What is Accreditation and what is the purpose behind it?
Accreditation is a process under which a school shows that it has achieved high standards of professional performance in education and has a commitment to continuous improvement.
The purpose behind accreditation is continuous school improvement. At its heart is the understanding that schools are on a continuum of improvement and that it is a continuous process.
There are many accrediting agencies. Some are region specific and some are transnational.
There are three main areas that are considered.
1. The purpose and direction of the school
a. What is its mission statement and guiding statements?
b. What do its stakeholders believe that it stands for?
c. How has it changed its students, from when they entered the school to when they left?
2. Student Learning
a. At the heart of every school is the student. Student learning is guided by the curriculum. The curriculum encompasses the following:
i. The written curriculum
1. What is being documented.
2. How is it articulated, horizontally and vertically?
3. What is its scope and sequence?
ii. The taught curriculum
1. How do the teachers “teach”?
2. What are the different pedagogical methods that teachers are employing to enhance student learning?
3. How are faculty supported in their practice?
iii. The learned curriculum
1. What do the students learn?
2. How do the students learn?
3. What impediments are there to their learning?
4. What support are they given in their learning, for all types of educational needs?
iv. The hidden curriculum
1. What values are the students being taught that are there, but not explicitly expressed?
v. The excluded curriculum
1. What are the students deliberately not being taught?
3. Student Wellbeing
a. Students physical, mental and social health is a critical component of any school at the forefront of education. How does the school manage the wellbeing of students? What medical support and counselling provision is there?
b. A crucial component of this is child safeguarding.
While these are the overarching strands that run through all schools, they manifest themselves through the different aspects of a school’s being.
Fundamental are the mission statement and guiding statements. These define how a school sees itself and how it manifests that vision of itself in its undertakings. How are the guiding statements developed? How is involved in their development? How often are they reviewed? How do they affect student admissions, staff recruitment and retention and professional development? Are they appropriate to the school’s context?
We then move on to the governance and leadership of the school. Critical in this is the work of the board and the Senior Learning Team (SLT).
How is the board appointed?
How long are their appointments for?
What are their roles?
What training have they had for the work of a board?
What is the decision-making process?
This then leads onto the role of the Head and the SLT.
How is the head empowered to enact the vision inherent in the mission statement?
How does the board support this work?
How is the work of the head appraised?
What are the roles of the SLT and how do they understand the mission and guiding statements?
How is the school strategic plan created and reviewed?
Who is responsible for different aspects of it being actioned?
Moving through the curriculum and pedagogical matters, we turn to faculty and support staff.
How are they appointed and how is the vision of the school relayed to them?
How does the school know that all are working towards the same goals?
What is the appraisal process and how is professional development coordinated and in line with the pedagogical strategic plan?
Recruitment and retention of high-quality staff is crucial to successful school development and improvement and it goes hand in hand with staff development and empowerment.
The accreditation cycle looks in depth at these and other issues, evaluating the school against internationally agreed benchmarks.
It is a highly complex process that results in a thorough and contextualized report on not only what a school is doing well but also on areas for improvement and development.
Authored by: Ali Yusuf, December 2019.