Tuesday Period 5 – Accountability, Responsiblity or Pressure?

“Accountability”

1. the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.

2. a policy of holding public officials or other employees accountable for their actions and results: a need for greater accountability in the school system.

Responsibility

1 .the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.

2 .the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.

3 .the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization.

 

I have been doing my round of department audits. These annual meetings are essentially a report from Heads of Department about what they have found in ‘checking’ on the work of their dept. An accountability measure, so it made me wonder again – just who are we teachers accountable to and responsible for? However after writing this I wasn’t so happy with the posting and was pleased when @Chemistrypoet tweeted me about responsibility and accountability and this made a bit more sense. Well you can see if it does so:

1. Pupils. First and most important I am responsible to my pupils. It’s why I took the job, I hoped to help them learn. I think about the class, the schemes of work, the way they learn, what might be interesting or exciting, difficult or straightforward. It’s these people I want to help succeed, to learn, to enjoy to be challenged and to grow. I worry about their exam results. There is some accountability too – depending on exactly what sort of pupils voice we use – smart ones methinks!

2. Parents. I am obviously accountable to parents. I send them reports, I talk to them at parents evening and expect their support if I need to call them over any ‘problems’. They occasionally remind me of my job – in the nicest way of course. There is a big responsibility here, whatever might be said we are in so many senses “in loco parentis”.

3. Myself. Maybe my conscience but accountability to my own aims and standards it sounds a bit grand, maybe pompous but it is true. I chose the job to spend my energy and effort and any talent I might have, delivering learning for pupils, trying to inspire, inspire in Chemistry but sometimes just inspire them to get stuck into life. I often ask myself if I am doing a good job and like most teachers wonder what I might do better. I prepare a lesson but then seem to dream endlessly about how I might improve it, and do much the same the next time I have to teach the lesson.

4. Colleagues. This is just staff in general. We talk about school, classes, pupils, education, Mr Gove, policy and yes about football or gossip. But my talking brings accountability. If I say I will do something in conversation about my classes or the school then I better do it, someone will for sure remind me. No escape (special phrase for Nottingham ppl). This also has its responsibilities because as I said after Friday period 1, much might rest with a class teacher, the world of learning is complex

5. My head of department. Even though I am an SLT member I still feel a loyalty to and expect scrutiny from, my head of department, I expect (and get) support too but I have no problem with my mark book being checked or asked where I am on a scheme of work, or being observed. In fact the conversations about my subject and our pupils is vital, enjoyable and even though occasionally we might disagree about a direction well hey that is the hod job. It’s often a fuel to the process of improving the work we all do. So this feels more like accountability.

6. My head of faculty. A bit like the above I expect to be answerable to my Head of Science. He is allowed to challenge me, and sometimes the boot is on the other foot as together we do a learning walk.

7. A head of year. Pastoral people are crucial people in a school and having been one I do expect tutors to be answerable for delivering the pastoral work, and helping create or maintain the ethos of the school. Let alone stuff like attendance, punctuality, discipline and uniform as well as mopping a good few tears. Whatever your job in school I bet you rely on good HoY, so we have responsibilities for communications with them and we have an accountability too.

8. Results. Exam results In fact not just examinations and assessment lots of other “results”. This includes ‘events’: the end result of planned concerts, sports games, outward bound. I feel responsible for doing my bit to help make the activity run smoothly and successfully and somewhat accountable for the result. Even for the unquantifiable such as morals, showing the pupils they matter, bringing hope. Oh have I lost track on accountability? – “actions and results”. However there is a great joy and reward here, it’s not all doom. Nothing better than seeing the Y7 pupil who dreamed about becoming a journalist given the envelope in mid August with those grades that got them off to Leeds University to start the next step of that journey……………. Really is nothing better

9. SLT. Well that’s me but I think most teachers understand SLT members can ask them questions, seek information about pupils, about work or maybe about things which go wrong or things which go very right. They expect me to take responsibility seriously and give support and challenge and sometimes just kindness. But for me, I do work closely with other SLT colleagues and frankly we are responsible or is it accountable for the decisions we make.

10. Head.  We all answer to the Headteacher. When the head asks us to jump, we just say, jump? Before or after all this teaching?

11. Governors. In many schools the governors are the employers so we expect to bump into them, to be answerable to them. We meet some at interview or informally and we know they are volunteers who help the running of the school, we might work with them in committee or maybe on exclusions, we understand the important role of governors and the systems they have to monitor and challenge, so yes we feel accountable to them.

12. The Press. I realised this was a bit odd but nevertheless the local press and media like to report what is happening in a school, they tell our stories both good and sometimes bad, they tell them straight and just occasionally exaggerate. They sometimes don’t seem to shout the story we tell them but there is an accountability of sorts to the media.

13 The good old DfE. I do just about feel accountable to the DfE, Ofqual etc because they keep sending out stuff, papers, documents, information, statutes, reminders of laws and responsibilities. Policies and in the case of our BSF cancelled policies. So just maybe if I don’t take some notice here I’ll end up in trouble. I have just ploughed through the document ‘the equality act in school’ thank you DfE. My school is accountable on that policy – these documents come fairly often from you. Thanks! You make it quite clear we are accountable. [Actually Ofqual is a different matter, in essence whatever they send me I’ll try to follow but I will try and do the best to make it work for my pupils…watch for another post there.]

14. Ofsted. They seem to want to bring accountability to my teaching or perhaps more subtly the teaching and learning going on in my school.( OK so some other areas too). They may or may not appear often, they may give no notice. They may only watch 40 lessons in a visit and may not watch me BUT they dominate my landscape. I feel acutely accountable to them. I think my own little performance that day might send my school in a downwards spiral. I worry more about what they might see than the 800 odd lessons I teach each year. I also worry because others worry me and even Ofsted themselves seem to change their mind on the ‘best” way to teach. As a professional teacher, can I choose? Or must I fit the bill? Or is it Ok as long as my teaching delivers great results? PS what are great results at the moment? 5A*toC; progress 8; Pupil premium …..

[And there is an argument that spotting a failing school by Ofsted does mean something happens (discuss…oh you have!)]

15. My community. ( A parish, a geographical locality) I do teach in a church school so we are answerable to the community of the parish, the church, the diocese, but I think most schools have a vital part to play in their community. Yes they have a responsibility too. We are the community, we raise money for it, we volunteer in it and we look for jobs and maybe opportunities in it. So we are answerable to local people. In fact we are all aware if we do a good job in our school, and a good job in our community we all benefit. (for example it might be better to persuade pupils to be this side of the law rather than that side.)

Our pupils have just finished a week of work experience, thanks to our local community, we sense we are accountable to you. Just occasionally a member of the local community moans to me, about a bus incident, I feel accountable and I will make sure it is dealt with. Interesting when I have a problem with Amazon I might moan and email and phone but I doubt I’ll bump into someone accountable to complain to.

16. Job description. I have one, I try to fulfil it, it changes and I still try to fulfil it. I earn my pay on the back of fulfilling it. It’s not a check list, it describes the expectations of me and someone will do Performance Management to check up on my meeting those standards (Oh yes talking paper there are the teacher standards out there too). My guess is I am responsible to develop and maintain those standards – we always have done, do we need them written and ticked off?

17. Union Yes I do think I am accountable to my Union. I have occasionally asked for advice and help and received it gratefully, they have fought for some rights for me, and take their responsibility for me very seriously. I recognise that and I owe them some loyalty but in some way I am accountable to them for the hard won ‘rights’. And if not accountable certainly grateful.

18.Law. Statutes. Heck yes now and again in my work I am reminded of a legal duty a statutory task. I am answerable to the Law.

Perhaps people in other jobs are also this accountable and sense this much responsibility, perhaps some of you read this and say no you aren’t really accountable to all that, because accountability in a sense implies we must get stuff right and we don’t always and it means we might change.. for the better ( but who decides what is “better”?

Imagine I am asked to cover a lesson and just don’t turn up, or turn up and sit allowing a fight to happen and say I do this every week – tell me, does: a) nothing happen b) the pupils say something c) a parent calls d) a senior leader asks me to see them e) we feel bad f) the governors get a complaint g) at the ‘school show’ someone else says something h) the colleague teaching this class their next Lesson goes bonkers at me i) a head of year wants to know how we let this happen?

Most or all of the above?

I think most teachers do sense they are answerable to all of these groups at one time or another, we take our responsibilities pretty seriously. They sometimes call this accountability sometimes stress. Or have I muddled accountability with responsibility muddled with professionalism, or is it all a bit of a muddle?

Teachers should be accountable – we are. School should be accountable – we are.

So my questions – can you get some of these accountabilities off my back so I can get on with the job? Some of the way you make me answerable takes time we might be able to use more effectively. Preparing lessons, delivering great lessons, marking work, creating opportunities in and outside the classroom, helping those more vulnerable pupils, those in need ( temporary or permanent). Working with my colleagues to deliver even better lessons, looking after my colleagues….. I am happy to be accountable, I think I am.

Some questions to ponder

Q1 Do those supposed great models of Education (Finland or Singapore) have such accountability? Q2 Does the accountability work? Have our schools got better? Q3 Maybe schools are just complex for a simple accountability?

When I have some clearer answers I’ll pop up a blog on how I think we could be accountable, but meanwhile take a look at this blog by of Stephen Tierney.

And for those of us in a church school

Hebrews 4:13

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 13:17

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Romans 14:12

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.

 

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2 thoughts on “Tuesday Period 5 – Accountability, Responsiblity or Pressure?

  1. With all these layers of responsibility and accountability, how does a teacher decide where their priorities should be at any given time? Students, parents, HODs, SLTs, year groups, SEN, pupil premium, OFSTED….(LEA, chain, partnerships/collaborations)….. What happens to ‘focus’?

    Ideally, teachers would be professionals who would be part of framing what ‘success’ looks like in their school context (led by SLT, but understood and partnered by all the teachers), implementing what has been agreed as the required approaches (which could be, each department or teacher decides how they will teach within the agreed curriculum, and agreed school systems), monitoring progress in the agreed manner. The national accountability organisation assesses for fit-for-purpose, but doesn’t mandate approaches. (The most disturbing part of your blog is the bit about OFSTED, where it is clear that the organisation looms large…way beyond any level of real usefulness). I would prefer it if we (Society) were more succinct in what we expect from the edu-system and then let schools/teachers work out how to do it….in short, if we started to treat teachers as professionals.

    Like

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