More targets won't bring us nirvana

18th January 2008 at 00:00
The sad reality is that some of our children are growing up in Wales underachieving because of the school they went to or the teacher they were taught by. So says the draft policy document that paves the way for a National School Effectiveness Framework for Wales, and it is shameful.

The idea behind school effectiveness is a good one, but the devil seems to be in the detail. Almost certainly some of the "worst schools in Wales" alluded to in the report will be under pressure to perform better. But more targets and increased scrutiny - especially from another headteacher in a local authority that spends more on education - might not be the answer.

Demotivated staff, bruised egos and division are more likely to be the unwelcome consequences of this intrusive method.

Certainly we must narrow the gap between the schools with the best and worst results, but there are more subtle ways of doing things. Policy-makers cannot go charging into schools like bulls in china shops and not expect breakages.

More good classroom practice needs to be shared among teachers, but lack of funds is often cited as a major barrier to staff going on courses. Co-operation alone will not make tri-level reform a success.

Having the right resources would help teachers to boost pupils' future prospects. But when these fly out of the staffroom window, so does the goodwill and harmony.

What is being talked about in this document is huge and the culture change needed will take longer than five years to achieve. But what this document fails to realise is that we are not dealing with systems but with human beings.

The excellent heads who will be working on this project know they have a challenge on their hands. It might have helped if there was a representative from North Wales.

Hardworking teachers, like everyone else, want to know they are doing a good job. It's true there are schools which are simply coasting, but there may be good reasons why that should be the case.

This document appears slightly patronising. We can only hope it is taken by schools and teachers with the obvious good and rightful intentions it starts from - ending injustices for children.

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