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Autonomy vs accountability: education’s impossible paradox

We think of autonomy and accountability as being at opposite ends of a spectrum, but both are instruments of political power used to control schools, writes Ed Dorrell. He argues that it’s time for teachers to cut through the nonsense and shape the debate for themselves

Accountability vs autonomy

A few weeks ago, I took part in a debate at the UCL Institute of Education on the tension between accountability (and school regulation) and autonomy in the English schools system. In essence, we were asked where we should draw the line on the spectrum between the two ideas.

This, of course, has been the central policy dilemma of the education system pretty much since Labour prime minister Jim Callaghan made his famous speech in 1976 at Ruskin College bemoaning schools and their “secret garden” approach to internal management, curriculum and outcomes.

Over the years, the tension between ...

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