A world beyond profit-led targets

7th September 2007 at 01:00
Updated performance management regulations come into force this week, requiring schools to link performance in the classroom to pay progression. According to the new professional standards document, this is supposed to indicate that the teaching force is becoming more "professional'.

The new regulations, like so many new education initiatives, derive from a misguided belief that increasing the professional status and accountability of teaching means more targets to meet. In the business world, performance management allows line managers to focus their colleagues on specific profit led targets. Business has two driving forces: to grow and to make money. Performance management is a crucial element of this profit-led cycle. The nature of business demands it to be. But targets within a school must be set using different parameters. Education is people-centric. The driving force is focused on people where outcomes cannot be measured on a balance sheet.

Yes, exam results are an integral component of their education, but to focus solely on them is to become too preoccupied with outcomes rather than process. There is an increasing obsession with quantifiable progression that is slowly strangling the humanity from the teaching profession. Teachers aren't motivated by statistics and league tables but they are motivated by the students they teach.

It is, of course, essential that teachers set professional goals for themselves and target grades for their students, but you cannot tag a grade on to a 16-year-old and hope that he comes up trumps because your progression on the pay spine is dependent upon it.

Just because something is quantifiable does not mean that accountability is any more rigorous. Qualitative performance management that is focused on the impact that the teacher has on the students in the room and takes account of the interminably complex lives that many young people have would still ensure accountability. It would not signal any less of a drop in professional standards just because you could not set a figure to it and measure it with a timeframe.

It is time ministers realised that transplanting business models directly into schools will not enhance professional credibility or provide the golden ticket to success.

James Richardson

Head of Humanities,

Sale High School,

Sale, Greater Manchester

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