Targets must be set on basis of evidence

11th July 1997 at 01:00
As usual, Ted Wragg has made vitally important points in an amusing, accessible way (TES, June 27). Mission statements and development plans were the targets - to be shot at, not achieved. Some of us agree that "efficiency is maximising the time spent on what is important, minimising the distractions" and that mission statements and development plans are examples of distractions.

Others, however, will equally strongly disagree - and in equally good faith. This is all symptomatic of pre-scientific reasoning, reasoning based on debate, not evidence. What needs to be adopted as a guide to national educational policy is evidence, not opinion and not authority. Before schools are required to implement policies which are costly in time and money and take people away from teaching, learning and creating a high quality of life, there should have been evaluations of these policies. Are they effective? Do schools required to create five-year plans actually do better than schools not forced to accept such policies? Do they do better on important criteria such as pupil progress ("value added") and parental satisfaction? Where is the evidence?

CAROL TAYLOR FITZ-GIBBON Professor of education University of Durham

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