intelligent accountability

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2020-11-07T09:15:57+00:00November 7th, 2020|leadership|

The following is a summary of Chapter 4 of my new book, Intelligent Accountability. What stops us from taking the risk and trusting teachers is, in part, the very real fear that some will cut corners, take shortcuts and slack off. But it is also a product of the deficit model: misguided approaches to enforcing ‘best practice’ and the perceived need to hold teachers and schools to account for meeting key performance indicators. To mediate against these pressures, we put accountability systems in place. The point of accountability is to increase trust: the more information we have on what teachers are [...]


2020-11-03T13:45:38+00:00November 3rd, 2020|leadership|

The following is taken from chapter 3 of my new book, Intelligent Accountability. Confucius believed that three things were needed for a ruler to govern: weapons, food and trust. If a ruler is unable to hold on to all of these he should give up the weapons first, followed by the food. Trust, he thought, should be guarded to the last. This is true for everyone and every institution. It may be difficult to govern without a standing army to enforce your will or when people are hungry, but if there’s no trust, there’s no hope at all. In the context [...]

The surplus model of school improvement

2020-11-02T13:04:52+00:00November 2nd, 2020|leadership|

In chapter 2 of Intelligent Accountability I suggest that schools can operate either a surplus or deficit model of school improvement. Schools often seem to be run on a deficit model whereby any deficiencies or failings are attributed to a lack of understanding, information, effort or good will. The efforts of ‘experts’ (school leaders, inspectors, consultants, senior teachers, etc.) who understand what needs to be done are stymied by the actions (or inaction) of non-experts (classroom teachers) who do not. In a deficit model, failings are attributed to the inability of non-experts to understand or enact “realistic budgets, plans and targets”. [...]

Why we need to embrace ignorance and learn to love uncertainty

2020-11-01T15:13:43+00:00November 1st, 2020|leadership|

The opening chapter of my book Intelligent Accountability is an attempt to clear the way of objections and obstacles in order to create the conditions for teachers to thrive. As such, I argue that schools are incredibly complex institutions where it is impossible for school leaders to have certain knowledge of the best courses of action or the results of the decisions they make. This being the case, I suggest that the only reasonable alternative is to act with tentativity and humility. For all school leaders, one of the following option will be true: You believe you know everything you need [...]

Should we give teachers the ‘benefit of the doubt’?

2017-03-03T13:41:16+00:00March 3rd, 2017|leadership|

Earlier in the week, Schools Minister, Lord Nash announced that schools should be more like businesses and jettison underperforming staff. According to this TES report he's reported to have said, "“I think one of the things that it’s easy to say ... is that sometimes in education there is a tendency to give people the benefit of the doubt too often.” The consequence of this well meaning woolliness is that we consign children to a sub-standard education. Much better for school leaders to be like business leaders. The “best leaders in education” are “tough”, “have a real sense of pace”, and “realise the clock is [...]

Less marking, more feedback: A challenge and a proposal

2016-12-01T16:18:59+00:00December 1st, 2016|leadership|

I've been arguing for some time that if teachers spent less time marking (by which I mean writing comments on students' work) then they might have a lot more time for giving meaningful feedback which actually helps develop more flexible, durable learning. This is a message that tends to play well with harried, over burdened teachers but often fills school leaders with horror. The fear is that because some teachers are lazy, good-for-nothing loafers they'll simply take this as an opportunity to shuttle off to the pub every evening and their students will be even more neglected. I can certainly understand [...]

“Works for me!” The problem with teachers’ judgement

2019-02-10T18:46:05+00:00October 11th, 2015|leadership|

It is with our judgments as with our watches: no two go just alike, yet each believes his own. Alexander Pope One of the difficulties inherent in challenging teachers' judgments is that when those judgements appear to be contradicted teachers sometimes say, "Well, it works for me and my students." This is hard to challenge. Anthony Radice made a similar point in a recent blog post about the debilitating nature of complacent certainty: A clear example of this kind of complacency is contained in the words, ‘I know my pupils’. It’s the killer punch to an argument, because it is not [...]