Analysis - Playing numbers games and 'juking the stats'

26th September 2008 at 01:00

There are many good reasons for setting targets. Local authorities have priorities besides education - getting rid of rubbish, making sure streets are in good repair, providing elderly and social care.

The argument goes, that without the incentive of having to justify themselves to the Government every year, providing quality early years education could slip down the list. Targets also have an important role in making it transparent to all how public services are measured.

But there are concerns about target setting. Before all else, the data on which the targets are set has to be reliable. The first foundation stage profile results published in 2003 were not considered robust enough to be National Statistics. Since then money, time and training has been pumped into moderation and each subsequent year the data has been declared "robust". It may well become possible to ensure that one child who can "sing a simple song" is not expected to memorise "Yellow Submarine" while another pupil hits the mark with "Wind the Bobbin Up".

But this will do little to allay the larger concerns about "juking the stats", as hit TV show The Wire describes teaching to the test.

It will not happen in early years, the Government had assured us, because no school or child-level targets will be set. But heads are expected to be take part in the authority's plans for meeting its targets to raise the proportion of children with good language and social development.

And reception teachers are also expected to set "process-based" targets for the children which fit into the play-based curriculum.

Who would argue with improving children's language and social skills, especially when schools have the information and means to do it? But these targets focus only on the benefits - they do not tell us the potential cost.

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number


The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now