On 7 November TEC announced that Performance Linked Funding (PLF) is to be discontinued. Instead TEC will continue “to use a range of levers to encourage better educational performance and address poor performance.”
So, rest in peace PLF. It has been a long and complex exercise which appears to have achieved very little except increase compliance costs for providers.
One recalls the Ministry of Education’s Statement of Service Objectives (SSO)/Statement of Service Performance (SSP) regime that was in place before TEC’s dead hand reached out for new levers. That regime involved setting two types of objectives: those for equal educational opportunity and those for educational performance. This seems to have covered a wide range of factors in a simple manner and without all the expenditure of ineffective initiatives such as MyQ.
But SSO/SSP morphed into KPIs (Key Performance Indictors) which went through various revisions before finally being replaced by EPIs (Education Performance Indicators).
So, what went wrong?
There seem to have been a number of factors:
- Too many CEOs at TEC over the years, and a high turnover of those charged with policy making.
- An inability to clearly define performance indicators: remember it took eight versions published from 2010 to 2014 to get to a definitive set of definitions and methodology for EPIs. No sooner had version 8 been released than the cohort-based indicators were being developed and promulgated – again with several revisions.
- There has been an ongoing tinkering with the relationship between performance and funding, most recently exhibited by an unannounced trial of points-based EPI modelling.
- There has been an increasing obfuscation of the calculation and publication of EPIs on the part of TEC. What were useful tools in Workspace2 became a nightmare in Nga Kete.
- Nga Kete’s interface reflects an overfondness for technology that seems more aimed at satisfying TEC’s internal requirements (and IT predilections) than meeting the needs of providers.
This said, it must also be pointed out that The Ministry of Education’s SSO/SSP regime relied on attestations which were not rigorously monitored. Over the years some providers found how to game the system. As they were found out increased compliance measures have had to be introduced. PEI’s and Intueri’s actions were the most notable instances.
As Roy Sharp (TEC’s CEO back around 2010) observed, there is a balance between trust and compliance costs. His inclination being to place faith in trust, a position that did not last long after his brief tenure ended.
There is also a balance between a wholly mechanistic method of allocating funding, and a method which involves mature discretion on the part of experienced staff at the funding agency. Such staff do exist within TEC so hopefully it will be their hands on the levers in future and not some clanking robots.