HMI'scontrol fetish;Letter

23rd April 1999 at 01:00
FROM YOUR front-page report (TESS, April 16) on the tiff between Douglas Osler and the directors of education, it seems that Mr Osler would be well advised to read an article in the New Statesman of January 15 by Matthew Taylor, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research.

Titled, "Don't try to control everything", it includes the observation: "Accepting the idea of target-setting is one thing; setting the right targets is another . . . eg the target for 50 per cent of pupils to achieve A-C grades in GCSE gives schools every incentive to concentrate on the set of middling ability . . . but much less reason to bother with those at the lower levels of attainment.

"The target becomes a measure not of school performance but of the head's ability to direct resources ruthlessly to a particular group . . . It is a characteristic of management by target that more and more measures have to be developed to correct the perverse incentives created by earlier ones."

Or as Michael Fullan famously put it: "Control at the top, as many reform minded leaders have found, is an illusion. No one can control complex organisations from the top . . . Wrong solutions to complex problems nearly always make things worse (worse than if nothing had been done at all)."

Colin Weatherley Quality in Learning Consultancy, Gullane, East Lothian

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