Improving school accountability

The final report of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) Accountability Commission, Improving School Accountability, has recently been published and the focus is on school performance measures and the role of Ofsted.

The commission aimed to address perceived flaws in the current accountability system. This includes: incentivising schools to act in their own interests rather than that of the wider community; narrowing the curriculum and encouraging teaching to the test; putting teachers and school leaders off working in challenging settings; and driving good people from the profession.

The recommendations made in the report are:

  1. Comparative performance data (based on a three-year average) should be used to inform Ofsted judgements.
  2. The Department for Education (DfE) should use ‘requires improvement’ as the trigger for funded school improvement support.
  3. Ofsted’s role should be reformed with a focus on identifying failure and diagnosing reasons behind schools’ struggles.
  4. ‘Outstanding’ schools should be subject to regular inspection.
  5. The ‘outstanding’ judgement should be replaced by a robust system for identifying excellent practice.
  6. Ofsted should commission research into the format and nature of inspection required.
  7. National accreditation arrangements should be developed for peer review programmes.
  8. Alternative national standards for headteachers should be developed.
  9. The DfE’s careers progression strategy should incorporate support for recently appointed headteachers.

This report comes at a time when Ofsted are planning the roll-out of their new inspection framework, due to be implemented from September 2019. With fears expressed that Ofsted are planning large-scale changes without giving teachers and system leaders’ time to reflect on or embed the changes, NAHT argue that Ofsted is at a “cross-road” and should carefully consider the findings of the accountability commission before launching a new system of inspection.