On 4 May 2018, the DfE released their ‘Principles for a clear and simple accountability system’, which aims to provide schools with greater clarity and transparency on the accountability system – the document sets out high-level principles for how the accountability system will work.

This guidance breaks down the need-to-know information for schools, ensuring you are aware of the how the government plans to shape schools’ accountability.


The principles


The DfE’s overarching principle is that accountability matters – every child deserves a great education and they will step in if pupils’ education is suffering. Nevertheless, the DfE has acknowledged that schools need more clarity on when they will be subject to action, the consequences of the accountability system and the roles of different organisations.

The DfE aims to achieve these principles by addressing a number of different areas.




  • The DfE will only mandate academy conversion, leadership change or re-brokerage of a school on grounds of educational underperformance if Ofsted has judged it ‘inadequate’.
  • The regional schools commissioner’s (RSC’s) role in intervention is to ensure inadequate schools are matched with a strong MAT that can support improvement in the school.
  • Schools will not be forced to convert to academies – this will only be done in instances of school failure as judged by Ofsted.




  • The DfE will also identify schools that have not failed but are showing signs that they need support and will help these schools to access support.
  • A clear threshold will be set for triggering support – the floor and coasting standards will be scrapped and replaced with a single data standard. The DfE will consult on how this will operate and consider whether a judgement of ‘requires improvement’ from Ofsted should also trigger an offer of support.
  • Support will come from an MAT, an accredited system leader or a school improvement provider. RSCs will help identify and commission support; however, schools will make the final decision about the support they want.
  • Schools above the threshold will be free to do the best for their pupils without interference from the government; however, they will still be able to access support should they choose to do so.


Working with schools


  • Schools will no longer be inspected by RSC representatives.
  • When identifying and commissioning support, RSCs will approach MATs and LAs, not individual schools (unless the school is a single academy trust) – where relevant, approaches will be made in conjunction with the ESFA.
  • The DfE will be more transparent about how they make decisions about schools, especially in relation to the role of headteacher boards. The records of headteacher boards’ discussions and advance notification of which schools they discuss will be made available to make the system more transparent.


What’s next?


The DfE will work with the sector to refine the principles and turn these into a consultation which will be released in Autumn 2018. As the principles will be part of a consultation, they may be subject to change – we will keep you up-to-date with any changes to the accountability system.

Alongside this, the DfE will develop a parallel regime that will allow for a more rigorous oversight and challenge of financial performance in academy trusts – again, we will ensure you are informed of any changes.




DfE (2018) ‘Principles for a clear and simple accountability system’


Related terms: school performance, school improvement