Memorandum by the National Association
of Head Teachers (PST 02)
1. This is a short Memorandum dealing with
David Hart, General Secretary of NAHT will supplement
these points when he gives evidence on 31 October.
2. The NAHT supports target setting at school
level. It is good management practice. It could lead to measurable
improvements in performance. It has other beneficial spin-offs,
ie training and professional development opportunities. But target
setting at government or national level is of a different order.
It throws up a number of difficult issues which have not yet been
3. The Treasury negotiates funding with
spending departments. This process is supported by public service
agreements that incorporate targets. In the case of the DfES,
key targets cover attainment at Key Stages 1, 2 and 3 (test results)
and at Key Stage 4/16-19 and beyond (examination results). We
do not believe that there has been any in-depth intellectual argument
that supports the particular targets sought. There is a distinct
feeling amongst school heads that some are even "plucked
out of the air" eg to reduce exclusions by a third.
4. The net result is that the DfES enters
into negotiations with Local Education Authorities and requires
the LEAs to sign up to targets (particularly academic targets)
which, when aggregated, support the national targets. This process
appears to involve a degree of coercion accompanied by monetary
incentives or threats of action against those not prepared to
sign up. This has led to some pretty extreme target figure demands
on LEAs in relation to Key Stage 2 for 2004. It has certainly
led to the NAHT issuing guidance to its members to ignore national/LEA
targets and to concentrate on agreeing challenging, but attainable,
targets for their own schools.
5. By-products of this agenda are Local
Public Service Agreements. We attach a copy of a paper circulated
by North Yorkshire County Council which indicates the promise
of financial rewards for hitting targets across education and
6. The Government is quite rightly committed
to give schools more autonomy and to respect the professional
judgement of school leaders, accompanied, of course, by a high
degree of accountability. The question has to be asked whether
Public Service targets, as they are presently rolled out, are
in conflict with autonomy.
7. National targets that are supported by
a strong political imperative can have potentially difficult consequences.
For instance, over close government involvement in test or examination
results can easily lead to the accusation that the goalposts on
standards are being moved for political ends. We are sure that
this is not the case but if Public Service targets are here to
stay then at the very least they ought to be "above suspicion".
David Hart, General Secretary
2 Ev. not printed. Back