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Structures, inspection and accountability


School leaders understand the need for public accountability. Parents, politicians and the wider public want to be sure that schools are doing their very best for the children they serve.

However, we also recognise that the current low-trust accountability system is based on a narrow range of measures that drive a range of perverse incentives and unintended consequences and that the current high-stakes inspection system all too often instils fear and stifles innovation. 

NAHT is committed to securing fairer methods and measures of accountability, so that pupils’ performance and school effectiveness are judged using a broad range of information, including the school's broader context and performance history, rather than a narrow focus on data.

Ensure published performance data are calculated and used fairly

  • Press the government to take action to ensure understanding across the sector of changes to primary progress data from 2020
  • Engage with the DfE to ensure that the reception baseline assessment is a valid baseline for progress 
  • Work with the DfE to ensure the methodology, publication and use of performance data is accurate, proportionate and appropriate.


Press for a transition from vertical high-stakes approach to accountability to a lateral system with greater ownership by the profession itself

  • Further develop, articulate and argue the case for a new approach to school accountability, building on NAHT's Commission, and working with other partners
  • Campaign against a hard accountability measure on exclusions
  • Make the case and lobby for a wholly independent complaints process for appeals against Ofsted inspection judgements
  • Lobby for the publication of all training materials for inspectors to ensure transparency and equity
  • Lobby Ofsted for greater transparency regarding the experience, skills and training of inspectors for specific phases and settings
  • Monitor members' experiences of the new inspection framework, holding Ofsted to account for the consistency, reliability and behaviour of inspectors, particularly around curriculum and the quality of education judgement.


Ensure any changes to school structures or systems benefit all pupils within a local community

  • Continue to oppose any form of forced academisation
  • Continue to oppose any expansion of grammar schools
  • Promote and advance local accountability, transparency and democracy in school structures and governance so that schools are best able to serve their wider local community
  • Make the case for centrally coordinated place planning to ensure all new school provision meets demand
  • Promote the full variety of school collaboration from Trusts to informal collaborations. 

Successful schools in testing times: insights from PISA 2018 Volume V

The OECD has published Volume V of its 2018 international findings of its Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).

This report addresses schools and school systems and their relationship with education outcomes more generally. The volume covers school governance, selecting and grouping students, and the human, financial, educational and time resources allocated to teaching and learning.

Please see below for notes from a presentation, organised by the Education Policy Institute, on the key report's findings for the UK. You can find the full and detailed OECD PISA 2018 report here.

The webinar considered the context of covid-19, with the panellists all making the point that the challenge presented by covid is to not return to the status quo of education, but use the learning to improve the education system.

Remote learning

  • The key challenge for disadvantaged students is accessing quiet space, internet and digital devices at home
  • The report highlights that disparities in remote learning are based on how well schools are equipped
  • The report found the UK has one of the highest numbers of school computers per students and there is no gap between privileged and disadvantaged school. The UK has computers equitably distributed across schools
  • However, the report found a low level of commitment to technology informed learning within the UK, and it highlighted that there is less access to effective online learning platforms that in other OECD countries
    • Around 70% of school leaders agreed that an effective online learning support platform is available
    • However, there is huge variation in this confidence figure between advantaged and disadvantaged schools: around 75% of school leaders in advantaged areas and 40% of school leaders in disadvantaged areas
  • The PISA data suggested that teachers were not incentivised to embed technology into their teaching
  • In terms of policy and programs for using digital devices, the UK was found to be exemplary in the development of policies on the effective use of technology, such as responsible internet behaviour, engaging with social media, etc.

Learning time

  • Adding learning time does not improve the successes of the education system as a whole
  • What is more important is the quality of instruction, improving the use of staff capacity and existing time and funding, not simply adding more learning time.

Resources for learning

Material resources

  • In the UK, there is a significantly greater shortage of material resources in disadvantaged schools compared with advantaged schools
  • This makes a big difference to educational outcomes and includes lack of access to and poor quality of educational materials and physical infrastructure
  • The more equitably resources are allocated, the better the country's overall educational performance
  • The report also looked at access to rooms at school for homework and additional study as a predictor of overall educational success
  • Although, in disadvantaged schools in the UK, they are well equipped with space, they were found to lack the additional staff support that is as important as having the space for additional work.

Staff resources

  • The report found that the UK didn't have issues with the quality of teaching staff, but struggled to have enough staff available 
  • This is a universal experience for developed OECD countries
  • This is much more of an issue in disadvantaged schools because attracting staff is hard.

Other points of interest from the report

  • The UK has one of the highest rates of 'government-independent schools' (eg academies) in the OECD
    • Having more public schools improves the overall effectiveness of an education system, as equity is a key driver of a successful education system
  • The UK has the highest rates of grouping different abilities into different classes, implying a high rate of implicit tracking and selection occurring
    • This is generally negative for overall education performance, as it negatively affects overall educational equity, although it might help an individual school's performance
  • Collecting data on educational outcomes has become broadly universal across OECD countries. The UK had some of the highest rates of publicly posted outcome data
    • The report found that posting performance data publicly is positively related to learning outcomes, even when accounting for socio-economic, although the relationship is not very statistically strong
  • ​A higher number of years in pre-primary education is a good predictor of positive individual performance over time and the success of the overall education system
  • The UK has higher than average number of extracurricular activities. In terms of creative extra curriculum in areas of drama etc, the UK is one of the top performers.

For further detail on any of the above, you can find the full report here

First published 02 October 2020