Courageous Leadership for Professional Accountability

We were delighted to welcome both Mary Myatt and Chris Moyse to West Sussex last week for our annual Forum on Accountability. Particular thanks to them for their generosity of time and materials, they were exceptionally professional and informative as well as being very good company! We deliberately set a wider theme to this year’s event, seeking to include but also go beyond ‘preparing for inspection’. To set an outline and tone for the forum, I began by seeking to outline what “Intelligent Accountability” might mean when applied to a school leadership context and how this fits in the wider perspective of our theme for the year.

Arguably the phrase can be traced to the Redesigning Schooling seminars of 2012 and the “Professional Accountability” pamphlet of July 2014 where this sparked a very real debate about the future of accountability in the system which has now started to gather real momentum:

“We need leaders and teachers who share a clear vision for their school and community, based on a clear set of values and professional judgement that lead to exceptional outcomes for young people” Redesigning Schooling 2012

More recently ACSL have published their Blueprint which takes a clear view on this issue around our ownership of this process and responsibility within it:

…professional accountability for the quality of his or her own work and to the people who the profession serves. In a self-improving system, we believe that teachers and school leaders must be agents of their own accountability” ASCL Blueprint 2015

The Headteachers’ Roundtable have also published their 2015 Education Election Manifesto which makes clear practical policy proposals that tackle the issues surrounding the high stakes accountability of our current frameworks restricting the rate of improvement needed and deterring schools leaders from seeking the responsibility of Headship.

From my own work with the SSAT and the Redesigning Schooling in Action campaign, I shared the core principles of “Courageous Leadership for Professional Accountability” which are hard to dispute but sometimes can seem hard to apply.

  • A clear vision for our school and community
  • Internal self-evaluation as an ongoing priority, to inform refection and development
  • Doing things differently to do them better
  • Confident awareness of external accountability
  • Ownership of accountability and willingness to collaborate
  • Developing capacity

Intelligence comes from our knowledge of our schools, both  hard and soft data, understanding the context of our students, staff and community. Having a clear sense of what is needed now and what will be needed in 3-5 years’ time. The robust and transparent processes that lead us to that knowledge will enable us to make the decisions that are more likely to lead to successful outcomes. It can often seem courageous to make the decisions that are required (assessment without levels, lesson observations without grades, different curriculum structures…) but with secure knowledge of our context comes the conviction that allows us to meet external accountability with confidence and equally seek to instill that professional confidence in staff.

Finally on collaboration, it is a brave school that seeks to work in isolation these days even if that is possible. However there are different approaches and tokenism with little impact on students, staff or outcomes will not safeguard or support schools nor will it model the peer review that is starting to become a genuine possibility in our future. Only through genuine collaboration for impact and open, honest professional challenge and support can we show the ‘professional intelligent accountability’ that will allow us greater ownership of the frameworks in which we work.

West Sussex Heads are trialing triads for this purpose of peer review, the WSDN will shortly be offering JPD projects that might help develop some of the strands of self-evaluation and internal accountability that were discussed in this forum.  How much each school engages is a matter for their context and current priorities but there can be little doubt that collectively we have the powerful potential for intelligent collaboration leading to professional accountability with real impact.

All slides and materials from the forum that can be shared are listed below:

Mary Myatt

Mary Myatt

Chris Moyse

Chris Moyse

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