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Exclusive: Heads' union launches commission into 'high-stakes, low-trust' accountability system

NAHT commission will suggest changes to the accountability framework, which the deputy general secretary says does 'more harm than good'

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NAHT commission will suggest changes to the accountability framework, which the deputy general secretary says does 'more harm than good'

The NAHT headteachers' union is to launch a commission aimed at overhauling England's "high-stakes, low-trust" accountability system.

The independent commission, which is due to report in September, will be launched at a Westminster Education Forum event this morning by Nick Brook, the NAHT's deputy general secretary.

He will say that the commission will build on the union's Redressing the Balance report, which was published last year and helped persuade the government to scrap key stage 1 Sats.

"Accountability arrangements are based on the results of statutory assessments, making the assessments incredibly high-stakes and leading to negative consequences," he will say. 

"So it was always our plan to create a second piece of work looking at how schools are held to account, including the future role of Ofsted. We know that schools need to be accountable, but they should not operate in fear and uncertainty.”

He will say that the country needs an accountability system that "neither distorts teaching and learning nor weighs too heavily on the shoulders" of teachers and school leaders, and that "test and exam data are only part of the picture when judging a school’s effectiveness or a pupil’s success".

Accountability system 'creates stress and fear'

The commission will span every phase and sector of education. It aims to have interim findings before the summer term, with a full report to be published in September. 

Sir Robin Bosher, Professor Becky Allen, Ross McGill, Michael Tidd, Dame Alison Peacock, Emma Knights, Sam Freedman and Sir Kevan Collins are among the individuals who will contribute to the commission. 

Speaking exclusively to Tes, Mr Brook said that it would set out "an alternative vision" for an accountability system that is currently "high-stakes, low-trust" and does "more harm than good".

“Everyone I’ve spoken to in schools, and nationally for that matter, all have accepted that the accountability system does need to change in some sort of way, that it’s not performing quite how it should," he said. "What I’m not hearing, however, is a clarity of vision as to how it needs to change.”

He said the current system was "a major driver of workload, stress and fear amongst teachers and school leaders", which "impedes recruitment and retention and undermines good work-life balance".

Mr Brook added that the commission would "see what we can learn from around the world", and that its recommedations "may require long-term change".

"This isn’t about looking at all of the negative experiences that we’re feeling now and trying to take the sharp edges off it – this has to be about coming up with something different."

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