- Children, Schools and Families Committee Contents

Memorandum submitted by the General Teaching Council for England (GTCE)


    — The GTCE's work on accountability in teaching suggests the importance of a number of key themes for consideration: — accountability needs to make a stronger contribution to practice improvement; — the concept of professional accountability to the public interest needs to be strengthened;

    — as schools build further capacity and provide opportunities for children and young people, and their parents to be more active partners in learning, there may be more scope for schools to pursue locally determined outcomes, and

    — there needs to be some rebalancing of the different spheres of accountability.

    — The proposal that satisfactory schools are inspected every three years is reasonable. The GTCE does not support unannounced inspections.

    — The more adept schools are at self-evaluation, the greater case they will make for setting their own priorities on the basis of sound evidence and the perspectives of their stakeholders.

    — The Government should give schools greater responsibility for accounting to parents via the school profile (and its successors) on individual and collective pupil progress.

    — School self-evaluation could have a stronger focus on well-being, and tackling inequalities. The proposed changes to the relationship between children's trusts, children and young people's plans and schools provide an impetus for a clearer focus at the local level on school's contribution to wider shared goals for children and young people.

    — The limitations of contextual value added (CVA) scores need to be recognised if they are not to have an unfairly negative impact on schools working with some of the most disadvantaged children and young people.

    — It is unlikely that a single tool can meet the necessarily diverse accountability needs of all stakeholders. However, the GTCE supports the focus in the School Report Card on the school's contribution to narrowing achievement gaps and the desire to encapsulate schools' impact on learning and wider outcomes for children and young people.


  1.  The General Teaching Council for England (GTCE) is the independent professional body for the teaching profession. Its main duties are to register and regulate the teaching profession and to advise the Secretary of State on a range of issues that concern teachers, teaching and learning. The Council acts in the public interest to contribute to raising standards of teaching and learning and the standing of the teaching profession.

2.  Through its register of teachers, its code of conduct and practice and its responsibilities for safeguarding competence and conduct, the Council is itself a player in the accountability framework.

  3.  The Select Committee's focus is the accountability of schools. The GTCE has contributed to the public debate about school accountability, has submitted advice in this area to the Secretary of State and gave written and oral evidence to a previous Select Committee inquiry on the related subject of assessment. We draw on this material to answer some of the key questions of this inquiry. The primary focus of this evidence document is accountability for teaching, for teachers' and schools' contributions to wider outcomes for children and young people, and on the relationships between "account-givers" and service users in education.


  4.  The GTCE is currently undertaking a project on the future of accountability. It is drawing on research and testimony about the existing framework, evidence from other professions, and developments in local accountability for children's services, as well as material associated with the Government's wider agenda for the reform of public services. We will keep the Select Committee informed of its outcomes. We expect our initial thinking to have been developed by the end of 2009 after a broad consultation with service users (children and young people and parents), teachers and wider stakeholders.

5.  On the basis of work undertaken to date, the following themes are emerging as issues that the Council will wish to explore and which the Select Committee may wish to consider.

    5.1 The public interest requires an effective framework of accountability but meeting accountability requirements inevitably places demands on resources. It is desirable therefore that accountability should make a stronger contribution to practice improvement, as well as to scrutiny. This might be achieved if scrutiny of teaching practice—whether via external school inspection or other means—became less of a sporadic, stand alone intervention. A continuing relationship between teachers/schools and an external source of challenge and support and which focuses on improvement might achieve this rebalancing. There is a parallel here with the need to ensure that assessment is primarily concerned with supporting pupil learning rather than passing judgements on schools.

    5.2 Teachers need greater clarity about their role in a time of change. To this end the GTCE is consulting on a revised code of conduct and practice which is intended to be more widely used and understood not only by teachers but also by children and young people, parents and other stakeholders in teaching. It will set out the expectations that the public can legitimately have of teachers and that teachers have of themselves. In this way the concept of professional accountability to the public interest can be strengthened. The GTCE is also looking at options for active registration (sometimes referred to in other professions as revalidation, continuing registration or licence to practise) as a possible means by which the currency of teachers' good standing and professional development can be assured and outcomes for pupils enhanced.

    5.3 Parental engagement has a positive impact on children's educational outcomes, and pupils benefit from opportunities to shape their own learning. Schools are already developing their capacity to provide opportunities for children and young people, and their parents to be more active partners in learning. Accountability may need to reflect this change in emphasis, with more scope for schools to pursue locally determined outcomes and to give an account of variance through self evaluation or by other means. Ownership and engagement of users in services is likely to be stronger if their views about what matters in the provision of services are reflected in the accountability framework. The GTCE welcomes recent developments in school accountability such as proportionate inspection, the use of contextual value added (CVA) data, and the use of school self-evaluation as a starting point for external evaluation. We will look at whether it is feasible or desirable for accountability to be more responsive to specific local circumstances.

    5.4 There is a case for rebalancing the different spheres of accountability. The emphasis on institutional accountability at the school level is at variance with the Government's vision for 21st century schools that work towards shared outcomes in partnerships. Schools need to be held to account for their "core business" and for their collaborative contribution to children's well-being—but not in a way that implies that they are responsible for outcomes beyond their control. As the relationship between schools and children's trusts and of schools to the formulation of the children and young people's plan becomes stronger, this may provide the means by which schools can give an account of their contribution to wider outcomes within their locality.


  6.  The GTCE has commissioned a survey seeking teachers' views on the current systems that hold teachers and schools to account. The survey will explore teachers' opinions on the purpose of accountability; what they feel most accountable for; how effective the current systems for accountability are; and how a reformed system might look. The GTCE is happy to share the outcomes of this work with the Select Committee in July 2009.

7.  In addition, the GTCE has commissioned some qualitative research on related themes with teachers across the country. The focus of these discussions will be teachers' day-to-day experience of accountability; their perspectives on the balance between local and national level accountability; their views on the impact that current systems have on both teaching standards and pupil learning; and their ideas for reforming the system.

  8.  The groups will also explore teachers' perceptions of "professional accountability" and the relationship between professional development and being a registered teacher. Teachers will discuss the implications and potential benefits for pupil learning of introducing a requirement for teachers to "re-validate" their skills and expertise as part of their professional registration.



Proportionate inspection

  9.  The Council has consistently supported the proportionate approach to inspection developed since 2004 as part of the wider New Relationship with Schools (NRwS) framework. It is more effective and more cost-effective than what preceded it. The proportionate inspection model depends crucially on the ability to place schools into categories. The proposed clarification from Ofsted on grading criteria for all categories is critical to better public understanding of inspection judgments. For grade 3 schools, it is vital to have clarity about their performance and what the capacity to improve actually means for them.

Frequency of inspections

  10.  The GTCE supports the proposition that good and outstanding schools should be subject to less frequent inspection so that Ofsted can focus resources on the inspection of schools deemed less than satisfactory, including those in special measures or with a notice to improve.

11.  The proposal that satisfactory schools are inspected every three years is reasonable. Ofsted could usefully do more to clarify its perspectives on "satisfactory" schools as head teachers report continuing perceptions of sub-divisions within the category. Schools would also welcome transparency about which "satisfactory" schools will receive a follow up visit. School improvement partners are well placed to contribute evidence about schools at risk of falling below the "satisfactory" category.

Notice of inspections

  12.  The GTCE does not support unannounced inspections and cautions that if Ofsted goes ahead with this proposition careful impact assessment will be essential.

Training of inspectors

  13.  The GTCE's recent advice on the implementation of the race equality duty says that schools need more support to promote equality and meet the equality duties. It advocates mandatory training and development for all Ofsted inspectors on inspecting race equality. This should be refreshed on a regular basis, and clearer guidance provided to head teachers and governors on the expected evidence and areas of questioning during inspection.

School self-evaluation

14.  The Council's 2004 policy advice to the Secretary of State on school self-evaluation (SSE) recommended that for the majority of schools, institutional improvement should, over time, rely less on external inspections and more on self-evaluative processes which could be quality assured with a lighter external touch than the Section 10 inspection framework. The Council welcomes the developments that have taken place in this direction.

15.  The GTCE welcomes Ofsted's acknowledgement that schools have "increasing confidence in the ways in which (they) use performance data to establish their priorities and evaluate their progress". This is a finding of the 2006 NFER evaluation of Section 5 inspections, commissioned by Ofsted, in which participants identified an improvement in school self-evaluation and the role of the self-evaluation framework in contributing to that improvement. It is confirmed by HMCI in her annual report (2007-08). The 2008 York Consulting evaluation report on the New Relationship with Schools (NRwS) commissioned by the DCSF found that where it is done well, school self-evaluation has led to more focused accountability for improvement in performance among middle managers and teaching staff.

16.  The same evaluation also reports that the self evaluation form (SEF) is still often completed in a descriptive rather than an evaluative way. Schools may benefit from greater exposure, in an appropriate form, to some of the work on results—or outcomes-based accountability that is now being widely used in local authorities. It is thought to have focused attention on outcomes as distinct from inputs and activities, and on user perspectives of success.

  17.  The more adept schools are at self-evaluation, the greater case they will make for setting their own priorities on the basis of sound evidence and the perspectives of their stakeholders. This will need to be reflected in school accountability and more generally in the ways in which local and national government and agencies offer support and challenge to schools.

National Tests

  18.  The GTCE welcomes the removal of Key Stage 3 testing and hopes that it will lead to further reforms to the assessment system, because of the impact on children's learning, well being and their access to a broad and balanced curriculum.

19.  As part of the school's accountability to its stakeholders, parents and pupils should be entitled to be fully and regularly informed about progress and attainment, with information being wider than a report of levels and grades. Information must be provided in a timely way so that it can be used as the basis for any improvement strategy.

  20.  As part of the New Relationship with Schools (NRwS), the GTCE believes that the Government should give schools with greater responsibility for accounting to parents via the school profile (and its successors) on individual and collective pupil progress. This would include assessment information and draw on school self-evaluation and inspection findings. The GTCE is committed to this school-derived model of accountability and believes that it will be of more value to parents than the de-contextualised and incomplete comparisons between schools that are published in performance tables.

  21.  The increased investment in assessment for learning, the use of an increasing range of assessment tests/tasks by teachers, and the development of moderation processes in schools would provide the means for teachers to develop a relationship with parents based on a richer and better informed dialogue.

Schools' contribution to wider well-being among children and young people

  22.  The GTCE welcomes Government recognition of the role of effective teaching and learning in influencing ECM outcomes, such as increasing resilience, raising expectations and reducing disaffection among children and young people. It also welcomes the acknowledgement[1] that schools cannot be held singularly accountable for outcomes over which they have limited or only indirect influence; for example child obesity or teenage pregnancy rates.

23.  The GTCE is concerned that the well-being indicators proposed will make it difficult to factor out other influences in order to evaluate the contribution of the school. As it stands, it is not clear that the indicators could adequately capture the multiplicity of factors affecting outcomes. National benchmarking based on these indicators would therefore serve little positive purpose and could lead to invalid comparisons between schools. An over-reliance on what is quantifiable could devalue the more nuanced and insightful analysis based on qualitative data that many schools currently undertake via the School Evaluation Form (SEF).

  24.  The GTCE commends two approaches to the Select Committee. First, school self-evaluation could have a stronger focus on well-being, and tackling inequalities. In this regard it should be for schools to determine which data they need to collect as well as the use to which they put it. Ofsted's role would be to judge whether data is being put to effective use by each school. Second, the proposed changes to the relationship between children's trusts, children and young people's plans and schools provide an impetus for a clearer focus at the local level on schools' contribution to wider shared goals for children and young people.

The school's contextual value added scores

  25.  CVA data are widely regarded as preferable to raw data but their limitations need to be recognised. Otherwise they can have an unfairly negative impact on schools working with some of the most disadvantaged children and young people, such as highly mobile populations and others with disrupted school attendance.

The School Report Card

26.  The GTCE has responded to the DCSF/Ofsted consultation on the school report card proposal and its response is appended for the Committee's information.

27.  In brief, the Council doubts that a single tool can meet the necessarily diverse accountability needs of stakeholders such as parents, inspectors and local and national government. There are matters for which schools should be publicly accountable that are of little interest to parents, and it is important that the areas in which parents are interested are not reported in such a way as to give an over-simplistic or partial picture.

  28.  There is a contradiction between the vision set out in the DCSF document 21st century schools, which sees schools as pivotal to early intervention; acting as a hub for communities and involved in diverse networks and partnerships to realise wider outcomes for children and young people, and the notion of a school report card that might or might not provide a description of partnerships in which the school is involved.

  29.  Notwithstanding these concerns, the Council welcomed some features of the report card proposals, including:

    — The inclusion of parents' and pupils' views—which the GTCE believes should be separately reported.

    — The focus on the school's contribution to narrowing achievement gaps.

    — The notion of parental access to more up to date information on a school than sporadic inspection can provide.

    — The desire better to encapsulate the school impact on learning and wider outcomes for children and young people.

  30.  The GTCE would be disappointed if the School Report Card was used to compare schools in a proxy league table with the primary focus on attainment at the expense of wider outcomes. The use of an overall grade, representing a summative assessment of the school's performance, could be misleading.


  31.  The Select Committee's focus on accountability is welcome. It is important to acknowledge the significant changes in accountability that have already been made, at the same time as the Committee asks searching questions about the fitness for purpose of the current accountability framework. Notwithstanding the emphasis placed on schools, the GTCE encourages the Committee to give some attention more particularly to the accountability of teachers and for teaching. The GTCE further hopes that the Committee's work will help develop thinking on appropriate forms of collective accountability of schools and others for wider outcomes for children and young people.


  1.  A note on evidence collected by the GTCE on parents' perspectives on school accountability to parents and school responsiveness to parents.

2.  GTCE response to the DCSF/OFSTED consultation—a school report card.[2]




  1.  Parents in a study commissioned by the GTC[3] said that they wanted communication with their child's school, particularly to alert them when problems may be arising. They were critical of the information they received, saying that test results were inadequately explained and that end of term reports contained too many generic phrases.

2.  There was, in parents' opinion, no substitute for face to face dialogue with their child's teacher, and written progress reports provided they were personalised to the child were also popular.

3.  Primary school teachers were thought to be in a much better position to provide rounded information compared with secondary school teachers, essentially because of the amount of contact time that a teacher had with any one child at primary school.

  4.  Parents wanted more than the end of key stage tests are able to offer. As well as information on their child's academic abilities parents were keen to have a holistic picture of their child's progress that took into account the physical, social and creative aspects of development.

  5.  Parents recognised the need for a national benchmark against which individual pupil and teacher performance could be judged, but they did not consider that Ofsted reports and national league tables gave them the information they need to make a judgement about the quality of teaching at their child's school. The most recent survey of parental views on assessment for accountability purposes by the NAHT[4] found that 75% of parents surveyed thought league table status was not a real measure of the education provided for their children and over 70% wanted league tables abolished. More than 90% thought that teacher assessment should be used instead.

  6.  Parents in the GTC study wanted specific information about their child's development including that which:

    — Reflected the school as a whole, not just its academic performance;

    — Provided an assessment of the quality of teaching in their child's school;

    — Took into account any factors that might affect the school's performance, such as the use of supply teachers, and

    — Was set in a localised context, drawing on similar assessments of local comparator schools and reflected the school's relationship with the local community.


  1.  In January 2008 the GTC commissioned a report on Engaging Parents in their Children's Learning.[5] It was a qualitative research study involving 72 parents' attending six workshops.

2.  The report found that, while many parents think it is important to be involved in their child's learning, they often do not think they have the range of knowledge and skills needed to engage fully with their child's education.

  3.  In a separate survey the GTC[6] found that teachers strongly agreed that parents have a positive impact on pupil achievement and thought that teachers should work in partnership with parents. However a significant minority of teachers reported that they had limited experience of engaging parents in some of the ways that teachers value most, for instance in enabling parents to learn about learning.

  4.  Although many parents spoke about the importance of supporting their child's learning there were mixed opinions about how they wanted to, or could be, engaged.

    "Well, to be honest, I think it is for me to bring up my children correctly but it is for the school to teach them the things they need to know. Not me."

  5.   The majority were happy to be involved by helping with homework and attending parents' evenings but they felt there was a range of barriers preventing them from being fully engaged. These include practical issues such as time constraint, possible negative reactions from their child (particularly secondary school pupils) and concerns about having the skills to support their child.

  6.  Parents and carers felt that schools expected them to support their child's learning and though schools assumed they would know how to do this, although this was not necessarily the case.

    "I have never been told by my daughter's school what they expect from me. I've never been given a list or a brief. I don't know if anybody else has."

  7.   Many parents and carers from all social backgrounds found it difficult to understand some of their children's school work. Parents and carers of primary school children, for instance, found methods to teach maths unfamiliar, while parents and carers of secondary school pupils felt it was difficult to keep up with their child's learning.

    "I have fights because I tell him, 'No, it's this way' and he'll go 'But we don't learn it like that, we learn it like this' and I'm like 'Well I can't help you then because I don't know how to do it that way.'"

  8.   Parents and carers were interested in the idea of sessions run by teachers that would help them understand the curriculum, teaching methods and how children learn.

    "Her form teacher just chose small groups of parents to go through everything that they're learning. It was videos and explaining the way that they teach now, as opposed to the way they used to."

  9.  Whilst the majority of teachers thought that parents and carers supporting their child's learning would have a positive effect of that child's achievement, some teachers had no experience of certain ways of engaging parents in their children's learning. For instance, although many teachers said they valued "learning to learn" skills, one in five teachers said they had no experience of providing opportunities for parents to learn about learning. Over a third of teacher respondents said they had no experience of supporting parents in improving their own subject knowledge.

  10.  More primary school teachers than secondary school teachers were positive about how to support parents in children's learning. More secondary school teachers than primary had no experience of supporting parents and carers. Parents and carers with children at primary school thought that the relationship they had with school benefited from "open door" policies and more opportunities to speak to teachers, whereas once a child was at secondary school contact with teachers was reduced to formal times of consultation.

February 2009

1   DCSF/Ofsted: Indicators of a school's contribution to well-being consultation. Back

2   Not printed. Back

3   BMRB Report: GTC Parental Engagement-Pupil AssessmentBack

4   NAHT Parental Survey February 2009. Back

5   BMRB: Engaging Parents in their Children's Learning: January 2008Back

6   GTC Annual Survey of Teachers 2007. Back

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