What do they mean...Intelligent Accountability

30th January 2004 at 00:00
This is the opposite of stupid accountability. Is that clear? Thought not.

Well, start at the end. Accountability is officialspeak for "It's All Your Fault". Therefore, intelligent accountability might mean it's all your fault that your pupils are intelligent, and you are a winner in the great game of school life. Unfortunately it doesn't (did you guess?). Perhaps it means that the latest ghastly mess is your fault for being intelligent. Or that people who think they are intelligent are blaming you for everything.

I think we might be getting warm here.

Of course an account can be a descriptive report, so perhaps intelligent accountability has something to do with explaining the ghastly mess in such a way as to make it somebody else's fault. This is another way of winning the great game. Or it might be something to do with money, but as there isn't any this is unlikely.

As so often with these pearls of incomprehensible gibberish, we must look to schools minister David Miliband for enlightenment. He recently informed the North of England Conference that "intelligent accountability requires that schools and parents be confident that performance is being compared on a like-for-like basis", and that the government is committed to it. Quite how an abstract phrase can require something he didn't make clear, but then, when did he ever?

One thing is certain: the Government's idea of a like-for-like basis is going to be very different from a parent's. When you're trying to explain to an irate father with a reputation for wrapping people around lamp-posts that little Maurice's only aptitude is for underachievement, you're going to need something more substantial than a piece of paper with "value-added" written on it.

In fact, most parents come with their own like-for-like bases ready prepared, and are only too happy to explain them to you for as long as it takes for you to crack and agree that their little darlings have indeed made substantial progress, which their astoundingly awful test results do not adequately reflect. After that, they generally wrap you around a lamp-post anyway. Later, in casualty, you will try to give an intelligible account of what happened, and they will tell you it's all your fault.


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