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Since the 1980s, the English education system has been a site of experimentation and reform, with test-driven accountability as the predominant form of quality control. The high-stakes accountability system in England is the result of a complex articulation of standardized assessments, end-of-secondary high-stakes examination, and a consequential inspection system that combines public display of performance data via rating systems and league tables. In primary, Standard Assessment Tests (SATs) in English and math are used to measure pupils’ progress between Year 2 and Year 6, and schools’ effectiveness are determined on the basis of these scores, which are publicly available. In addition, there is a range of ad hoc focused tests or “checks” scattered across primary schooling, such as the Phonics Screening Check (Year 1) and the Multiplication Tables Check (Year 4). The main assessment for KS4 is a tiered exit qualification known as General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSEs), which determine school and college sixth-form options (A levels) and subsequent eligibility for university courses. As data and metrics are increasingly privileged over teacher expertise and professional judgment, schools face tremendous pressure to comply with mounting data and inspection demands, resulting in homogenous and rigid practices. Arguably, recent policy reforms at both ends of compulsory schooling, such as the Reception Baseline Assessment (2020) and Progress 8 (2016), were introduced with the aim of mitigating some of the negative effects that layers of test-based accountability had on teaching and learning. However, a closer look at the internal logic of these reforms reveals further intensification of output-driven pedagogy at the expense of equity, well-being, and justice.

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School governors play an important part in the democratic governance of education in a number of countries and forming a middle tier of accountability between state and schools. They carry out their role in a voluntary capacity. School governors are drawn from a range of backgrounds, including parents, school teachers, local politicians, business people, and professional groupings. They have a variety of responsibilities, depending on the country in which they are based. Their responsibilities can include, among others: developing a strategy for the school, monitoring the school budget, setting disciplinary strategy, setting school fees. Some members of the school board are elected, while others are co-opted or serve in an ex officio function—for example, head teachers. Political, social, and economic changes—based largely on shifts to the political economy of capitalism facilitated via organizations such as The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund since the late 1970s—have resulted in changes across education systems, leading to the globalization, privatization, and deregulation of public policy as a whole, and have affected the role and competencies of school governors. This is particularly the case in England and South Africa.