‘I am not a “good” teacher; I don’t do all their paperwork’: Teacher resistance to accountability demands in the English Skills for Life strategy

KARIN TUSTING


Abstract

In 2000, Skills for Life, a new strategy for literacy, numeracy and
language education was introduced in England. It included new core
curricula, tough new targets for learner achievement, and significantly
increased accountability requirements for teachers and colleges. Many
teachers found aspects of this new system difficult. This paper analyses
interviews carried out with teachers in 2002 to identify the reasons underlying
their resistance. In the interviews, teachers consistently drew on a welldefined
discourse which defined ‘good’ teaching as teaching that is responsive
to the learner, negotiating teaching in response to learners’ goals and
characteristics, and flexible in the teaching moment. Resistance arose when
aspects of the centralised strategy were perceived to constrain teachers’ ability
to respond to learners in this way, being driven more by external demands
and advance planning than by responsiveness to learners. Teachers
attempted to develop strategies to maintain responsiveness while working
within the new strategy.

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