Home Menu

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. 

NAHT's School Improvement Commission

Purpose of the Commission

The School Improvement Commission has brought together leading educationalists and experts to consider how the government can best support all schools to improve.


In September 2018, NAHT published the report of the Accountability Commission, Improving School Accountability. The Commission called for a rebalancing of holding schools to account with helping them to improve. It set out a compelling vision for the future of inspection and outlined some high-level principles for how we can better help the school system to improve.

Many of the Commission’s recommendations (for creating a more proportionate and effective system of accountability) have subsequently been accepted by the government and adopted by opposition parties.

Yet while our thinking was well developed on the future of school accountability, less time was spent within Accountability Commission meetings considering how we can better help all schools to improve. NAHT, therefore, convened a new Commission to consider precisely that.

The Commission has reviewed a huge range of evidence to better understand what is getting in the way of schools improving further and faster and to provide pragmatic proposals for change. Our ambition is twofold: that schools that face the deepest of challenges in the most deprived communities are better supported to succeed; and schools that are already good are better supported on their journey to great.

Scope of review

The Commission:

  • identified the barriers to, and enablers of, school improvement and against this considered the adequacy of current support arrangements in place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland;
  • contrasted practice at home with practice internationally and considered what can be learnt from other sectors, through a review of published research and testimony of expert witnesses; and
  • considered alternative approaches and, on the basis of the evidence available, proposed a direction of travel for the government and the profession, with concrete recommendations for change.

NAHT will publish a report setting out the Commission’s findings and recommendations in summer term 2020.

The Commission met on five occasions only, between October 2019 and February 2020.          

Meeting details

The Commission met in London on the following dates:

  • 23 October 2019
  • 20 November 2019
  • 11 December 2019
  • 29 January 2020
  • 26 February 2020


Themes for discussion

Through the five meetings the group considered:

1.    Definitions of school improvement

2.    The government strategy for building capacity in the system – past, present and future

3.    Barriers to, and enablers of, improvement

4.    Strengths and weaknesses of current approaches to school improvement

5.    Alternative approaches – systems, structures and collaboration

6.    Role of peer review within the school improvement system

7.    Overcoming area-based challenges – impact of deprivation and isolation

8.    Implementation challenge - cascading expert knowledge and developing expertise

9.    Encouraging innovation and future-proofing school systems


The final report – April 28 2020

NAHT staff will produce the report of the Commission detailing findings and recommendations for change.  

The report will attempt to faithfully represent the collective view of the Commission - identifying where there was consensus and where there were differences of opinion on the way forward.


Membership of the Commission


  • Nick Brook (NAHT deputy general secretary) 


  • Dame Alison Peacock (Chartered College of Teaching)
  • Carole Willis (NFER)
  • Chris Kirkham-Knowles (Scalby Learning Trust)
  • Emma Knights (National Governance Association)
  • Gary Wilkie (Learning in Harmony Trust)
  • James Bowen (NAHT)
  • John Blake (Ark and Now Teach)
  • Judy Shaw (NAHT president)
  • Julie McCulloch (ASCL)
  • Kate Chhatwal (Challenge Partners)
  • Matt Davis (Education Development Trust)
  • Natalie Perera (Education Policy Institute)
  • Richard Gill (Teaching Schools Council)
  • Rob Williams (NAHT)
  • Stephen Fraser (Education Endowment Foundation)
  • Stephen Tierney (Headteachers’ Roundtable)
  • Steve Munby (Munby Education)
  • Professor Toby Greany (University of Nottingham)
  • Tom Rees (Ambition Institute)
  • Melanie Renowden (Ambition Institute)
  • Tom Richmond (EDSK)

Review lead: Rob Williams (NAHT - policy)







First published 06 March 2020

First published 06 March 2020