Professional Standards
Maintaining world-class schools
Self-evaluation and accountability

Professional Standards

Information on professional standards that apply to practitioners in Wales can be found on the Welsh Government web page Professional Standards for Teaching and Leadership.

Maintaining world-class schools

The NASUWT maintains that securing high outcomes for all children and young people means that action is needed to:

  • provide a broad, balanced and relevant curriculum experience fit for the 21st century;

  • ensure parity of esteem between academic and vocational pathways and the cognitive, emotional, cultural, creative, ethical and social dimensions of learning;

  • require all state-funded schools and colleges to work together to secure a comprehensive curriculum entitlement for all 14 to 19 year-olds;

  • equip children and young people to be research-driven problem solvers;

  • extend entitlements for all children and young people to high-quality academic and vocational education, coupled with equality of access to high-quality, practical, hands-on, work-based learning opportunities;

  • refocus the accountability system to reflect and support the expectation that all young people should remain in education and training until the age of 18;

  • restore the morale of the teaching profession by tackling poor employment practices, including workload, securing professional entitlements and respect for teachers, and refocusing the efforts of teachers and headteachers on their core responsibilities for teaching and leading teaching and learning;

  • establish a Masters-level profession and raise the pay of teachers in recognition of the increased knowledge and skills that they bring to the job; and

  • ensure access to high-quality professional development for all teachers throughout their careers.

Self-evaluation and accountability

It is right that, as a publicly funded universal service, the education system should be subject to an appropriate, constructive and proportionate system of accountability.

Whilst it is right for schools within the system to be held to account, they must be held accountable for the right things. There must be an accountability system that is fit for purpose and that secures public trust and confidence in public education.

The NASUWT has developed the principles that should underpin national and school-level systems of evaluation, improvement and accountability. Applying these principles would engender public confidence and help teachers and school leaders to focus appropriately on providing high-quality teaching and learning for every pupil.

  • Systems of accountability must not be designed or operate in ways that could undermine teachers’ professional status, integrity or commitment.

  • Accountability systems should also recognise that, as professionals, teachers have particular expertise which means that they may be best placed to make judgements about the quality and effectiveness of particular aspects of education.

  • Accountability systems should value the range of ways in which schools help learners to engage in learning, progress and achieve. Teachers should be actively engaged in decisions about the design and implementation of curricula and assessment and the related accountability arrangements.

  • Accountability judgements should be holistic. Teachers and school leaders should contribute to decisions about improving the quality of provision for pupils.

  • Accountability arrangements should complement efforts to improve progress and outcomes of pupils. Teachers and school leaders should have an entitlement to high-quality CPD and time within the working day to access such CPD.

  • Accountability should recognise teachers’ professional knowledge and expertise rather than focus on penalising teachers.

  • Teachers should be encouraged to work together to develop and share effective practice. Collaborative working, within and beyond the school, should be recognised as an important form of CPD.

  • The collective voice of teachers should be recognised as of critical importance when forming judgements about the quality and effectiveness of education provision.

  • Pupil voice’ should not be used in ways which undermine the professional status, integrity or judgements of teachers and school leaders.

  • Accountability systems should not place unnecessary or excessive workload and bureaucratic burdens on teachers and school leaders.

  • The public and the teaching profession should have confidence in the judgements made. Inspection and accountability systems respect the professionalism of teachers, do not impose excessive and unnecessary workload burdens, and provide genuine support to the work of schools in raising standards and promoting educational achievement.

The NASUWT asserts that at a system level, both nationally and locally, there needs to be a greater interest in understanding the health of our system of public education in the context of how it secures society’s obligations to children and young people. This task cannot be reduced to quantifying the performance of individual schools, individual teachers or individual pupils. It is about examining the prospects of the system as a whole.

Many of the problems that NASUWT members encounter are not due to the accountability framework or inspection guidance per se, but arise because individual inspectors, challenge advisors and school leaders interpret the framework and guidance in ways that were not intended. Therefore, it is vital that any new focus on self-evaluation is also accompanied by monitoring practice in schools closely and continues to ensure that problems are identified and challenged robustly.


It is apparent from experience in Wales and elsewhere that an overemphasis on summative assessment crowds out space for high-quality formative assessment.

In a recent response to a Welsh Government consultation, the NASUWT set out that reducing curricular prescription will not, of itself, secure enhanced scope for teachers to make use of their professional discretion. Schools will retain significant power to impose curricular and assessment approaches on teachers in classrooms.

Assessment procedures and self-evaluation should not get in the way of teaching and learning and inhibit creative curriculum delivery. Fit-for-purpose curriculum frameworks should ensure that teachers can make effective use of their professional skills, knowledge and expertise to meet the needs of learners.

However, reducing the level of prescription in the curriculum will not necessarily secure greater scope for teachers to make use of their professional judgement, as the way in which they undertake their work is, in practice, under the day-to-day scrutiny and oversight of headteachers and other senior staff.

The NASUWT is aware of many arrangements in schools where leaders work to ensure that teachers can make appropriate use of their professional autonomy, set within the context of their schools’ strategic development objectives and how the work of individual teachers contributes to the achievement of these objectives. However, it is evident that such an approach is not adopted in all circumstances.


The NASUWT believes that inspection should be developmental and supportive.

Inspection has an essential role to play in any school accountability system as it provides a more holistic and rounded view of the achievements of schools and their areas for future development. It is evident that current arrangements remain profoundly high stakes in nature, can act to distort curriculum priorities in schools and often add significantly to the workload burdens of teachers and school leaders.

There is a need to shift away from the emphasis on performance data, which should allow inspectors to take account of a provider’s context when making a judgement about quality.

In addition, the Welsh Government has stated that internal self-evaluation will be subject to several layers of authentication. From the perspective of teachers, this would mean oversight of their work by school leaders, local authorities, regional consortia and Estyn.

The NASUWT’s experience in Wales and elsewhere has been that the location of self-evaluation within a high-stakes school accountability framework results in practices at school level that are workload-intensive and highly bureaucratic as a result of a perceived requirement in schools to provide extensive evidence to support schools’ stated descriptions of their performance.

The Union notes that this was also a concern express by Professor Donaldson in A Learning Inspectorate:

Self-evaluation could become bureaucratic and/or an end in itself, absorbing energy and detracting from the mission of the school and actions that might yield greater benefits for its pupils. Self-evaluation should be integral to successful improvement and not an add-on.

There are concerns that there is little emphasis in the inspection arrangements on teacher and headteacher workload. Unlike proposals for changes to inspection frameworks elsewhere, there does not appear to be an acknowledgement of the relationship between workload and staff stress and wellbeing. The Union believes that the following are critical to ensuring staff wellbeing and should be reflected in any training of inspectors:

  • recognition of the inextricable link between high-quality education and decent pay and conditions for staff;

  • excessive workload and pupil indiscipline are tackled, with clear measures in place to prevent unnecessary workload and ensure positive pupil behaviour;

  • management practices provide clear evidence that leaders are proactive in creating a positive working environment and good working conditions;

  • teachers are treated with dignity and respect and are recognised and rewarded as highly skilled professionals.

Any judgement regarding the effectiveness of school management must include the extent to which workload, stress and staff wellbeing are managed. School leaders should be paying particular attention to the development of staff and inspectors will need to consider how well school leaders and managers identify and address these issues and how this impacts on practice and outcomes across the school.


The NASUWT has called on the Welsh Government to:

  • initiate a delay in the implementation of the new curriculum and associated accountability and assessment frameworks to allow space for a full and effective recovery from the health crisis;

  • implement meaningful measures to ensure that schools reduce teacher workload;

  • ensure that local authorities have the means and powers to bring about real change;

  • work with the NASUWT on manageable assessment and improvement strategies;

  • work with the NASUWT to initiate a strategy for implementation of the new curriculum;

  • ensure that all teachers have access to high-quality professional development opportunities throughout their careers.


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