Targets don’t work

'Believe me, targets are essential!'

To SLTs out there…

Who ever came up with the idea of targets? They are worse than a waste of time.

Targets take up valuable time, concentrate people on the wrong things or too few things, and lay the basis for a pseudo-performance-managment experience: ticking a box.

They don’t make people better. They make them worse. And they make your school worse. In fact I’d argue they make most organisations worse and any leader who wants to do something radical for the better, should abolish them.

At Michaela, we don’t have Performance Related Pay. God no. And we certainly don’t have its mirror cousin: targets. Targets & PRP create a culture in schools that is pernicious. They destroy teamwork and ensure that no one can trust each other. Give targets to staff who are failing, sure. You need something to hold them to account. Give targets to everyone at your school and trust is obliterated everywhere and your teachers begin to play a game.

In any given day, teachers are making thousands of judgement calls that make a massive difference to the school. Why not set targets for those too? Because of course that would be impossible. Set them 3 targets a year and you move your teacher’s attention to the wrong thing. Must get X number of C grades with “everyone-had-given-up-hope-for class” and your teacher will either do whatever is necessary to hit that target to the detriment of everything else, or they will forget about it until the PM meeting comes round at the end of the year.

If they take their target seriously, they’ll suddenly refuse to take in naughty kids from other classes to help out colleagues, or they’ll stop doing that extra-curricular club for Year 7 in order to pour all of their energies into their target.

If they forget their targets, it is because no one takes targets seriously at the school anyway, so then, erm, what’s the point of having them and going through the joke that is the performance management process?

SLT should distinguish between teachers who are failing and those who are doing well. By all means, hold those who are failing to account with targets and let the others go free from the restrictive stranglehold that is performance management dictated by targets.

Stop wasting everyone’s time.

Break free from the mould!

I know what you’re thinking: But how will we know who is good?

Are you really telling me you need targets to know who is good??

You already know! Everyone knows. It is just that on one wants to admit that they know. The teachers know. The SLT know. The kids know. Come on! Just admit you know and you’ll be half way there.

I know the business world uses them. I know.

But might it be possible that they too have got it wrong? Especially for those jobs where there isn’t a bottom line to judge by?

Targets work in an environment where you genuinely only want staff concentrating on achieving 3 things.

Teaching isn’t one of them.

So I know it might feel scary to do it, but my suggestion is to take the leap: get rid of targets. Get rid of the things that waste people’s time.

Your staff will love you for it. And your school will run all the better for it.

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Author: tomisswithloveblog

Headmistress at Michaela