During Covid-19, schools and trusts have adapted brilliantly to the complex demands of ensuring continuity of learning through the development of online, remote and blended learning provision.
WE have been inspired by the resilience that education has displayed throughout the crisis, and encouraged by some of the positives that have emerged from such a difficult time. We’ve been meeting with trust leaders in our network to discuss some of the issues they are facing and to look ahead to the future.
The WE Trust Influence Forums are roundtable events that provide trust leaders with the space and time to collectively influence each other and the system and become a powerful, positive voice for the change they want to see in education.
Each Trust Influence Forum focuses on trust leaders’ perspective on an important issue facing education. Afterwards, we share their thoughts in a draft position paper. This aims to stimulate reflection and conversation amongst schools and trusts within the WE network as well as across the wider system.
In our first Trust Influence Forum, we explored what role innovations in online and blended learning should play in a post-Covid-19 world. Our second forum looked at assessment in summer 2021 with WE Founder Sir John Dunford (read his ten point plan here), Martin Said from XP and Liz Robinson from Big Education. Our third forum provided opportunity to share best practice about supporting the wellbeing of staff throughout the pandemic. Most recently, our trust leaders discussed the future role of accountability and you can now download this paper below:
Covid-19 has changed the way we live, work and play. In schools, we have changed the way children learn and the systems which support learning have changed too – Ofsted included.
It is through this lens that Whole Education trust leaders gathered, ten months later and virtually (of course!), to discuss accountability: has the unthinkable become thinkable? Is it time to change the way we hold schools to account?
What does accountability mean to our trust leaders?
When asked “who are you accountable to?” every trust leader, without exception, talked about their children and their community – not Ofsted, not the DfE, but children.
When in the process of moving mountains to provide young people with access to learning in all of its various forms; in providing them with access to technology; in providing those in need with food parcels; in checking on the welfare of young people and their families; schools were doing ‘the right thing’. On behalf of and accountable to their children and their communities. They didn’t require a framework for this. Without fail they turned to their values and focused on their ‘core purpose’.
What is the purpose of accountability?
Similarly, when Whole Education trust leaders were asked “what is the core purpose of accountability?” their answers focused on children and the quality of education and care they provide, or aspire to provide, on their behalf. They are clear that there is a need for the profession to maintain standards and to continually strive for improvement. They were clear in the distinction between internal and external accountability:
- Accountability applied internally in their trusts was positive: goal setting, achievement, celebration and affirmation. Recognising that maintaining quality and standards requires the setting of aspirational goals and ensuring progress is made towards them.
- External accountability was interpreted as judgement, inspection, focussed on a narrow set of standards for the short term. External accountability was perceived as negative, based in a deficit model that requires schools to prove their worth and earn trust.
Looking to the future of accountability…
All of the trust leaders are clear on the importance and relevance of accountability within the education system. However, they were equally clear that the current system of perceived ‘winners and losers’ creates a high-stakes culture for individuals and organisations. We all have some responsibility for the current system and therefore we must all act to challenge and change it. Read the paper to find out how they felt these changes could be made.