Accountability system ‘mercilessly flogs’ schools

The accountability system is failing schools in disadvantaged areas that need the most support, says ASCL leader

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Schools are being “mercilessly flogged” by an accountability system that leaves careers hanging on the basis of a single set of results, union leader Geoff Barton will say today.

Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, will call for a more humane approach to judging schools, at a lecture in London this evening.

And he will question whether a system that makes life more difficult for those schools most in need of support is useful.

Giving the Mike Baker Lecture for the National Education Trust, Barton is expected to say: “Our accountability system mercilessly flogs schools to jump through hoops, with careers hanging in the balance on the basis of a single set of results, and schools stigmatised as failing, which serves only to compound their problems."

He will say that performance measures present a “flawed and partial view” and while Ofsted inspections give the opportunity for more nuance, the data shows that the proportion of schools judged as "outstanding" is lower in deprived areas than in the most affluent areas.

'Sapping teacher morale'

“We know that disadvantaged pupils often have greater challenges in their lives than other pupils and tend to make less progress,” he will say. “So schools with large proportions of disadvantaged pupils – those in the most deprived communities – are very likely to record lower Progress 8 scores than those in leafy suburbs.

“And yet these schools – the schools which most need help and support – may find themselves branded as failing through no fault of their own and regardless of their teaching quality. It saps the morale of leaders, teachers, parents, pupils and communities. Can it really be a useful outcome of the accountability system to make life even more difficult for schools which most need help and support?”

He will call for a system that supports, rather than condemns, schools – arguing that this would be more successful in raising standards than “branding schools and sacking their leaders”.

His comments come after an Ofsted analysis of its own data revealed that schools in poor white communities are much more likely to be rated "inadequate" or "requires improvement" by Ofsted compared with those in deprived, non-white British areas.

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