Monday, 2 November 2009

SARS Farce

Hundreds, no thousands, of middle managers across Further Education (and maybe schools too) are probably locking themselves away in their rooms or burning the midnight gin at home on something they call SARs. Because virtually everything in education has to be reduced to a set of initials, like I'm sure STUDENT came not from the Latin studere, to be diligent, strive after, but seldom turn up daily eventually never there or something along those lines, SAR stands for Self-Assessment Review. It's a set of facts and figures and comments that every curriculum area has to do within an organisation. All the data comes from records maintained by the institution but, of course, they get re-written again here. Then, all the individual forms, which can be a dozen pages long, get sent to someone at the place who has to combine them all into a single document which gets sent off to a government agency and, amongst other things, can form the baseline against which people like OFSTED may assess progress.

Collating the data and setting targets for improvement, commenting on things that may or may not have gone well are all sound enough and the general concept is a sensible enough management procedure but what really strikes me as crazy is the way in which the process is handled. My guess is that just about everyone will be filling in Word forms. Except they won't even be real Word forms (the type where you can type in boxes to update a document rather than editing the whole thing). Even if they were decent Word forms, though, the business of typing, printing, putting in pigeon holes and then some poor person having to extract bits or somehow make sense of the whole before transferring it all elsewhere (never mind what could be several interim approval meetings) is crazy in this day and age. It's bonkers, which is more than mad.

Firstly, all the data should be filled in before anyone gets the forms. It really shouldn't be re-entered again and again. Some institutions may have figured that one. Let's hope so. But still we have people handling, many literally, all this paperwork.

I say it's time they forget worshipping at the statue of Word. Why not use a Google document that lots of people can collaborate on? All that each manager needs to add will be comments, actions etc. in the areas related to their activity and maybe check data and other standard stuff. As they progress with the on-line document it can be shared with others and, as necessary, older versions retrieved if someone makes a mess. Then, when it's ready, they can share it with the person collating all of them or anyone else for that matter.

No need for any repetition or printing. No slow opening e-mail attachments, confusing file names, folders full of awkward files with names with [1] or [2] after them because people have used the same file name . . .

And then we need to think of the government agencies or departments involved. Why don't they demand a more efficient method of submission? It must be almost as crazy for them to have to sift through all the inbox attachments.

Everyone involved in the whole damn process really should know better and be setting a good example to others. New e-learning technology has the answers to this. Use them. It won't totally remove the stress from the faces of my colleagues but would make everyone's job a whole lot better.

Wake up, folks. Let's end the SARs farce.

No comments:

Post a Comment