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Hitting the target but missing the point

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Performance Managed Government (PMG) has been a key feature of many, if not most governments, for the past two decades, and is one way in which governments across the world have tried to be more evidence-based. Central to PMG has been the use of national targets, supposedly setting high national standards of performance and ensuring public accountability. Although much maligned, and now abandoned by the Coalition Government in the UK, targets may have made a contribution to raising the performance and quality of some public services. One of the shortcomings of a target-based approach to public service performance is the appropriateness and external validity of the targets set. Targets are often set that would be hard to miss, or that fail to provide the type or quality of service that the public wants. Hence, the accusation that public services often hit the target but miss the point.

This presentation will review the use of targets as a means of evidence-based policy making, and appraise whether it is possible to have a system of performance-managed government that is both internally and externally valid. It will also consider whether the abandonment of national targets for public service delivery in the UK is premature.

This talk is part of the 5th Cambridge Assessment Conference: Challenges of assessment reform series.

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