Schools struggle in race to set targets

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
One in 9 schools looks set to miss the April 6 deadline to finalise heads objectives. Phil Revell reports

More than 2,000 schools are likely to miss the Government's deadline for setting the new performance targets for heads.

The deadline for the first stage in the new performance management arrangements was extended from December 31, 2000 to April 6. But many schools have no hope of even meeting this later date.

Cambridge Educational Associates (CEA) which is running the process confirmed it still had not heard from more than one in nine schools.

It said this week that 20,031 of the 22,600 schools had returned forms requesting a visit from a CEA adviser. It has replied to 18,989 schools naming an adviser who could work with them, but only 13,155 have been visited.

Governors must agree targets with the head and these must then be approved by the external adviser. Progress against targets, which will be reviewed in the autumn, could have an impact on salaries.

Kathy James, assistant secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers says the April 6 deadline is "infeasible". The later targets are set, the less time there is before the performance review in the autumn. "The logistics of this process haven't been thought through," she says.

CEA denies there has been a shortage of advisers. But many observers blame both it and the Department for Education and Employment for the delays.

"The pink frm (that schools must return to get a CEA adviser) has been going to the chair of governors," says Ms James. "Heads don't even have a copy."

There are also concerns over how governors are coping with the new responsibilities. Jane Phillips at the National Association of Governors and Managers, says, that though thousands of governors had made "tremendous efforts to make this work", some had yet to master the bureaucracy and others may have been misled by poor training.

And, she says: "Some governors, no doubt, have put their heads firmly in the sand and are waiting for this all to go away."

Schools that have set performance targets seem happy. Robert Godber, head of Wath comprehensive, Rotherham, says: "It was rigorous because there was a genuine discussion about the targets."

But John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association, does not believe that the new process improves on the old peer-appraisal system. "That was a very positive process where the appraiser learned as much as the person being appraised."

Dishi Attwood, head of Moseley primary in Coventry disagrees. She argues that, despite the teething troubles, the new arrangements are more "transparent". "For me, performance management is the way forward."

Guidance for governors on the process can be found at: index.shtml CEA Adviser helpline 01223 578500

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