Waste and worry of measures

28th November 2003 at 00:00
I have spent the past four weekends helping a friend and an Essex headteacher improve the way they track the performance of the children in their school. The head is committed to exceeding targets, improving standards and ensuring all children in their school are stretched.

Unfortunately, I have found it virtually impossible to help them. The reason has nothing to do with the school, quality of teaching staff or resources. It comes down to unconsidered measures, poorly co-ordinated tools and unnecessary complexity. I have a PhD in nuclear physics and find the measures placed on the school incomprehensible.

I was amazed to find there are at least 13 different scales of measures for a child's ability, each covering areas such as reading, writing, maths, science and social skills. This produces well over 50 different combinations. They all serve the same purpose - to provide a single value to track progress and to predict achievement. Why have 13 different, yet equivalent, scales when one will suffice?

Needless to say the reports sent to the head are based on the scale used by that department, indeed some use a mixture of measures. You see equivalent values like 0.6, 1.3 WA, W*** and 72 quoted indiscriminately. Reports sent back to the departments have to be completed using a similarly random mixture of measures.

In my view, the purpose of measures is to help teachers focus on the job in hand - teaching children and raising standards. In stark contrast, all they are doing is consuming considerable amounts of teaching time and adding little value. As a taxpayer, I consider this to be gross inefficiency and waste.

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