Target setting? Easy, when you know how

17th October 1997 at 01:00
It's been a busy term. We have been involved in appointing teaching and ancillary staff, the prospectus needed its annual overhaul, we have had parent governor elections, meetings for new parents, and a pay policy meeting - where we solemnly decided not to set performance targets for our head and deputy as we cannot increase their salaries.

We have negotiated that all-important first governors' meeting of the year when we plan our work and organise committees and working parties - and always at our back we hear OFSTED's winged chariot drawing near. On top of all this, whenever I have had a spare minute, I have been worrying about target setting.

From September next year, governors will have this task added to their already daunting list of responsibilities. I wonder how on earth we are going to manage it. We have targets, of course. Lots of them.

We want the children in our care to be happy. We strive to eliminate bullying, racial and religious prejudice, and ensure that every child becomes a caring and responsible member of the school community. We would like to see parents more involved with the life of the school, attending workshops and meetings, supporting their children's learning.

Swimming against the flood-tide of popular culture, we aim to take children beyond functional literacy to a love of books, to develop in them enquiring minds and a love of learning for its own sake. We aspire to broaden the children's view of the world, giving them access to other cultures, developing their appreciation of music and the arts, involving them actively in performance, discovering and nurturing talent wherever we find it.

Children with special needs should find a secure place within our community and the specially gifted should also be allowed to flourish. We try to support children through family break-up, loss of a grandparent, best friend or hamster.

Staff too should be encouraged to develop to the full extent of their ability and we try to balance the desire of the staff to increase expertise against their wishes, just occasionally, to spend time with their own children. Our deputy is keen to try for the new headship qualification, but already spends Sunday morning in school mounting and displaying her pupils' work.

Classroom ancillaries welcome training courses too, leaving us uncomfortably aware that, however skilled they become, they would probably earn more at the supermarket next door. Nevertheless, personal development for all is our benchmark for success.

Yes, we have targets, but how to quantify, tabulate, measure and evaluate our goals? How to devise a graph to show the evolution of an ethos? And what about the requirement that we measure ourselves against other schools with similar characteristics? How are we to find one, when each school is as varied and complex as the staff, parents, governors and pupils it contains, shifting and evolving with each new intake?

Then the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority consultation paper on target setting and benchmarking in schools arrived, and I realised how unnecessary all my anxiety had been. They just mean national tests results.We will not need to think at all. Tables will be prepared for us showing what levels our pupils should be achieving and we feed in our results. A computer could do it, and probably will. Finding a school with similar characteristics will be simplicity itself too. We do not need to find one with similar pupil numbers, staffing patterns, budget constraints and special needs children, let alone one with similar aspirations. All we need in common is the number of children having free school meals.

All that worry for nothing. Silly me.

Joan Dalton is a governor in the Midlands

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