2019 Autumn Term 2

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

ASCL Influence

An update from ASCL Director of Policy, Julie McCulloch, on the work and impact of ASCL’s Policy Team. Expand

Working on your behalf to influence government policy.

An update from ASCL Director of Policy, Julie McCulloch, on the work and impact of ASCL’s Policy Team.

I don’t often mention the B-word in these updates, but over the last few months the ramifications of our impending departure from the EU have begun to be felt across both Westminster and our schools and colleges. 

A whole new Brexit-focused team has been set up at the DfE, with civil servants churning out guidance for schools and colleges in the event of a no-deal exit. I’m grateful to ASCL members who have let us know whether or not you’re finding this guidance useful, and what more support you need. Rest assured we’re feeding this back to the DfE and will keep members fully informed on developments to the best of our ability.

But, outside of the Brexit bubble, life goes on. Here’s a flavour of some of the policy work we’ve been involved in over the last three months.

The Forgotten Third

The final report of our Forgotten Third Commission was successfully launched at an event in London at the beginning of September – see www.ascl.org.uk/ForgottenThird

The commission’s recommendations, and particularly its call for a new ‘Passport in English’ to replace GCSE English language, have generated significant interest among policymakers and other stakeholders. The recommendations of the commission, set up as an independent body, were formally adopted as ASCL policy at our October Council meeting.

We plan to build on the work of the commission over the coming months by convening expert groups to consider in more detail about what a ‘Passport in English’, and a new approach to assessment at the end of primary school, might look like. 

Party conferences

We attended both the Conservative and Labour party conferences in September. We spoke on panels, attended events, responded to announcements and met with a broad range of stakeholders and influencers.

The focus of announcements at the Labour conference was on their proposed ‘abolition’ (more truthfully ‘reform’) of Ofsted and their desire to ‘integrate’ independent schools into the state system. Our response to both announcements is best summed up in General Secretary Geoff Barton’s blogs on why abolishing private schools is ethically dubious (see https://tinyurl.com/y29uqj87) and why Labour shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water (see https://tinyurl.com/y2798v57).

The Secretary of State’s speech at the Conservative conference focused on post-16 education. He announced his intention to “super-charge further education over the next decade” by establishing a “skills and productivity board” to advise on the skills and qualifications we need, expanding the number of planned Institutes of Technology to bring together FE colleges, universities and employers, and expanding the number of specialist maths schools.

We responded by welcoming any additional focus on post-16 education, but pointed out that the biggest issue in this area is not a lack of choice or expertise, but the chronic underfunding faced by the sector over many years. 

Funding

We also took the opportunity at the Conservative conference, with our partners in the School Cuts Coalition, to unveil analysis of the government’s recent announcements on education funding (www.ascl.org.uk/GovtSpendingPlans). These figures show that over 80% of schools will still have less money per pupil in 2020 in real terms than they did in 2015, and about one-third of schools will see real-terms cuts to their budgets next year due to school costs rising faster than inflation.

We continue to try to strike the right balance between welcoming the much-needed proposed additional funding for our schools and colleges, while making it clear that this is only the first step towards solving the problem. The next phase of our ‘True Cost of Education’ work will focus particularly on the issues of post-16 and high needs funding (www.ascl.org.uk/TrueCost).

Ofsted

As you might imagine, we’ve been keeping a close eye on how the implementation of the new inspection framework is going, and we are grateful to members whose schools and colleges have undergone inspections this term for their feedback and observations. In particular, ASCL Curriculum and Inspection Specialist, Steve Rollett, has been liaising closely with Ofsted over the implications for schools running a two-year Key Stage 3. Ofsted is clear that its focus is on ensuring students receive their full curriculum entitlement, rather than on the length of Key Stage 3 per se. This is clearly, however, a complex and nuanced issue, and one we will continue to monitor and discuss with Ofsted over the coming months.

A blueprint for a socially just education system

This round-up can only ever provide a small window into the work of the ASCL Policy Team. The team has been engaged with many other issues over the last few months, including spotting and working with the DfE to rectify errors in the provisional Progress 8 scores sent to schools, observing pilots of the proposed new Reception Baseline Assessment, attending early meetings on the new government review of SEND, working with both the English and Welsh teacher pay review bodies and submitting responses to consultations on a wide range of subjects (see www.ascl.org.uk/ConsultationResponses).

Finally, we spent some time with ASCL Council in October doing some fascinating thinking concerning the role that education can play in promoting social justice. This is to inform a major new project this year – the publication of a ‘Blueprint for a Socially Just Education System’, a companion piece to our 2015 ‘Blueprint for a Self-improving System’. Council heard from Professor Richard Wilkinson, co-author of bestselling book The Spirit Level: Why equality is better for everyone, about the impact of social inequality on a whole raft of outcomes, including educational performance but also levels of mental illness, life expectancy, obesity, teenage birth and imprisonment rates. We will be spending time over the next few months exploring this issue in more depth. 

Please do let me know if you’d like to find out more, or if you’d like to be involved in this work, at julie.mcculloch@ascl.org.uk


Julie McCulloch
ASCL Director of Policy 
@juliecmcculloch

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In the news

ASCL has been quoted widely in the media over the recent period on a range of issues. Expand

ASCL has been quoted widely in the media over the recent period on a range of issues.

We launched the final report of the Forgotten Third Commission in September. This is the commission we set up last year to look at ways of improving the prospects of the third of young people who, each year, fall short of at least a grade 4 in GCSE English and maths. The commission’s headline recommendation is to replace GCSE English language with a new Passport in English and the story was covered in the national and specialist press.

The article in TES (https:// tinyurl.com/y6k2nlwt) was the most read story on the TES website, and the animation of the report on our website was viewed more than 1,800 times (www.ascl.org.uk/ForgottenThird).

General Secretary Geoff Barton also wrote a blog about the report for the TES website, which can be read at https://tinyurl.com/yxw6o56s and commission chair Roy Blatchford wrote a blog for Schools Week (https:// tinyurl.com/y4enxznj).

ASCL was widely quoted over announcements by the government about education funding. While we welcomed the extra investment we pointed out that it was not enough, and held a press conference at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester with NAHT and NEU showing that 80% of schools will still have less money per pupil in 2020 in real terms than they did when the cuts began to bite in 2015. 

Geoff said, “We are not being churlish, we are just stating the facts. The funding crisis is not over.”

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General Election Manifesto 2019

We have published our General Election Manifesto for the forthcoming election in December. Expand

We have published our General Election Manifesto for the forthcoming election in December. It has been tested with ASCL Council and sets out ten proposals which we believe would improve the education system for students, schools and colleges. The manifesto encapsulates many themes from our campaigning activity: the fight for improved funding; a more proportionate accountability system; and GCSEs and SATs which support ‘The Forgotten Third’. It also appeals to politicians to stop pitching one type of school against another, and to focus instead on promoting collaboration.

We will be sending our manifesto to the leaders of the political parties, and their education teams, and we encourage members to discuss it with their chair of governors or trustees and to send it jointly to their local candidates.

The manifesto is an appeal to politicians in all parties and there is no party political agenda. ASCL has no political affiliation.

Our manifesto focuses on education policy in England as education is a devolved matter. However, as an Association which represents members not only in England, but also in Wales, Northern Ireland, and in Scotland through our proud association with School Leaders Scotland, we remind Westminster politicians of the importance of sufficient funding for all our home nations. The allocation for education in England is reflected UK-wide through the mechanism of the Barnett formula.

Here are the top lines from each of our points in the manifesto. You can see our manifesto in full at www.ascl.org.uk/manifesto2019

The system

  1. Make the discourse about education more positive
  2. Make education funding sustainable
  3. Make it easier to recruit and retain teachers
  4. Make school and college accountability more effective
  5. Make collaboration the priority in an evolving system

Qualifications and curriculum

  1. Make our exam system fairer
  2. Make tests for 11 year-olds fairer
  3. Make GCSEs less punishing
  4. Make teaching about same-sex relationships mandatory in all schools, including primary schools
  5. Make the curriculum fit for the 21st century
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Your subscription, your support

We hope that you will agree that, for the service and support provided, ASCL membership represents excellent value for money. Expand

We hope that you will agree that, for the service and support provided, ASCL membership represents excellent value for money. Over the last academic year, we dealt with an unprecedented number of enquiries from members – see the figures below:

ASCL Hotline:
Key figures September 2018–September 2019

  • Our Hotline dealt with 6,102 enquiries from members.
  • That’s 30–40 calls a day on average.
  • About 50% of enquiries from members (2,862) were about that member’s specific situation such as redundancy, and discipline and capability issues.
  • A total of 1,306 members were supported for ongoing individual professional issues.

Over the past year, ASCL has again expanded its field staff across the UK to ensure that the highest level of support for members can be maintained. In addition, our reserve fund now stands at approximately £2.4 million and is there to draw on should ASCL need to support members facing significant legal challenges.

We continually look for opportunities for efficiency savings without compromising our service to members and we ensure that our procurement policy optimises value for money.

As we are experiencing record demands on our resources and after freezing member subscriptions across all categories, except heads, for 2019, we have decided to increase subscriptions for 2020 by just 50p per month for executive heads, CEOs, heads, principals, deputy heads, vice principals, professional associates and international members, and by just 25p per month for assistant heads, assistant vice principals and other senior postholders – the first increase for this category for ten years. We have again retained subscriptions at the same levels for all of our other categories of membership.

Expenditure in 2018

Approximately 75% of ASCL’s income in 2018 was derived from members’ subscriptions. The largest proportion of our expenditure (more than 60%) was spent directly on supporting our members. This includes regional, field and hotline officers; in-house solicitors and legal support staff; publications; legal fees; dealing with pensions and pay and conditions issues; and training and support for our local representatives. The chart below shows how we used your subs in 2018 to provide you with support and guidance.

Don’t forget that if you pay your subscription personally, 85% of the annual fee is tax deductible. You can find out more about this at: www. ascl.org.uk/tax-benefits 

If you have any questions about your membership or if you would like to notify us of any changes to your role or payment details, please contact the Membership Team on 0116 299 1122 or email: membership@ascl.org.uk

Support when you need it

If you need any help or advice about any leadership issues, please call our Hotline on 0116 299 1122 or email: hotline@ascl.org.uk

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Adding value

Lesson observations are a cornerstone of a SLT’s approach to gauging teaching quality and guiding its talent management and succession planning. Expand

Lesson observations

Lesson observations are a cornerstone of a SLT’s approach to gauging teaching quality and guiding its talent management and succession planning. However, lesson observations that are overly formal and restrictive can have a damaging effect on teacher workload and morale.

Some observation should take place for school leaders to manage their schools effectively. But there is a shift now towards a more developmental approach. You can start to do this by:

  • positioning lesson observation as part of ongoing professional dialogue, rather than a purely judgemental exercise
  • recognising and communicating to staff that observations are prone to subjectivity; even among trained observers who are following specific criteria, there can be considerable variation in the way lessons are rated
  • moving away from grading observations; in a BlueSky survey, 60% of respondents said they rarely or never rated observations, compared with 19% who do
  • replacing or supplementing one-off formal lesson observations with other practices, such as more regular drop-ins and learning walks

BlueSky supports the developmental approach, enabling lesson observations to be recorded quickly and easily as part of appraisals and CPD – read more at http://bit.ly/lessonobservations

BlueSky is an ASCL Premier Partner that offers the only product of its kind endorsed by the Association. ASCL members who subscribe to BlueSky receive 10% discount for the first year. www.blueskyeducation.co.uk

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New policies guidance

The DfE has issued guidance on mandatory policies for schools and academies ( Expand

The DfE has issued guidance on mandatory policies for schools and academies (https://tinyurl.com/y2mvskux). The DfE’s list covers policies “and other documents”, including advice on review frequency and some template policies. The list and associated notes will be a useful reference for the sector but should be read with care.

For example, it can be difficult to distinguish policies that are required in law and those that are recommended in guidance. It is expected that schools and trusts will have in place all of the documents referred to but they don’t necessarily need to be separate policies in every case.

Multi-academy trusts (MATs) are encouraged to adopt trust-wide policies where possible to ensure consistency in practice and reduce risk in key areas, such as safeguarding and health and safety, where the board will be fully accountable. Proper maintenance of policies is a time-consuming task but a lack of review and understanding can amount to an ‘own goal’ when it comes to scrutiny by Ofsted, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) or any complainant challenging trust decision-making.

It is certainly a worthwhile exercise for trusts to consider the origins, content and application of their existing policies and the DfE’s guidance offers a helpful starting point.

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Notes on guidance

Leader contains general guidance on the law that has been supplied by our Premier Partner for legal and HR services, Browne Jacobson LLP. Expand

Leader contains general guidance on the law that has been supplied by our Premier Partner for legal and HR services, Browne Jacobson LLP. If you would like to seek advice from a legal professional please contact Browne Jacobson at 0370 270 6000. ASCL members can also call the ASCL Hotline on 0116 2991122 for support on legal issues relating specifically to their own employment.

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Service Level Agreements

At this point in the academic year many trusts will be looking at procuring or re-procuring their higher value Service Level Agreements ( Expand

At this point in the academic year many trusts will be looking at procuring or re-procuring their higher value Service Level Agreements (SLAs), such as cleaning, catering and IT. 

Trusts should ensure that their relatively favourable bargaining position translates into beneficial contractual terms that reflect this. There are a number of areas where trusts should ensure they are adequately protected; a key consideration relates to the staff who will provide the service.

If the service provider will change as a result of the procurement, you should have discussions early on about who will be responsible for any legacy issues around service staff. This would include liability for any previous claims, any ongoing pension issues and who would bear the risk if staff costs increase in the future. By operation of law, the new supplier may be responsible for these liabilities, however there is a possibility that a new supplier may attempt to pass the risk to the academy trust. 

This can have a significant impact on the risk profile of the contract and should be considered very carefully as it may make an otherwise attractive proposal unpalatable.

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School admissions

It is that time of year when admission authorities need to consider whether to change their admission arrangements and launch a consultation on the proposed changes. Expand

It is that time of year when admission authorities need to consider whether to change their admission arrangements and launch a consultation on the proposed changes. The School Admissions Code 2014 sets out a broad framework for consultation and with which admission authorities must comply. 

The consultation must last for a minimum of six weeks from 1 October to 31 January and for the full duration of the consultation, the school must publish on its website a copy of the proposed admission policy together with where comments should be sent and the deadline for doing so. A school must also send out the proposed policy to any person who requests one if the request is made by one of the persons or bodies with whom the school must consult. Those categories include parents of children aged 2 to 18, the local authority, other local admission authorities and the diocese that supports the school if it is faith based.

In terms of consulting with parents and carers, it is not just the parents of children at the school that must be consulted, but also parents of children aged 2 to 18 in the local area. This may be via communications with early years settings and other schools, as well as via locations such as doctor’s surgeries, shops or supermarkets. Retaining evidence of this wider consultation will assist in defending any challenges brought by parents or the Schools Adjudicator.

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Green lights

Estates directors will be well aware that Energy Performance Certificates ( Expand

Estates directors will be well aware that Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) are required for most properties to be let out, and that, since 2018, a minimum ‘E’ rating has been needed to do so. Academies should be aware that from 1 April 2020, this minimum rating will also apply to existing tenancies. A timely reminder then for academies with tenants to review their properties’ energy ratings now to allow time to make any necessary improvements. EPC ratings can often be boosted relatively cheaply, by simple measures such as replacing bulbs or windows, or installing insulation. Take advice from a specialist surveyor in good time so there’s no interruption to your letting income.

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Earring guidance

The new school year started with a flurry of queries around possible discrimination claims against schools who allowed girls to wear earrings but not boys. Expand

The new school year started with a flurry of queries around possible discrimination claims against schools who allowed girls to wear earrings but not boys. Interestingly, there is no legislation or case law for schools and the wearing of jewellery and while most schools feel it is not appropriate for boys to be allowed to wear earrings, parents and students are pushing back on that conventional approach. 

If you are looking for a clear legal steer on whether you are being discriminatory by not allowing boys to wear earrings, there is no clear answer. What it actually comes down to is cultural interpretation of acceptability. If your uniform code requires students to be ‘dressed smartly and conventionally’ and the school’s view is that earrings on boys do not fit that description, then hold your ground. If your school community agrees, then you are in a stronger position still, so it may be worth a uniform consultation.

However, it is worth remembering that social norms change; previously it would have been deemed that girls wearing trousers was neither smart nor conventional, whereas now it is considered very much the norm, and to state that girls could not wear trousers like their male counterparts would be challenged on grounds of unfair treatment because of their sex.

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New Premier Partner

ASCL is delighted to announce that Passageways is now a Premier Partner, one of a select handful, in recognition of its role in enabling governing boards and leadership teams to work better together. Expand

ASCL is delighted to announce that Passageways is now a Premier Partner, one of a select handful, in recognition of its role in enabling governing boards and leadership teams to work better together.

Passageways offers OnBoard – the next-generation board meeting solution from the Passageways technology suite, which is designed to improve collaboration and governance. It can be used on any device, anywhere, and so makes preparing and running board and leadership team meetings easy. 

Boards, leadership teams, and other education committees are constantly looking for more effective ways to improve the way they conduct meetings and improve governance, which is why this partnership is so important.

Steve Kind, ASCL Director of Finance and Operations, said: 

“We are delighted to see Passageways join ASCL as a premier partner, as we recognise the value that OnBoard, the electronic board portal from Passageways, can bring to our members.” 

ASCL members already receive discounted pricing, but orders placed before 31 December 2019 will receive an additional 10% discount. Simply email your request to ask@passageways.com quoting the promo code ‘PWA19’. Also see www.onboardforeducation.co.uk

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LEADING READING