Hyper Accountability In Teaching

Hyper-accountability is a word often used to describe the landscape in teaching, and it refers to the fact that teachers are held accountable for every tiny thing that goes wrong in a lesson and are punished accordingly.

Accountability is important, in any job, and it’s lack of it results in bad and declining standards and a lack of motivation to produce good work. It can also get more serious than that, so that when there are high level breaches of professional duty, there is no one to hold accountable at all, and someone walks away free after having done a very bad deed.

However, the current system tries to catch innocent teachers out doing something wrong, rather than building on successes, which has the effect of forcing teachers to perform well through fear rather than inspiration. This not only causes the endemic mental health problems present in education, and allows bullying to take place under the guise of ‘raising standards’ but it creates a very negative place for students to learn.

There is an assumption that teachers are interested only in cutting corners, producing little work and putting in zero effort and that the hyper-accountability present stops them from doing that. In reality, teachers are largely passionate professionals who entered this career path wanting to do good in society.

It is possible to hold people to account in a positive way, through attributing praise for good work and inspiring teachers to teach well, and I think this would be a much easier way to operate in the vast majority of cases. It is however all about balance. Some negative accountability would need to stay present in order to prevent a minority from abusing any trust placed in them.

Trust is the key word here as well, in that hyper-accountability like this shows very clearly that teachers are not trusted in the slightest. This undermines the status of teachers, particularly in the community outside of the school, by creating the assumption that they are all guilty until proven innocent.

Teachers are, because of this, now hyper-vulnerable to the system which will always try to catch them out before it tries to praise them. Perfectly adequate teachers are hounded out of the profession every day because they are accused of poor practice, which is the educational equivalent of calling out a witch.

As an extension of this, teachers are often held accountable for things which are beyond their control. I have met teachers who in lesson observations have been criticised for equipment failures, the ‘broadness’ of their accent and even for people interrupting their lesson by walking through to get to another room.

The GTC conducted a survey of accountability in 2009, which showed that most teachers thought the performance management system was flawed and was too open to bias and manipulation. They associated accountability, not with giving them a chance to prove themselves or to raise standards, but with burden, sanctions and a lack of trust.

Are you being held accountable for something that is beyond your control? Are you being excessively criticised, or are the results of your performance management being manipulated to make you look bad? It happened to me too, so email me if you want to talk.

Related post: Details revealed of senior managers increased power to sack teachers


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