Our guiding principle is that every school should embrace the principle of continuous improvement. Target setting is important and we will work with schools and education authorities to make it as effective as possible.
I will take that as a no. Does the minister accept that the current method of target setting in schools has almost no support among teachers, education authorities and parents? In fact, the Scottish Parent Teacher Council has been one of the method's most outspoken critics. Does he further accept that the targets have little or no statistical validity because of their reliance on free school meal entitlement, which is an inadequate measure of the differences in school intake characteristics? Finally, does he accept that if we are to have targets that can assist in raising standards, they must be more sophisticated and bear more relevance to the individual circumstances of schools?
I do not agree with Nicola's first point. The teaching profession has shown support for this method of setting targets. My colleague Peter Peacock was at St Francis Primary School in Niddrie, at which teachers said that the targets were absolutely essential to enhance their school's status.
Once again, I detect the general vein of complaining about things but never coming up with something constructive. Target setting as a principle is not negotiable. What is negotiable is the ways in which target setting can be improved. I look forward to Nicola bringing her suggestions to me.