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Accountability and sanctions in English schools

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This paper focuses on accountability in school-based education in England. It explores notions of accountability and proposes a new framework for its analysis. It then identifies a number of types of accountability which are present in school-based education, and discusses each in terms of who is accountable to whom and for what. It goes on to examine the sanctions associated with each type of accountability and some possible effects of each type. School performance cross-cuts virtually all facets of accountability, but is fundamental to hierarchical and market accountability where it is associated with a high likelihood of severe sanctions. This, it is argued, means that schools are likely to focus on these forms of accountability as opposed to participative or network accountabilities that involve collaboration with others. The final section proposes that there is a case for accountability systems to focus more broadly on a variety of processes and outcomes related to the overall goals of education. The existing regime in England is heavily focused on hierarchical and market accountability: a greater focus on participative and network accountability may foster a less individualistic approach to education and greater social cohesion.

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