In defence of accountability

2023-04-06T09:18:45+01:00March 19th, 2023|leadership|

This weekend saw Joe Kirby publish a thoughtful blog in which he calls for an end to Quality Assurance. I agree with Joe's analysis of the causes of poor accountability - or QA - but not his suggested solutions. In his blog, Joe says that "QA warps time, trust, thinking, teaching, leadership and learning." There's no doubt that this can  sometimes be true, but it runs the risk of becoming a straw man argument in which poor QA is attacked in order to justify getting rid of all QA. In order to see if Joe's arguments are true, we ought [...]

GCSE reform: a modest proposal

2020-05-30T12:17:30+01:00May 30th, 2020|assessment|

The pandemic has cast many assumptions about how education could or should unfold into sharp relief. Like many others, I've been wondering about the positives we might find in our current situation and how - or whether - we can salvage anything when schools eventually return to normal. One area that seems to beg for reform is the way the exam season currently plays out. Here are some of the factors to consider: Accountability creates huge pressures on teachers which are, inevitably, passed on to students. Is there a way to break this chain? Along with these pressures, the quantity of [...]

How can school inspection get what it wants?

2017-02-11T07:33:17+00:00February 10th, 2017|leadership|

I read a great piece by Dr Becky Allen in Schools Week this morning on inherent unreliability of school inspections. In it she makes the point that human beings are incapable of making reliable, high stakes judgements due to our adaptive reliance on heuristics and our inability to adequately introspect about our biases  and preferences. But despite the dangers, she says, "This is not to say that school inspection should not have a role in our system. It is possible that the threat of inspection, day-in-day-out, leads to better practice in schools that outweighs the obvious dysfunctional behaviours it creates." I [...]

The melody of education: what should we be accountable for?

2015-10-08T09:25:46+01:00October 6th, 2015|leadership|

Not every end is a goal. The end of a melody is not its goal; but nonetheless, if the melody had not reached its end, it would not have reached its goal. A parable. Nietzsche This is the third in a series of posts about what I'm calling Intelligent Accountability. Peter Blenkinsop pointed out that a problem with holding teachers to account for their professional judgments is that we may not all be playing the same melody. I've written before about the battleground that is the purpose of education. The problem with trusting schools and teachers to do what's right is that we [...]

Intelligent Accountability

2016-10-05T20:44:27+01:00October 4th, 2015|Featured, leadership|

The history of human growth is at the same time the history of every new idea heralding the approach of a brighter dawn, and the brighter dawn has always been considered illegal, outside of the law. - Emma Goldman So many teachers I speak to are afraid to make nuanced professional judgements. When I make suggestions on how they could manage workload, organise classroom, speak to students, select curriculum content or plan lessons very often I'm confronted with,"That sounds like a great idea but I wouldn't be allowed to do it." Too many school systems have become blunt instruments used to [...]

Trust, accountability and why we need them both

2015-05-10T14:46:48+01:00April 29th, 2015|leadership|

I've been thinking a lot about trust in recent months - particularly because it seems a commodity in such short supply. If, my optimistic thinking went, teachers were trusted to do a good job, then they probably would. But, of course, there's always that nagging concern that some wouldn't. This got me thinking about why people - and specifically teachers - are trustworthy or not. Is it down to an inherent goodness? Are some people just naturally more dedicated and professional, or could it be that we're good because of the consequences of not being good? The conclusion I've arrived at is [...]

How could we improve accountability?

2015-03-23T20:02:54+00:00March 23rd, 2015|Featured|

If accountability is the solution, what's the problem? It's become axiomatic that you can't remove accountability from education and that teachers must always be held to account. Why? Because they're feckless scoundrels and can't be trusted further than you can throw an interactive whiteboard. Education has been reduced to teachers vs. the rest of the world. Here's how some of those struggles play out: Teachers vs. government - Education policy is predicated on the assumption that everything would be fine if only teachers were prepared to work a bit harder. Like a giant set of human whack-a-mole, as soon as a new [...]

What if we started trusting teachers?

2014-11-23T14:10:08+00:00November 22nd, 2014|leadership|

Who would not rather trust and be deceived? - Eliza Cook The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him. - Henry Lewis Stimson I've been out of the classroom for just under a year now. In that time I've had the privilege of visiting many more schools than I ever visited during the 15 years or so I taught. And in that time I've had the chance to see the sublime, the ridiculous and almost everything imaginable in between. The other luxury I've had is time. Time to think in a way that was never really possible when bogged [...]

An inconvenient truth? The surplus model of school improvement

2014-02-23T16:59:17+00:00February 23rd, 2014|leadership|

Schools often seem to be run on a 'deficit model': "this attributes scepticism or hostility to a lack of understanding, resulting from a lack of information. It is associated with a division between 'experts' (school leaders, Ofsted inspectors, consultants etc.) who have the information and non-experts (classroom teachers) who do not. The model implies that communication should focus on improving the transfer of information from experts to non-experts." But what if we ran our schools on a surplus model? What if we assumed that teachers were basically trustworthy, hard-working, and knew what they were doing? What it were agreed that school leaders [...]

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