In May 2013, we jointly hosted with the Wellcome Trust a seminar entitled ‘Visions for improving accountability in education’. The seminar was concerned with exploring how education accountability systems should develop over the next 20 years or so, based on perspectives from experts from across the UK and the wider international community.
The seminar was chaired by Professor Geoffrey Boulton FRS and included keynote addresses by Sir John Holman (Senior Fellow for Education, Wellcome Trust) , Sir David Bell (former Ofsted Chief Inspector and now Vice-Chancellor, Reading University), Professor Andreas Schleicher (Special Advisor on Education, OECD). In addition, The Rt Hon. Lord Jim Knight chaired a panel discussion with expert representatives from across the UK including Keir Bloomer (Education Consultant, Scotland), Faustina Graham (Assistant Chief Inspector, Northern Ireland), Professor David Reynolds (Senior Policy Adviser, Welsh Assembly Government) and David Swinscoe (Strategic Director for Science, LSIS STEM Support Service, City and Islington College).
Among the questions raised at the seminar were:
- What are the perverse consequences of accountability systems?
- Would other systems have fewer perverse consequences?
- Would it help to collect a wider range of performance data?
- Can everything that counts be counted?
- Should governing bodies be stronger?
Key messages arising included:
- there has been an overreliance on accountability systems to drive up performance, and their ‘high stakes’ nature has had negative impacts on both teachers and students
- accountability systems need to find the right balance between holding schools to account for their teachers’ performance, while actively supporting local innovation and teacher creativity
- teachers should increasingly take responsibility for their own professional accountability, through continuing professional development.