28/08/2015 08:49 BST | Updated 28/08/2016 06:59 BST

Target Grades - What Are They and Why Are They So Important?

Whether we want to master a new language, play in an orchestra or run a marathon, we all need to learn to work through different levels of achievement in our bid to reach the ultimate goal.

At work, many of us will be familiar with the appraisal process, where our performance is regularly assessed and a list of tasks or objectives is agreed that need to be completed before the next review. These could include anything from attending a training course to improving our punctuality or completing the next stage of a project by a specific date.

Setting and achieving targets is an intrinsic part of life and this is often replicated in the way schools monitor their pupils' learning. But do parents get enough information about where their child is in relation to their expected achievement?

Aiming high

Many schools regularly set target grades for their pupils to aim for throughout the term or by the end of the academic year. These grades can be subject-specific and they help teachers to track children's learning as well as identify what action needs to be taken to support them in making good progress.

But it is vital that care is taken to ensure target grades are personal to a specific child. There are schools I know of that tailor learning goals for each child using computer software to analyse a range of information, such as historical assessment scores and national averages. Detailed notes from teacher observations are also seen as crucial to ensuring that the targets are challenging yet achievable for children, to keep them motivated. But I am seeing more and more schools wanting to take this a step further.

Greater transparency

Heads of an increasing number of independent schools I visit report a growing need for them to demonstrate the impact they have on pupils' learning. One way that some schools have responded to this is to start making much more information available to parents than they may have done in the past.

One school I recently visited was keen to move away from a situation where parents were often unaware of what their child was expected to achieve - or where they were in relation to this. This meant that they might be surprised when exam or mock results came in.

By setting more personalised learning targets for every child, tracking the progress they make more closely and sharing the details more regularly, parents now know what goals their child is working towards and as a result, can help to boost their achievement from home.

But one of the major advantages the school has seen since making the changes is that they now have the information they need to celebrate the efforts of every child who is making good progress towards their learning goals, rather than only recognising the achievement of those individuals who get the top marks. This has had a positive impact on attainment across the school.

As a parent myself, I feel it is really important for my child to understand from a young age that if on first glance an aspiration appears unachievable or a challenge seems insurmountable, slicing it up into smaller steps is a great way to help them get to the desired end point. But parents need to be kept informed of how their child is progressing in order to provide the right support, at the right time, to help them master each step.

Do you get enough information from your child's school to support them from home? Would you like to see more detail on how they are doing more often than you do now? I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

For more information on SIMS Independent, please visit www.capita-independent.co.uk