Accountability plans too narrow, heads say

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Government plans for reforming how schools are held accountable are too narrow and should include the roles of Ofsted, local authorities and the schools commissioner, according to headteachers.

Government plans for reforming how schools are held accountable are too narrow and should include the roles of Ofsted, local authorities and the schools commissioner, according to headteachers.

In its submission to the Department for Education’s (DfE) consultation on school accountability, the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) has said that the exercise fails to address the purpose of holding schools accountable.

The consultation process, which ended last week, followed the publication of proposals that could see the benchmark of five A* to C grades, including English and maths, scrapped as the main measure of a school’s success. 

Instead, there will be a new “average point score” progress measure which includes eight subjects – English, maths, three other English Baccalaureate subjects, and three other options.

Education secretary Michael Gove claims that a headline measure only focusing on five subjects “weakens” incentives for schools to offer a “broad curriculum”.

Brian Lightman, ASCL’s general secretary, said: “We welcome the government’s recognition of the unintended consequences in the current accountability system and the fact that these create an unhealthy and damaging focus on certain performance measures.

“However the scope of this consultation is disappointingly narrow. It fails to ask 

fundamental questions about the aims and purpose of the accountability system, about whom schools are accountable to and why. It fails to include primary schools and post-16 and concentrates on performance indicators without considering the roles of Ofsted, local authorities or the schools commissioner.”

Plans also include a threshold measure showing the percentage of students passing at English and maths. It is thought a pass will still refer to A* to C grades, although the consultation documentation does not specify this.

Mr Lightman added: “Accountability needs to be looked at in the round rather than in a piecemeal way. These proposals merely tweak some of the performance indicators without making the whole framework more streamlined and effective.”

ASCL has set out a list of 13 recommendations to the DfE. It says that the government should review its decision to remove national curriculum levels until an alternative way of tracking student progress is in place. 

It also warns that new measures should be introduced before students choose their subject options – unlike the retrospective introduction of the EBacc. The response also calls on the DfE, together with Ofqual, to review the use of “comparable outcomes”.


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