raised about levels of writing in the national tests. New targets were set and there is now "a dramatic difference".

These three illustrations demonstrate how staff have become more reflective, Ms Park maintains. Tangible benefits lead to greater commitment to a process that began by sharing around staff development opportunities. "It's made us more analytical. I've still got a fear of complacency. It bothers me when we're all over 40 and the majority of us could be here until we retire," she says. "Performance indicators have given us a focus, a definite edge. If schools are genuinely seeking to improve, they will be seeking to work in a rigorous way."

Ms Park believes better resourcing could increase the pace of change, including release of staff to develop curriculum packages, while the three-year cycle for examination is "unrealistic". "Everything in our development plan will be linked to a performance indicator, but we will not cover the full range over a three-year period. Staff have not sat down and read every performance indicator, but they're looking at them and using them," she says.

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