Target practice

21st January 2000 at 00:00
The Observer

Setting targets can distort priorities and be counterproductive

WHAT Labour fails to notice is that targets do not just measure how people are performing. They change behaviour, sometimes perversely.

Given extra money for cutting waiting lists, surgeons became too busy operating to see new patients. So waiting times for seeing a specialist prior to joining a waitig list grew longer. Heads deployed their teaching staff, not to show they can meet their class-size targets but to show they couldn't, so that they qualify for additional funding.

There will always be vested interests trying to make the meeting of a target more difficult, in order to extract maximum gain for themselves from the Government's embarrassment.

Leader, Sunday

Log-in as an existing print or digital subscriber

Forgotten your subscriber ID?


To access this content and the full TES archive, subscribe now.

View subscriber offers


Get TES online and delivered to your door – for less than the price of a coffee

Save 33% off the cover price with this great subscription offer. Every copy delivered to your door by first-class post, plus full access to TES online and the TES app for just £1.90 per week.
Subscribers also enjoy a range of fantastic offers and benefits worth over £270:

  • Discounts off TES Institute courses
  • Access over 200,000 articles in the TES online archive
  • Free Tastecard membership worth £79.99
  • Discounts with Zipcar,, Virgin Wines and other partners
Order your low-cost subscription today