A goal without a plan is just a wish

Antoine de Saint-Exupery


I would be surprised if you are unfamiliar with the concept of SMART target setting, however, familiarity doesn’t always make us very good at it, I’ll admit to struggling at times and sometimes we need to put another pair of eyes over it and come up with something suitable.

Let’s consider the different elements and then see how they feed into the program to allow us to set targets for our pupils.

SMART, once stood for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound, but over time education has begun to borrow alternative interpretations from the world of business. Which ‘phrase’ you choose to complete the acronym is up to you, but they all result in high quality targets.

The alternative to this is the Columbo strategy: 6Ws + H + E.  This involves asking a series of questions: who, what, when, where, which, why, how, explain.

We can also add ER to be SMARTER – Evaluation and Re-adjustment.

Molly Candy is my hypothetical pupil. She has moderate learning difficulties and a visual impairment and our assessments indicated that she was a strong auditory learner. We suggested she needed to work on her reading skills as she is 3 years behind where we would expect her to be.

I know that the reference to reading age was based on a comprehension test – so this is where I need to focus support/intervention. I also know that she can ’read’ single words without a problem, it is her general exposure to and understanding of whole texts that needs development rather than her ability to ’decode’ phonics.

If I was to type a target for Molly it would probably read:

Molly needs to improve her reading comprehension skills as measured using the Literacy Assessment Online reading test in 3-months’ time, with an expected increase from a standard score of 75 to 82 by accessing a graduated reading program using the Dockside books from stage 3 and the accompanying exercises. Molly will be able to read the books at home and discuss the content with her parents who can use the questions in the back of the books to engage Molly in a general comprehension discussion, whilst in school she will attend a 10-minute reading session in the library at 8:40am every morning for a 1:1 session with the librarian where they will work through the teacher guided activities. Molly should not speed through the books but should spend at least 3 days with each one. This will be reviewed in 3-months.

Well, there’s plenty of information there, but no-one is going to read it and far fewer will do anything with it! It would be better set out in an accessible table. You could use a word-processed document, a Spreadsheet or a commercial program such as Provision Map by Edukey (www.provisionmap.co.uk) to achieve this.

I now have a target for Molly that clearly indicates all the aspects I need. This format is much more ‘readable’ especially for busy school staff you need to inform.

I added two more two targets which might also be appropriate.

All this is great, but most of the time we just want a simple formula for writing SMART targets.

X will achieve Y by Z as measured by W.

X=student, Y=specific, Z=time, W=measurable

Variation: X will achieve Y as measured with W by Z

Not incredibly scientific but actually works well for the majority of targets we want to write and gives everyone a scaffold to work within.

Abigail (X) will know 36 of the 44 phonics sounds (Y) by the end of the Spring term (Z) as measured using a branded phonics assessment (W).

Grace (X) will be able to multiply single digit numbers by 5 without counting (rote recall) (Y) by Easter (Z) as measured using a simple oral assessment (W).

Dan (X) will point to his preferred choice of snack when given a choice of two (Y) 3/5 times (W) over the course of a week (Z).

CHECKLIST:  Is it specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, timebound – can it be evaluated and re-adjusted? (Or whatever you have chosen to represent the letters.)


(The above blog has been adapted from a chapter in Approach It, Map It, Manage It – a book about the Graduated Approach and Provision Mapping by Abigail Hawkins available on Amazon: https://amzn.to/3rnipYH )