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Improving school accountability


NAHT’s Accountability Commission found that the current accountability system does more harm than good. 

  • It limits ambition, incentivises self-interest and deters talented staff from working in more deprived communities.
  • It narrows the curriculum and encourages teaching to the test and diverts attention from teaching and learning.
  • It drives good people from the profession and provides less assurance of standards.

Our ambition is for an education system that rivals the best in the world. This will not be achieved overnight, but it is well within our reach.

In the short-term we must:

  • ensure that the way in which we hold schools to account is reliable and fair
  • create a level playing field where performance is judged fairly, irrespective of context or circumstance. 

But we should waste no time in laying the groundwork for developing leadership capacity and making high-quality, peer-to-peer challenge and support the norm, not the exception.

We need to develop confidence in lateral accountability systems to peers that will, in time, enable the further reduction in vertical accountability systems to the government.

The profession needs to be freed to work together, challenge one another, encourage innovation, share excellence, and focus on doing what is right for all pupils to succeed. 

The secret is not to be found in achieving an Ofsted label.


Our recommendations

Pupil performance data

1. Comparative performance data (based on a three-year average) is the most reliable data indicator currently available and should be used by Ofsted to inform judgements of school effectiveness.

2. The DfE should use a ‘requires improvement’ judgement as the trigger for funded support and as a replacement for floor and coasting standards.


3. The Commission proposes a new role for Ofsted, focused on identifying failure and providing stronger diagnostic insight for schools that are struggling.

4. The DfE should end the exemption from inspection for previously ‘outstanding’ schools and commit Ofsted to inspect all schools on a transparent cycle of inspection.

5. The ‘outstanding’ judgement should be replaced with a more robust system for identifying specific excellence within the sector, to increase the take-up of highly effective, evidence-based practice.

6. Ofsted should commission research to determine the format and nature of inspection required, in order to provide reliable judgements and reciprocal benefits for schools. 

School improvement

7. Existing peer review programmes should be evaluated to identify characteristics of effective practice in order to develop national accreditation arrangements.

8. An invitation should be extended to the Chartered College of Teaching, through the Leadership Development Advisory Group, to produce alternative national standards for head teachers that better reflect the professional behaviours, practice and knowledge required for achieving excellence.

9. The DfE should extend the career progression strategy to support recently appointed head teachers in the critical first years of headship.


First published 12 November 2020