How do we improve school accountability, and what form should it take?
The NAHT (National Association for Head Teachers) has launched a commission on accountability, spanning every phase and sector of education. Over the past few months it is canvassing the views of some of the foremost thinkers in this area of education policy. The aim is to have interim findings before the summer term and to publish the full report in September 2018. I have been honoured to play a small part …
The aim of the group is to restore some common sense to a system that had become chaotic and confused. Accountability arrangements are based on the results of statutory assessments, making the assessments incredibly high stakes and leading to negative consequences. Together we aim to produce a piece of work looking at how schools are held to account, including the future role of Ofsted. We know that schools need to be accountable, but they should not operate in fear and uncertainty.
Below are our initial guiding principles.
A future accountability system must
1. Judge schools on the impact that they have, in helping to ensure that all pupils make the progress that they should. It should help not hinder the provision of excellent education for all.
2. Be fair to all schools, irrespective of circumstance or context. Good teachers and leaders should be properly recognised for, and not dissuaded from, working in tough schools.
3. Accept the inherent limitations of data for accountability purposes and recognises high quality on the ground review as the most effective way to form a sound judgement of effectiveness of any school.
4. Identify signs of failure or decline early (to reduce the extent of remedial action required to address issues) and ensure supportive challenge characterises interventions.
5. Encourage school leaders to take responsibility for their own school improvement and not limit ambition for what is possible.
6. Incentivise, encourage and value collective responsibility for pupil outcomes across schools within local regions and nationally.
7. Be transparent and provide easy to understand information to parents, improving clarity of meaning whilst reducing the unintended consequences associated.
8. Reduce workload, relieve stress and dial down the anxiety associated with accountability for pupils, teachers, and school leaders, recognising the duty to safeguard mental health and well-being.
The Accountability Commission will consider future alternative models of accountability against these principles to inform recommendations. From the outset, we should recognise that it is unlikely that all principles can be met equally. Through the review the Commission will consider relative priorities, trade-offs, make choices and consider mitigations.
I look forward to reporting back in September 2018 – on the various research papers we have seen.