Accountability shake-up means end of forced academisation for poor results

Changes designed to offer schools more clarity, transparency and space

Martin George

Accountability academies

Poor results will no longer lead to schools being forced to become academies, under a major overhaul of the accountability system outlined by the DfE.

Education secretary Damian Hinds will today promise headteachers more clarity about how it will hold schools to account in the future, following concerns that the current system is increasing teacher workload and making it harder to recruit good leaders to schools in disadvantaged areas.

He will announce:

  • Schools will only be forced to become academies, or transfer to a different sponsor, if Ofsted rates them “inadequate”
  • Performance data alone will no longer trigger mandatory academy conversion
  • Regional schools commissioners will no longer conduct shadow inspections of schools
  • A consultation on replacing the “confusing” floor standards and coasting schools category with a single measure
  • Schools that are identified as “under-performing” will be offered support, but not forced to take it
  • More transparency about the workings of the regional schools commissioners and headteacher boards
  • A more rigorous regime to oversee and challenge the financial performance of multi-academy trusts

Speaking at the NAHT heads' union's annual conference in Liverpool today, Mr Hinds is expected to say: “Accountability is vital. Children only get one shot at an education and we owe them the best…where they are being let down we need to take action quickly – so no one ends up left behind.

“But what I’ve found from speaking to many of you these last few months is that there is also real confusion within the sector… I believe school leaders need complete clarity on how the accountability system will operate.”

The replacement of the floor standards and coasting designations with a single measure aims to provide a transparent and objective standard which will allow regional schools commissioners to approach schools about their performance.

Schools that are above this standard, and are not rated “inadequate”, will know they will not be caught up in the accountability system.

Mr Hinds will say: “I believe strongly that becoming an academy can bring enormous benefits to schools. Hundreds of schools every year voluntarily choose to become academies and I want this to be a positive choice for more and more schools as we move forwards.

“We must also have a system that does more than just deal with failure… But we will do so in the right way, and there will be a single, transparent data trigger for schools to be offered support – which we will consult on.

“I intend this to replace the current confusing system of having both below the floor and coasting standards for performance. 

“I have a clear message to schools and their leaders: I trust you to get on with the job.”

Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary, said: "The announcements the secretary of state is making today will be widely welcomed by NAHT's members. 

"Accountability is an essential part of our publicly funded education system but it is also one of the main drivers of workload; a big reason why many talented people leave, and often a limiting factor on the ambitions of schools. 

"Teaching is such a rewarding profession and can provide a rich and varied career, so it’s disheartening to see teachers leaving due to the pressure of workload and high stakes accountability.

"It's absolutely right that there should only be one agency with the remit to inspect schools. Clarity about the standards that are expected is just what we've been calling for.

 "Removing the coasting and floor standards will do much to address the confusion felt by many school leaders. It will be important that the new support standard is set at the right level and helps direct rapid, high-quality, funded support to the schools that need it most." 

 "We have a track record of working with the government on improvements to the system and we look forward to working with them to help define the detail behind these new proposals and to make sure that these joint ambitions are realised."


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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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