Accountability Measures?

This blog by Stephen Tierney (Headteachers’ Roundtable) proposes an accountability measure based on inclusion to be used alongside performance measures to tackle the “long tail of underachievement”.

It elides all disadvantaged children, looked after children and SEN together under the umbrella of inclusion without explanation.

The author then moves onto the issue of exclusions, without evidencing the extent to which exclusion is the reason for underachievement in these groups.

Certainly, it is an issue for individuals in those groups but to argue it’s an issue for the group as a whole is an extrapolation not evidence.

A supportive school environment is elided with no exclusions and low mobility.

This approach raises a variety of issues and concerns:

1) It misses out the wide variety of reasons why underachievement might occur including individual circumstances, school culture, curriculum, use of ineffective pedagogical practices, lack of teacher training and support, and poor whole school behaviour management systems.

2) Entire groups of children are being casually stereotyped as “challenging pupils” when this is not the case for the vast majority of children who form part of those groups.

3) The lesson of blurring the distinction between the disadvantaged and those with special educational needs should already have been learnt. Implying membership of an ethnic or social group is equivalent to or means to be impaired in some way have been the basis of crude stereotyping of individuals, itself a reason for historic underachievement of some groups in the education system.

4) Exclusion is not the only cause of mobility and no evidence is produced that it’s a major one.

5) There is a tension in this measure which is not addressed. The achievement of disadvantaged groups may be harmed by a focus on less exclusion.

6) It is stated that the exact means of calculating this measure should be confidential. The reason given is to avoid gaming. But secrecy would result in lack of scrutiny, accountability and responsibility on the part of those setting the means of calculating.

No accountability measure is perfect.

But this does not justify the creation of one based on the elision of whole groups of children with a wide variety of needs and assumptions unsupported by evidence using a secret calculation.