Headteacher Diary: Setting targets for the year ahead


When it comes to some students, if we don’t aim high for them then no-one will. Our headteacher diarist sets out his targets for the year ahead.

Education has experienced an unprecedented series of reforms in the last five years – some welcome, some not – but what has remained constant is undoubtedly our focus on standards. Great credit should be given to the professionals who have remained professional and focused on delivering the best possible provision for the young people who employ us.

As a new head, I set out the school headline targets for the next academic year and shared these with the staff last week. This year is a transitional period for measuring school performance as we wave goodbye to the five A* to C including English and maths measure with this outgoing cohort of year 11.

A challenge for school data teams around the country will be employing a tracking and monitoring system that measures year 11 against the aforementioned performance indicator and year 10 against the new Progress 8 and the three other new headline measures.

Oh and let’s not forget we can’t use levels anymore, so in key stage 3 we need a way of tracking student progress that is appropriate and effective. 

Consequently we appear to be juggling quite a few different balls at the moment, all relating to an aspect of school improvement that is so critical.

Despite all the uncertainty of how assessing without levels will transpire throughout the course of this year, and the introduction of a new series of accountability measures, schools will have identified their targets and unquestionably school leaders will be setting the bar as high as they can.

Target-setting often divides opinion in the staffroom, and I have heard from many a colleague in the past that “these kids have no chance of achieving these targets”. 

My first response to this has always been “well, they never will if we think like that!” – this dangerous fixed mind-set approach is damaging to students and can become a self-fulfilling prophecy for staff who aren’t prepared to take responsibility for the progress of their students. Similarly in communities where parental aspirations for their children might have traditionally been low, then what chance have the kids got?

Targets should be challenging and this is what I conveyed to my team last week when I outlined a series of goals that would see us become one of the top performing schools in the area if we meet them. 

Although I am only four weeks into the job I have faith with the data team who have walked me through the target-setting figures and it is my job to be the figurehead, driving my team of staff towards achieving the best possible outcomes for our students. 

I remember one of my former rugby coaches giving our team an inspirational speech before we embarked on a tournament we knew we weren’t favourites to win. 

He said: “If we are not ambitious and if we don’t go out there to win this, then we might as well go home now. We have to believe we can win this – if we aim for the quarter or semi-finals, then that’s where we’ll get to. I won’t accept mediocrity and neither should you.”

I thought about this earlier this week before I spoke to staff about our targets, preparing my response to any one who felt the targets were too ambitious – and it reminded me that if school leaders, teachers, support staff and parents don’t aim high for our young people, then who will? 

Sure, many students are completely self-motivated and single-minded about their success, but there are of course many who are not. It is our job to help them get there, and it is the best job in the world. 

  • SecEd’s new headteacher diarist is embarking on his first headship at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.



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