Performance based regulatory systems are all the rage. That’s when regulatory action is taken based on the measurement of a key indicator or a series of indicators. Sounds like a good idea. It is for the most part. Set a target of reducing or eliminating something that is damaging or undesirable and track progress towards achieving that goal.

Wouldn’t it have been to the benefit of all if a performance-based approach had been applied in the 1989 Water Act which privatised water in England and Wales? A great deal of sewage flooding into rivers could have been avoided. 

However, it wouldn’t have helped to have nothing more than a simple “good” or “bad” indicator. In a performance-based system there’s a need for reasonably accurate measurement and graduated bans of performance achieved. The measurements taken need to be done in a timely manner too. Publishing measures that are a year or more out-of-date isn’t a good way of confidently plotting a way forward to hit a goal.

Listening to the News about Ofsted’s grading scheme, I can’t help but think that having a four-category grid is wholly inadequate for their purpose. Ofsted is the Office for Standards in Education, Children’s Services and Skills. The Education inspection framework (EIF)[1] in England is primitive in this respect. Shoe-horning every school in England into Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate is brutal.

What’s the betting that at any one day many of the schools graded Outstanding are not, and many of the schools graded Inadequate are not either. The problem with these indicators is the crudity of the labels. We’ve all seen huge banners erected outside schools if there’s favourable news to communicate. What passers-by and parents see is the headline and not the reality of the performance of a particular school.

The sub-division of the lowest category into schools with serious weaknesses and in need of significant improvement doesn’t help much. Negative words get merged into a negative judgement.

Experience with risk management is that categorisation schemes face challenges when performance sits on the borderline between categories. That’s one reason why anything less than five categories is not often used.

The aim of a performance based regulatory systems is to improve performance. If the tools used become those that blame and shame, then that system is not working. Nothing, I’m saying here isn’t already written-up in the annals of quality management. People have been wrestling over different methods for 60 years, at least.

The current Ofsted’s grading scheme is poor and unimaginative.


Author: johnwvincent

Our man in Southern England

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: