More Than Just A Target


Back when I was at 6th form college I remember asking my teachers what my target grades were for my A-levels.  I was in the middle of applying to university and as each course had varying requirements it would have been useful to know what my actual target grades were to make sure I was applying to places I had a reasonable chance of being accepted at.

My schools policy was not to allow students access to them.  Obviously the stroppy 17 year old that I was then moaned and whinged, but they stood firm and to this day I don’t know what my school thought I should have got.

Oh, how times have changed!

I’m all for setting targets.  I think its a great idea that pupils know roughly what they should be aiming for but for me the child comes before the target and I fear that education is losing sight of that.

Last night I sat at my faculty meeting and over an hour was spent discussing target setting.  As a school policy we are now setting students “aspirational” targets.  I won’t bore you with the finer details (to be honest I’m not too sure I understand them myself) but these are targets that the top 20% of schools in the country achieve with SOME of their students.  Not all, some!

Again, I’m all for setting high expectations for students. I think it’s hugely important but what we are doing is giving students targets that we don’t actually expect the majority to achieve.  Targets that these students will be given in Year 7 and spend the next 5 years trying to live up to.

This is where I start to have serious concerns.  Three times a year I fill in interim reports on my classes and have to say whether they are on, border or below target.  We are being told to get used to putting a lot of students as border or below!  So for 5 years some of my lovely children will go through school being told they’re below where they should be.  Not quite good enough!

Yes, we can explain these are very high targets. Yes, we can explain that we don’t necessarily expect them to achieve this, but they are kids.  And the message we are sending out to them is that they need to do better.  Some pupils they will take this to heart and will worry and get stressed, and this is not the education I want for my son or the kids I teach.

Children are more than just a target, and education is more than just exam results and it saddens me that those in charge seem to have forgotten that.  When one student in sixth form was going through a particularly rough time at home, the response of one of our senior leadership team was, “Well, she won’t get her target grade now!”

I will always want the very best for my students, but I won’t put a target before their happiness and well-being!

And then the fun began...


  1. Potty Mouthed Mummy
    November 18, 2014 / 11:43 am

    Oh this doesn’t sound very nice at all and I am actually glad to read your perspective on it as a teacher, you honestly sound like a wonderful teacher Jo and those kids are so lucky to have you xx
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  2. November 18, 2014 / 7:43 pm

    I’m all for challenging kids in a positive way, well, those that thrive on challenge anyway, but to set targets that they have little hope of achieving so that they are always ‘behind’ strikes me as counterproductive… It’s very interesting to read your thoughts on it x #thetruthabout
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  3. November 18, 2014 / 8:52 pm

    It’s funny the way educational values go from pillar to post and back again from one generation to the next. I agree that these aspirational targets are, in theory, a positive way of setting goals but it sounds like they are actually completely unreasonable and put too much pressure on the kids. Lets hope the government (or whoever made up this system) sorts it out before too many children fall between the gaps. Thanks so much for linking up to #thetruthabout Jo Xx
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  4. November 18, 2014 / 9:47 pm

    Well, 1) I am so happy and pleased that you feel differently and put your kiddies first. And secondly doesn’t it just sound like it’s made to be too hard for them, do we really need to put targets upon our children, they have their whole working life ahead of them where this is required daily. Let kids be kids. I do agree that it is good to have milestones but every 3 months recording where they are, can that much really change in 3 months? A huge family crisis happened to me when I was 12 and lasted right the way through my high school education but I survived. x
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  5. November 19, 2014 / 6:37 am

    Sounds like you’re a great teacher Jo, and that you truly care about your pupils. It’s awful that kids are getting written off and are having to go through this. Has nobody considered the damage that being told they aren’t good enough is doing to their self-esteem? Life is tough enough when you’re a teenager, without yet another added pressure of reaching unattainable targets. I can only hope that things change soon – perhaps a change in government will be the answer next year? Who knows? Great post xx #sharewithme
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  6. Jenny
    November 19, 2014 / 8:52 am

    You sound like the best teacher in the world Jo! I love it. I wouldn’t expect anything less from your sweetness when I met you. But you are right there are less of you in this world and more of the target driven whip crackers and it scares me that Buba will be among possibly the latter as he learns and grow next year in school. Pat your back because we all wish our kids had a teacher like you every year. Thanks for linking up to Share With Me #sharewithme
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  7. lifeatthelittlewood
    November 19, 2014 / 9:50 am

    There needs to be more people in education with an attitude like yours Jo! I honestly believe that children that are happy and engaged will be successful academically. Putting this kind of pressure on them is only going to cause panic and dashed hopes if they don’t meet their supposed target. That said, I know some kids need a bit of a push too – but if a teacher is sensitive and knows their pupils, then they should be able to discern what tactics to take! Really interesting post luvvie xx

  8. To Infinity and IVF
    November 19, 2014 / 1:52 pm

    Wow, it looks like things have changed so much since I was at school. I would have loved to have had you as my maths teacher. I hated the subject but I always think a good teacher can add such a much needed boost to someone and their career. There is always that special teacher that a child remembers and I reckon you’ll be on a lot of lists x
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  9. November 19, 2014 / 3:17 pm

    This is really tough 🙁 I always remember being at school and having to explain grades to parents as it had changed from when they were at school. The aspirational thing of course does have positives but I would hate to be a kid coming home from school and constantly being told you’re not achieving enough, and then trying to explain to parents 🙁
    It’s awful that you have to toe this line, definitely one of the bummers of being a teacher!!! Come and teach over here my husbands school doesn’t do that 🙂 x
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  10. November 20, 2014 / 5:52 am

    Yuk. Targets were always the one bug bear I had whilst teaching, although at key stage one they were pretty different. I saw too many colleagues setting targets based on what they thought the kids should be achieving rather than what was actually achievable. One of the aspects of teaching I don’t miss at all! x x x
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  11. November 21, 2014 / 11:18 am

    This is such a hard debate isn’t it? As a parent, I look to know how my child is doing and what is expecting of them. However, I think I’m merely conditioned into thinking this is the way forward. Does it hinder them? Does it scare them? My eldest has just been given her GCSE prediction and whilst I’m proud at the 9 As and 1 A*, I’m a little fearful of it piling on the pressure. A tough one for teachers, I’m sure.
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  12. Loving life with little ones
    November 24, 2014 / 1:26 pm

    There is soo much pressure on children these days all the way through school, my youngest had just started reception and she already has targets, attainable ones mind you but targets all the same, I would hate to be a teenager now and constantly told I was below target, like you say it is not good for their self esteem. Children should be praised for what they can do and do well not believe they are not good enough. Well done for speaking out. #sharewithme

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