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Psychologists urged to stay radical in face of performance indicators

EDUCATIONAL psychologists must not lose their radical edge in the move to establish a formal framework of evaluation in the wake of the Currie report.

A conference in Glasgow last week also heard that an obsession with performance indicators must not "hijack" the evaluation process.

Following the presentation of an evaluation framework by psychology consultant Tommy McKay, Rodger Flavahan, principal psychologist in Angus, told the conference that the psychological services must "keep a little bit radical and not think we have got it all taped".

Mr Flavahan later told The TES Scotland that while he supported the proposed framework, he was concerned that it might not allow for innovation and dissent, stifling creative and radical ideas and practice that had developed over the past 20 years.

"Things that started in small ways are now mainstream and the facility and encouragement to be able to do that must still be there," Mr Flavahan said.

But Mr McKay, who helped produce the proposed framework, told The TES Scotland that having performance indicators that improve the way psychologists do their job is not inconsistent with continuing to be innovative and radical.

"Radical, creative, innovative thinking is the lifeblood of psychology and there is no way that psychology wants those to be lost or in any way diminished," he said.

The evaluation framework was produced by a subgroup of the national implementation group set up after the publication of the Currie report in February last year. It is intended to develop a more formal approach to the evaluation of psychological services, incorporating self-evaluation, peer evaluation and HMI inspections. The report, from a committee chaired by Eleanor Currie, former director of education in East Renfrewshire, called for reforms which would allow psychologists to concentrate more on the national priorities for education, reinforcing pupil inclusion and attainment in particular. The Scottish Executive says it is committed to implementing all 31 recommendations.

The new evaluation system is to be piloted in Argyll and Bute, Dundee, Fife and North Lanarkshire. Roddy McDowell, acting head of service in Argyll and Bute, highlighted "potential tension" in the use of hard performance indicators, particularly between the time spent on evaluating psychologists' work and the benefits that result.

"We have to define clearly which of the performance indicators in relation to the inclusion and attainment agenda require to be focused on," Mr McDowell said. "We cannot get into the business of an evaluation spawning numerous indicators, which becomes an end in itself."

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