The organisational impact of key performance indicators : their effect on English and Scottish schools
The use of key performance indicators has dramatically increased over the last twenty or so years.
Their introduction has been largely justified on the grounds that high stakes proxy indicators (test
and exam results), increase accountability which will in turn `drive up' overall performance. Whilst
there has been some evidence that measured standards have risen, there have been associated costs,
as well as claims of unintended or dysfunctional consequences.
The place of KPIs within the broader organisational and managerial context was firstly considered.
with particular reference to generic management and accounting theory. Secondly, the results of a
questionnaire survey of 162 heads and teachers in England and Scotland was reported. The key
findings included evidence that KPIs had a narrowing effect on the curriculum, that they tended to
undermine heads and teachers, and encouraged a blame culture. There was also evidence that they
caused schools to concentrate on targets at the expense of other important objectives, as well as
concentrating on `boarder-line' pupils.
English primary schools reported far more dysfunctional behaviour due to KPIs, than did their
Scottish counter parts. This was attributed to league tables which Scottish primaries do not have. At
the secondary level the results were similar, tables are published for secondary schools in both
countries. There was widespread support for changes to the KPIs, including the use of a wider
range of measures and `value added' indicators, as well as discontinuing league tables.
Improvements to the KPI systems were discussed, including the use of `balanced score card'
systems; however, it was argued that such technical changes need to be accompanied by more
fundamental organisational changes. There needs to be `top down' leadership, which devolves trust
and responsibility, rather than blame and accountability; and one that will develop and nurture a
true learning culture throughout the education system.