Business books are littered with soundbite quotations about measurement: “What you measure is what you get”; “If you can’t measure it you can’t improve it”; “You are what you measure”; etc. Although there are some risks in being over-reliant on certain measurements, the principle is true. Measurement brings you both information and accountability.
However, some things are hard to measure. How do we measure intangible things like behaviour? The most obvious answer, measuring the number of sanctions, doesn’t work. It would create perverse incentives that ultimately worsen behaviour – you’d make things look better if you stopped addressing poor behaviour, which would end up with chaos.
When deciding how to measure behaviour we stopped and thought about the particular areas we think we need to focus on. If “what you measure is what you get”, then we want to measure the outcomes we think we need to improve. This led us to two measures we’re launching this week:
1. Timing transitions
Our Assistant Heads of Year now have stopwatches to time and record how quickly we go through the end of break routine to move from social time into lessons. With three breaks a day, shaving a minute off this routine would reclaim 9.5 hours of lesson time – the equivalent of almost two school days.
2. Surveying staff satisfaction
I now send out a weekly one question survey to every member of staff who had to send a student to the behaviour team, asking how satisfied they are with the resolution of that situation on a scale of 1-10. Our systems are only working if our staff feel supported to teach great lessons without interruption. If they don’t then their morale will be low and our students will learn less
Of course there are dangers lurking when we become over-reliant on certain measures. The pitfalls of the public sector target-driven culture are well-documented, and we don’t want to become a place where the only thing that matters is a slim set of numbers. Our intention is to avoid this by changing the measures we use on a regular basis. When we are trying to measure something that we can only get at indirectly, like behaviour, then every measurement gives us a different angle on it. Switching between measurements gives us a more holistic view, and prevents us from working towards a distorted version of our end goal.
A final consequence of picking measurements is that they communicate what you care about. We choose to measure staff satisfaction because we care about it. I could repeat that we care about it every day, but that would have less power than deciding to measure satisfaction and using that measurement to hold ourselves accountable for how good a job we’re doing.
Over the coming few weeks we’ll see how well this works, and start thinking about how we measure other elements of the school.
PS: One thing we’re not yet sure of is whether and how we should use student insights as a measurement. We haven’t thought of the right question to ask yet, or the most efficient way to ask it, but we’re by no means closed to the idea.