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A question of balance : accountability and autonomy in twenty-first century English state schools

Godfrey, Rosemary Patricia


Rosemary Patricia Godfrey


David Plowright


Accountability has always been important in taxpayer-funded English state schools. This accountability has become more complex over the past 30 years as policymakers have introduced market forces into public education.

The Education Reform Act, (, 1988) and subsequent legislation changed schools from being’ administrative units of their LEA’ (Department for Education [DfE], 1992: 7) into autonomous, self-managing institutions. In the former, head teachers were managers ensuring compliance with the implementation of national or local policy directives whilst the leaders of autonomous schools are able to make their own decisions about an increasing range of management functions, including school self-improvement (DfE, 2010a:73).

However, despite these advances, school leaders were not able to make their own decisions about how their school was to be held accountable. The imposition of a rigorous national inspection framework (Education [Schools] Act, 1992) meant that schools were held accountable for the standards required by government. This school and system-focused approach relied on intervention to bring about the rapid improvement needed in underperforming schools. This thesis examines the fitness for purpose of this regime for successful schools that have earned their autonomy.

This research uses a case study of one successful secondary school’s attempt to introduce the balanced scorecard (BSC), which is an alternative accountability methodology not commonly used in schools, although, it is popular in the business world. The research identifies that governors with experience of using the balanced scorecard(BSC) in their places of work successfully modified it for use in a school setting. The findings also indicate that training in a wider range of accountability approaches, including those from outside education, would provide school leaders with a wider range of accountability tools from which to select the one best suited to their institution.


Godfrey, R. P. (2015). A question of balance : accountability and autonomy in twenty-first century English state schools. (Thesis). University of Hull. Retrieved from

Thesis Type Thesis
Deposit Date Oct 5, 2015
Publicly Available Date Feb 23, 2023
Keywords Education
Public URL
Additional Information Centre for Educational Studies, The University of Hull
Award Date Jan 1, 2015


Thesis (2.4 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© 2015 Godfrey, Rosemary Patricia. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

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