This month, NAHT launched our new commission on accountability which began its consideration of the ways in which schools are held to account, the role of Ofsted and how best to end the fear and uncertainty associated with a high-stakes, low-trust accountability system.
So, we were particularly interested in the content of a speech given by the Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, a couple of days later. Ms Spielman accepted that 'government policies and requirements' and 'performance tables and inspection [are] significant drivers of workload for teachers.' And she indicated that she understood that the nature of the current accountability system affected teacher recruitment and retention, a long-standing position held by NAHT.
Her speech offered some good news for teachers and school leaders:
- She offered an unequivocal assurance on lesson grading and planning, saying: '…significant minorities think we still grade individual lessons or want to see lesson plans. In truth, we cannot reach every teacher directly, but through you, we can.'
- On data, she said: 'Our intention is always to use data as the starting point, not as the end point, for inspection… We have redesigned inspection data reports to reduce the likelihood of over-interpretation. We have trained our inspectors to know what inferences they can and cannot draw from the data. And since September, we have operated a new analyst helpdesk to support inspectors.
- Ofsted has '…stopped reporting on performance management arrangements. Inspectors are not requesting anonymised lists of teachers who did or didn't achieve an increment on the pay scale.'
- On RI schools she said '…we have removed the three-strikes rule. There was a presumption that a school should be graded inadequate, if after two RI outcomes a third inspection did not show that it had improved to good. Instead, we are letting our inspectors use their discretion to judge a school as it stands, regardless of its inspection history.'
Ofsted's staff inspection questionnaires now include a new question. The Chief Inspector reported that the agreement rate for the statement 'Leaders and managers take workload into account when developing and implementing new policies and procedures, so as to avoid placing unnecessary burdens on staff' is currently running at 77 per cent, with only 8 per cent disagreeing. Ms Spielman was clear that the intent of this question was not to drive a 'wedge' between teachers and school leaders.
While not discarding measures of accountability such as Progress 8, SATs GCSEs and A levels, Ms Spielman said'… But I do maintain that success in these measures should flow from a rich curriculum, rather than tests of all kinds and performance tables dictating the curriculum itself'.'
What is Ofsted focusing on?
- Defining what a good curriculum looks like in terms of intent, implementation and impact
- Research on the efficacy of lesson observation
- A review of the efficacy of book scrutiny
- The reliability and validity of inspections
- Research on workload and well-being
- The development of a revised inspection framework for September 2019.
Where to next?
The Chief Inspector's speech sets out some helpful steps forward, but NAHT believes that we need an accountability system that neither distorts teaching and learning nor weighs too heavily on the shoulders of the dedicated professionals working in our schools today. We're confident that we can come up with an alternative vision for accountability that everyone – politicians, professionals, parents and pupils can all have faith in.
NAHT's commission on accountability will be reported in September 2018.
Who's on the Commission?
The Commission includes Sir Robin Bosher, Professor Becky Allen, Ross McGill, Michael Tidd, Alison Peacock, Emma Knights, Sam Freedman, Sam Butters, Carole Willis and Sir Kevan Collins.