Skip to main content

In increasingly challenging times in schools accountability also continues to increase.

To meet the demands of the targets that we are set as teachers and leaders, there is a need to balance the degree to which we challenge ourselves and others and the level of support we require to meet that challenge.

 Every week teachers and school leaders need to ‘square the triangle’ of challenge, support and accountability in order to fulfil the demands of their role. These three factors can often be in conflicting ‘hemispheres’.


 a)    Challenge – success rarely comes when individuals stay within their comfort zone, yet too much challenge can be demotivating.

b)    Support – in order to deal effectively with change everybody benefits from the support of others, but we cannot let ourselves rely too much on other people to achieve our personal goals.

c)    Accountability – teachers and school leaders are public servants who are given great responsibility to educate the next generation and to manage resources effectively. However, the official systems that guarantee this accountability can sometimes be heavy handed or over-bureaucratic.

How to square the triangle

This triangle has at its centre the responsibility to deliver on the goals associated with the role that you perform. Responsibility is seen here as ‘the ability to respond’ from an internal focus of control. In other words, being discerning about what you have control or influence over and acting on that, and what is beyond your control or remit, which is that which you need to accept as immutable.  It is about focussing on the core, actionable priorities and being a solutions-focussed leader. Related to that responsibility are three elements which the model argues need to be at different times and with different people, variously balanced:

  • Accountability relates to the degree to which you are held to account for your actions and outcomes.
  • Challenge is the degree to which you stretch yourself and those around you in order to deliver results

  • Support is the level of help, advice, mentoring, coaching, training, resourcing, etc. that you give and that you need to deliver on the expectations.

Using this simple model as a starting point for a coaching discussion can be very fruitful. One suggested route for its use involves using the following questions:

  • How do you define responsibility in your role?  What are the controllable and influenceable factors here and what is outside of your gift?
  • How do you currently balance the three points of the triangle in getting the best form your colleagues?
  • Considering a specific issue relating to staff performance, with whom have you balanced this triangle well and with whom could you balance it even better in the future?
  • What might you need to ask for in relation to this triangle from your line manager?

The spectre of Ofsted looms over all of us who work in UK schools and colleges.

The requirement to meet the standards laid down by the government and audited by Ofsted can often drive the triangle discussed above.

At Vision for Learning we have tamed an Ofsted inspector and she is running a brilliant course to help you square the triangle.  Introducing Alison Broomfield, former Solihull College leader, who now works as a trainer, Ofsted Inspector and Coach.  Click here for more information about her public course which is all about getting through Ofsted with flying colours, AND staying sane!

If you are not currently receiving this FREE journal and would like to click here