Better educational outcomes and ensuring the proper accountability of the system that is responsible for producing them, is a hot topic currently within policy circles.
My business tries to help other get their head around aspects of this as you can see in the below Prezi.
But if like me you have been involved both professionally in education and as a parent it becomes even more complex given the personal stakes.
I attended an interesting seminar yesterday in London at the Wellcome Trust, run in partnership with the Royal Society, which attempted to examine school accountability in-depth. Both organisations have an interest in this area, but perhaps the most useful high level contribution from the array of well-informed speakers was from Sir David Bell, former Chief Inspector of Schools in England, then top civil servant in the English Education Ministry, and currently the Vice Chancellor of a UK university.
If anyone has seen education from the top, he definitely has.
His conclusion? That instead of focusing on trying to find the perfect school accountability system to keep all us educationists and parents happy (I haven’t mentioned politicians … ), why not just concentrate on specific actions to improve teaching and learning?
Of course he is right. The problem is knowing what type of action and how to make it produce real benefits, which requires some kind of yardstick. Some would say base such actions more on education research evidence including from randomised controlled trials. I would ask that any outcomes are linked more to end of schooling destinations i.e. which type of university, course, employer or job will students go on to in their local area or further afield?
On the other hand Sir David also raised the role of subject leaders as ‘management’ experts in schools. This I think is getting closer to the truth.
Every good or aspiring school will be running projects to improve teaching and learning. Someone needs to approve, monitor, extend or close down such projects depending on the outcomes they are producing. The Head can’t possibly do this on his or her own so delegates to a senior manager, which provides them with good career development opportunities (forget about performance related pay – a better salaried position may arise eventually). These key people need both the knowledge to recognise the value of good T&L projects and the people/task management skills to know whether they are being run well and if not what interventions are required. We should ALL be supporting them to be as competent as possible.
Quite an ask you might say but why not be aspirational – we did it for the London Olympics after all.