Going to a performance management weekend conference this year? You're not? Thank God for that, you're probably normal

24th September 2004 at 01:00
Going to a performance management weekend conference this year? You're not? Thank God for that, you're probably normal. I read about the last one in The TES, and, as I can't imagine anything more tedious, my pen turned from writing our next school musical to scribbling an imaginary dialogue between Mr Brian Deadlydull, headteacher, and Cynthia, his bemused Mrs.

Cyn: What are we doing this weekend, dear? Catching the new Alan Parker movie? Going to a gallery? The theatre? A concert? Wandering around the secondhand bookshops? Taking the children to the park?

Mr D: Actually Cynthia, I'm booked in for the performance management conference.

Cyn: The what?

Mr D: The PMC. It's a gathering of the great and the good to assess how we're doing.

Cyn: What, the entire weekend?

Mr D: These things can't be hurried, Cynthia. PM is a vital cog in the mighty machinery of raising standards, realising potential, achieving our targets.

Cyn: Really? Who said so?

Mr D: The DfES. Ofsted. Advisers and experts. Important people like that.

Cyn: You mean people who run as far away from the classroom as possible?

Mr D: Now that's a little cynical. We do need to drive up standards. The Government wants us to achieve 2,000 per cent in everything this year.

Cyn: So what exactly is this performance management?

Mr D: Well, I have to interview all my staff, at length, and we thrash out lots of targets for them. We write pages of action plans and strategies, and then we have team leaders who interview everybody in their team several times each term to see how their targets are panning out.

Cyn: And what if their targets don't pan out? Don't people get a little stressed? How do they find time for lesson planning and teaching?

Mr D: Nobody ever said teaching was easy, Cynthia. A 95-hour week isn't that bad, and the long holidays are good for having a nervous breakdown.

Cyn: I thought schools were supposed to be about children.

Mr D: That's a very old-fashioned idea. Children simply get in the way of data-handling, tracking and targeting.

Cyn: So what conclusions were reached last year?

Mr D: Well, nothing is ever conclusive. If it was, there wouldn't be any more conferences to waste time at. Sorry, I mean attend. But we do know lots of incompetent teachers still haven't been weeded out, because heads aren't being rigorous enough with capability procedures.

Cyn: Perhaps there aren't lots of incompetent teachers.

Mr D: Of course there are. Satisfactory doesn't mean satisfactory any more, you know. And it seems lots of heads are setting pointlessly vague performance targets, or - I can hardly believe this - no targets at all!

Cyn: Perhaps they are the sensible ones, Brian. They've realised all this nonsense has nothing to do with creating interesting, exciting schools.

Mr D: I say, steady on old girl, I really can't go along with you there. It is my duty to attend the conference, and attend I must.

Cyn: Very well. But when you come back, I may not be here.

The curtain drops and the house lights go up, revealing an audience who've been asleep since the first mention of "performance management".

Yes, it's all coming together. I wonder if the National would be interested.

Mike Kent is head of Comber Grove primary, London borough of Southwark.

Email: mikejkent@aol.com

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