How important is target setting?

Setting Goals – College Playbook

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Target setting is constantly being brought to the attention of all education establishments but how important is setting a target?
In life we all have our own personal goals, ambition to achieve and if you are organised, an understanding of how to achieve them. Are these targets measured? By what parameters do we measure our success as individuals? Very often we begin by using qualitative data, data that although sometimes easier to define is harder to measure.  How good is you life? These are not often favoured by Politicians because they can not measure the success of an action or goal in terms that can prove the success of an initiative.
Here is a definition from The Business Dictionary:

Qualitative data

Data that approximates or characterizes but does not measure the attributes,characteristicsproperties, etc., of a thing or phenomenon. Qualitative data describes whereas quantitative data defines.
 I feel that we tend to forget due to pressures from above and accountability to others the importance of the qualitative research that provides a narrative to your school setting. It is very difficult to measure a fair society yet many schools in their vision statement aspire to this aim. Perhaps that is the key, to realise that our vision is based on an aim or a goal that can not be measured effectively however without it a School might lack a true vision.
Perhaps the first stage in any process of target setting is that the vision is clear and shared by all stakeholders. This should not be under estimated, it is crucial for all successful schools to have a goal yet what makes a goal effective is the strategic document that creates the step by step guide to achievement.
As the initial diagram suggests, to set a goal is the beginning and the end of a process. To identify a goal requires an understanding of your school. This implies that a school needs to be able to evaluate its own progress and thus discover the areas for further development. Many schools are already fully aware of this and will use the information to create a School improvement plan with measured targets. I think the next diagram explains the process in very SMART terms,
This is from a website discussing weight loss and controlling the intake of sugar. For education purposes perhaps a debate could be made about A. If we wish to improve, then perhaps this should state ambitious rather than attainable.
Perhaps unwittingly I am making a strong case for setting goals within a school. However, to set targets that are constantly aimed at pushing a school forward does come with a plea that we should not forget the fact that each year group involves a different set of pupils with different needs. Each cohort therefore sets a unique challenge and I would argue that a measured target for each cohort should be the tool by which a school can measure its success. It should be ambitious, it should set the bar high but actually a target is meaningless without a workable action plan as stated above.
The aim for any target should exist in the context of pupil progress. The development of the individual pupil is surely the one goal that we aspire to achieve in all Schools. It does come down to the child.
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We all have our aspirations for every pupil. My son recently came home with his predicted grades for GCSE and my immediate reaction was one of pride and fear. He is predicted to do extremely well but what if he doesn’t achieve his grades, does this mean he has failed?
Perhaps we should always remember that a target is a stated ambition and to achieve your goal is great but if you have worked hard and striven to attain the goal but just fallen short, then we should celebrate the ambition to achieve.
I’m an advocate of Assessment for Learning and feel that it is crucial to provide pupils with important life skills. Many schools use two stars and a wish in their marking,
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A wish is important, it provides the next goal but we should never forget that a child being told to constantly improve also requires the opportunity to celebrate their success and nothing can please a child more than a simple acknowledgement from a teacher. This provides them with a confidence to move forward and achieve.
How important is target setting? Well it depends on the targets and how you plan to attain them because sometimes the journey that you make is often as important as the final goal. A school that can evaluate its performance, recognise areas for improvement and share their journey with others, is a school on the road to success! Good luck to you all and in the words of ‘Journey’,

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