2022 Summer Term

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

In the news

ASCL’s profile in the media has remained high during the summer term, mainly as a result of public exams being held for the first time for two years following the pandemic. Expand

ASCL’s profile in the media has remained high during the summer term, mainly as a result of public exams being held for the first time for two years following the pandemic. We have provided comments and interviews to the print and broadcast media on both that and a wide range of other issues. 

We have appeared in broadcast interviews for BBC Breakfast, ITV’s Good Morning Britain, ITV News, BBC News channel, BBC Radio 4, BBC Radio 5 Live, Times Radio, TalkTV and a large number of local BBC and commercial radio and television programmes, as well as being featured widely in the national, local and specialist press. ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton writes a weekly blog for the ASCL website on a variety of educational subjects (please see www.ascl.org.uk/blogs) and also writes regular columns for both Tes and SecEd. Other subjects covered have included the government’s publication of the schools white paper and SEND green paper; attendance and persistent absence; the National Tutoring Programme; Ofsted inspections; refugee students joining UK schools; and the implications for schools and colleges of inflation affecting energy and food prices. 

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ASCL Influence

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch on politics as the ‘art of the possible. Expand

Working on your behalf to influence government policy

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch on politics as the ‘art of the possible.’ 

In what has felt like something of a busman’s holiday, I’ve spent significant chunks of my spare time over the last few weeks helping my daughter to revise for her citizenship GCSE. As well as finally understanding how the single transferable vote system works (I’m great fun at parties) and struggling to remain politically impartial during discussions on voter apathy (well, yes, it’s possible that mistrust in politicians may play a part...), this has l ed me to reflect on the role that ASCL plays in attempting to influence policy. 

The widely shared Serenity Prayer, originally written by American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, asks for ‘the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference’. Far be it from me to disagree with the Reverend Niebuhr, but I reckon he missed a category. Let’s call it ‘the tenacity to keep chipping away at things that you don’t think are a great idea, but others are determined to do anyway, in order to try to make them less bad’. It’s not catchy – in fact, it’s often frustrating and infuriating – but it’s a key part of what the ASCL policy team does. 

Sometimes – and this is the most satisfying and rewarding part of our work – we’re able to work with ASCL Council (www.ascl.org.uk/council) to develop and put forward our own proposals for change, such as those in our report A Great Education for Every Child: The ASCL Blueprint for a Fairer Education System (www.ascl.org.uk/blueprint). 

Occasionally, we’re able to convince ministers that the bright idea they’ve come up with is so bad that they need to go back to the drawing board. Much more often, though, we operate in a world where politics is the ‘art of the possible’ – where our job is to respect the democratic right of politicians to enact the policies on which they were elected, while helping them to see what the impact of those policies will actually be on the ground and encouraging them to base their plans on sound evidence. 

Many of the policy ‘wins’ we achieve because of this work are hard to quantify. They can come as a result of months, or even years, of relationship-building and negotiation. They are also often difficult to shout about, with conversations taking part under rules of confidentiality, and early drafts of policies quietly dropped or improved. 

Given all these challenges, it’s gratifying when we can achieve change, and to share that impact with members. We’ve had several such moments over the last couple of months. These include the following:

  • the government’s commitment in the schools white paper and subsequent Schools Bill to – finally – introduce a direct national funding formula – something for which ASCL has campaigned for many years
  • a significant reduction in the number of qualifications that will be defunded to smooth the path for the take up of T levels; ASCL has campaigned, along with other organisations as part of the #ProtectStudentChoice campaign, for BTECs and other Applied General Qualifications to remain available to students, and the list of defunded qualifications would undoubtedly have been much greater without this campaigning
  • the permanent extension of free school meal eligibility to families with no recourse to public funds (NRPF); we’ve been working with several campaign groups as part of the End Child Food Poverty initiative to call for this change
  • the publication of the Online Safety Bill, which includes several measures for which we have been calling for some time 

We were also pleased to receive, and to be able to share, an apology from the Secretary of State (SoS) for sending a letter to heads on the May bank holiday Monday announcing his intention to create a league table of schools’ spending on the National Tutoring Programme. This was in response to a joint letter from ASCL and NAHT calling this out as a direct contravention of the department’s own workload charter. However, we remain deeply concerned about the substance of the letter, and about the SoS’s broader obsession with gathering and sharing more data about school and college performance, regardless of how accurate this may be or the potential negative effects of doing so. 

The big education policy news this term, of course, has been the publication of the government’s Schools Bill (tinyurl.com/2p8ecsab). This provides the legislative basis for the ambitions set out in the schools white paper (tinyurl.com/mttbyyv7) (though it’s worth noting that many of the policies in the white paper, such as the introduction of the ‘parent pledge’ and the expectation that all schools will have at least a 32.5 hour week, don’t appear in the Bill, as the government doesn’t require new legislation to push them through). 

The Bill proposes several wide-ranging and significant new laws. We agree with many of these, particularly the proposals to properly regulate ‘illegal’ schools. We also agree in principle with the desire to streamline the complex and bureaucratic way in which academies and trusts are currently regulated. 

However, we are deeply concerned about some aspects of the Bill, which appear to grant sweeping additional powers to the Secretary of State over how individual schools operate. We are not reassured by the DfE’s line, set out in one of its ‘factsheets’ on the Bill (tinyurl.com/2rvd5hz8), that it doesn’t actually intend to implement most of these powers, at least in the short term. 

At the time of writing, we are liaising with our legal partners, Browne Jacobson, to better understand to what extent the Bill would give the Secretary of State additional powers, as opposed to simply consolidating existing powers currently set out across a range of different legislation. This will give us a firm basis on which to potentially lobby MPs and peers to propose amendments to the Bill as it makes its way through Parliament. 

So, a slightly more philosophical update from me than usual in this edition. I know that politics – and political lobbying – can often feel like something of a dark art. I hope this has provided some insight into the way ASCL engages in this work, on behalf of members, children and young people. 


FIND OUT MORE 

See ASCL’s consultation responses at www.ascl.org.uk/consultations 


Julie McCulloch
ASCL Director of Policy
@juliecmcculloch

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Recovering relationships

Here's the latest information from our colleagues across the nation. Expand

Here's the latest information from our colleagues across the nation. ASCL is proud to represent school and college leaders from all over the UK – to find out more, see www.ascl.org.uk/uk

The pandemic saw us clap the NHS, help our neighbours with shopping and use Zoom calls with relatives and friends in the absence of face-to-face contact. Leaders were knocking on doors distributing meals to struggling families and giving positive optimistic messages to frightened communities while swallowing down their own fear. 

We came to realise what we already instinctively knew: that we are social and sociable beings. That we need that human touch. We need to see facial expressions and gestures to interpret meaning, intent and emotion. 

A conversation is clearly more than an exchange of words through a mask or via social apps. Relationships are made and broken on the subtleties of reading body language. 

As we move from crisis communication to recovering relationships with our education communities, the most significant problem many schools and colleges face is the sound of silence in the roll call of so many students. It’s impossible to communicate with an empty space. In Wales, attendance dropped yet again at the end of the spring term to just 86.3%. In a country of only 473,000 learners, since September, 114,000 learners were absent for between 20 and 40+ days, for reasons other than Covid. Nearly 30% of our Year 13 students are not attending. 

Recovering positive relationships with learners and communities has never been more important. This cannot be achieved by blanket fixed penalty notices or downward pressures of accountability on schools, punishing them for these complex problems. Punitive measures will risk further disengagement. Fractures do not mend with hammer blows. 

If we have learned anything during the pandemic, it is that relationships matter. This has to be our collective focus as we try to re-engage the disenchanted, the disengaged and the disappeared. Carl Jung, the psychiatrist, counsels, “The curriculum is so much necessary raw material, but warmth is a vital element for the growing plant and for the soul of the child.” 


Eithne Hughes
Director of ASCL Cymru
@ASCLCymru 

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Education technology

Schools have been using computers since the early 1980s, both in teaching and learning and for administration. Expand

Schools have been using computers since the early 1980s, both in teaching and learning and for administration. Using ICT is one of the three cross-curricular skills at the heart of the Northern Ireland curriculum, with the emphasis on pupils using digital skills appropriately while engaging in meaningful and purposeful activities. 

The pandemic catapulted even the wariest in our schools into a whole new EdTech realm and new capacity was released in many. Educational technology proved to be a reliable and powerful ally during lockdown. Modern EdTech’s capacity is so much more than we could have thought possible, even a few years ago. 

In Northern Ireland, the well-established C2k project, managed by the Education Authority (EA), provides the infrastructure and services to support the enhanced use of ICT in schools. The EA has recently launched an Education Information Solutions (EdIS) Programme – a digital programme that represents a £750 million investment to support learning experiences over the next ten years, which includes a rolling programme of devices for staff and pupils to support young people to be the best that they can be. 

As you read this, ASCL Northern Ireland members have enjoyed an EdTech event where the focus was on developing school leaders’ understanding of the possibilities, as well as the challenges, associated with educational technology. 

The Northern Ireland Department for the Economy’s ‘10x Economy’ initiative (tinyurl.com/ffweu8dj) identifies key strategic clusters where Northern Ireland has the potential to be a global leader and that will drive its economic competitiveness and this includes the digital, ICT and creative industries. 

While it is important that our schools meet the aim of providing learning opportunities for our young people to become contributors to the economy, it is also crucial that we develop them as individuals and as contributors to society. 

Technology will always keep developing and is a sign of societal progress. Technology should, however, not dictate the path of education. Instead, it should improve education while still upholding core educational values. 


Robert Wilson
ASCL Northern Ireland Regional Officer
@roberthmw

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A new dawn

While there have been false dawns over the past couple of years, it would be reasonable to think that we are moving forward and away from the worst and most debilitating effects of the pandemic. Expand

While there have been false dawns over the past couple of years, it would be reasonable to think that we are moving forward and away from the worst and most debilitating effects of the pandemic. That being the case, it is crucial now that school leaders and their professional associations seize the initiative and robustly “speak on behalf of members” and much more importantly “act on behalf of children and young people”. 

Since 2019, School Leaders Scotland (SLS) and ASCL, through our actions and the actions of our members, have gained and retained the trust and confidence of the public on account of the way in which we have transformed our strapline into committed working practice. 

We have supported young people and their families, and we have spoken truth to power. 

While we recognise that it is crucial to plan for a better future as words such as ‘reimagine’, ‘horizon scan’ and ‘re-conceptualise’ are being used by those who do not have the education and wellbeing of children and teachers as their core mission, our continuing commitment of living up to our strapline has never been more important. 

SLS supports the recently produced report on education reform (tinyurl.com/3emx4fe6), which has been accepted in full by the Scottish government. In particular, we see this paragraph from the introduction, framing the direction of travel: 

“The recommendations take into account and align with wider areas of policy and the Scottish Government’s priorities for children and families in Scotland. They are designed to build upon the many strengths that exist within Scottish education while supporting key priorities around closing the poverty-related attainment gap, child poverty, reducing youth unemployment, the national work on Race Equality and Anti-Racism in Education Programme (REAREP) and achieving equity and excellence through education. They are also based on an understanding that the incorporation into Scots law of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a game changer when it comes to how we view and provide the educational experiences for children and young people.” 


Jim Thewliss
General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland
@LeadersScotland

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Changing jobs in September?

If you’re changing role or employer or if you’ve changed your home address, email or phone number, please take a few moments to let us know. Expand

If you’re changing role or employer or if you’ve changed your home address, email or phone number, please take a few moments to let us know. It’s vital that we know about any changes to your personal contact details or employment. You can do this easily by logging into your MyASCL account (www.ascl.org.uk/login) or by completing the form at www.ascl.org.uk/updatedetails to send us your latest details. 

Ensuring that we have your most up-to-date details will enable us to help you quicker should you need to contact us for support. It will also enable us to ensure that you receive all your member benefits. 

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Right to Work checks

Employers must carry out Right to Work checks on all prospective employees before they start work. Expand

Employers must carry out Right to Work checks on all prospective employees before they start work. 

Since 6 April 2022, Right to Work checks on all migrant, pre-settled or settled prospective employees must be online. Employers must verify the right to work by using a shared code provided by their prospective employee and check their right to work on the government online portal (www.gov.uk/view-right-to-work). This service is free of charge and available for all Biometric Residence Card (BRC), Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) and Frontier Worker Permit (FWP) holders as well as for pre-settled or settled status holders under the EU Settlement Scheme. Physical documents are no longer accepted but retrospective online checks on existing employees will not be required. 

Manual checks will be confined to passports of British and Irish nationals. In addition, employers are now able to carry out digital identity checks for British and Irish citizens who hold a valid passport. This service is not free of charge. 

Employers will need to review their internal procedures to ensure full compliance with the new rules. A failure to perform Right to Work checks correctly could result in serious sanctions, including a civil penalty of up to £20,000 per illegal worker, a criminal conviction carrying a prison sentence of up to five years and an unlimited fine. 

Other sanctions include a disqualification as a director, the closure of the business, the revocation or down grade of the sponsorship licence or the appearance in the publication of non-compliant employers that may damage reputation.

It is crucial that employers comply with the correct checks in line with the changes in place.

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Additional benefits for members

We are pleased to announce Advanced IT Services and Learning Ladders as two of ASCL’s newest preferred suppliers. Expand

NEW PREFERRED SUPPLIERS

We are pleased to announce Advanced IT Services and Learning Ladders as two of ASCL’s newest preferred suppliers. 

Advanced IT Services provides specialist end-to-end IT solutions to the education sector. Since 2000, it has worked with schools and MATs across the UK, improving every aspect of the way IT is delivered to enhance experiences for teachers, pupils and staff. 

Advanced IT Services believes its expertise genuinely makes a difference to both the short-term and long-term visions of an establishment. Its frameworks create strategic planning for the development of IT provision, along with communication technologies. Working alongside schools, MATs and colleges, Advanced IT Services is here to support you 24/7/365.

Learning Ladders provides assessment that goes way beyond tracking, to effectively support teaching and learning for early years foundation stage (EYFS) and primary settings. 

Curriculum management tools support senior leaders with whichever curricula they use, in any language. Data analysis for school leaders incorporates formative assessment, summative assessment and GL assessments to give a well-rounded picture of every child, alongside whole-school and vulnerable group summaries. A wealth of high-quality resources are linked to objectives, including BBC Bitesize, Developing Experts, and Oak National Academy, giving teachers everything they need for lesson planning. Self-marking homework saves teacher workload and contributes towards the personal learning journey for every pupil. Parental engagement is enhanced through the Parent Portal with teacher-written articles across the core curriculum to further support learning past the classroom. 

Children are at the heart of Learning Ladders, with all stakeholders involved and supported to facilitate meaningful conversations around learning.

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Announcing the latest ASCL premier partner

We are pleased to announce that Arbor is ASCL’s new premier partner for management information systems. Expand

NEW PREMIER PARTNER 

We are pleased to announce that Arbor is ASCL’s new premier partner for management information systems. Arbor’s cloud-based management information system (MIS) (arbor-education.com/products/school-mis/) gives schools and MATs of all sizes the tools they need to work better today and be ready for tomorrow. Free staff from busy work, work more collaboratively and stay connected on the cloud so your whole team has a shared view of what’s going on, even if you’re not together. With over 3,200 primary, secondary and special schools and 350 MATs, Arbor is the UK’s fastestgrowing MIS community today. 

Arbor is the MIS that joins up people, policies and processes, supporting all your staff to measurably improve the way your school works.

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Sustainability and climate change

The DfE has set out actions for the education sector to take, as a response to climate change. Expand

The DfE has set out actions for the education sector to take, as a response to climate change. The DfE’s vision is for the UK to be the world-leading education sector in sustainability and climate change by 2030. 

The paper lists a number of initiatives and actions, including the introduction of a model primary science curriculum by 2023, a natural history GCSE by 2025 and preparing young people for careers in the green sector with the roll-out of a second wave of T levels. Two key initiatives are the designation of the whole education estate as a National Education Nature Park to bring together, online, work being done by young people to improve biodiversity and share best practice, and the creation of a Climate Leaders Award to recognise young peoples’ work with nature and contributions towards sustainability. 

There will also be pilots to learn the best approaches to sustainable building design and management, with the aspiration that all new buildings will be net zero in operation; steps to integrate sustainability in procurement processes; promoting the use of sustainable, reusable and recycled products; and mandating recycling of core materials. Someone from each school and college will receive carbon literacy training. 

Schools can expect to be involved in several annual surveys and data collection exercises starting this year and next year, including:

  • an annual climate literacy survey for school leavers
  • a baseline assessment of biodiversity of the education estate
  • a risk assessment of flood, overheating and water scarcity of the education estate, and a baseline assessment of on-site emissions
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Creating an efficient emergency evacuation policy

It is undisputable that accounting for all staff, students and visitors in a timely manner is critical to the success of a fire evacuation. Expand

It is undisputable that accounting for all staff, students and visitors in a timely manner is critical to the success of a fire evacuation. To ensure the safety of students during an emergency, schools and colleges must have an effective evacuation plan in place that is simple enough to follow for all staff and students. 

During an evacuation, it is important to know exactly who is on your premises, to ensure all pupils, visitors and members of staff are accounted for. Often schools and colleges track this information through spreadsheets or paper documents, however, ensuring these documents are up to date can be difficult to manage. 

An effective way to overcome this concern is to look at alternative methods that can provide live data for who is currently on-site, with the ability to pull one report that can be easily accessed by all teachers. 

In the event of a drill or fire evacuation, the InVentry Anywhere app (inventry.co.uk/products/sign-in-solutions/evacuation/) allows you to access a real-time copy of everyone who is on-site from any mobile device to improve the efficiency of your evacuation procedure.

  • Visit www.inventry.co.uk to understand how you can ensure the safety of students during an emergency – all at the touch of a button.
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Exclusions update

A recent judicial review in Wales has highlighted the importance of following the statutory guidance within the exclusions framework. Expand

A recent judicial review in Wales has highlighted the importance of following the statutory guidance within the exclusions framework.

The case centred on an Independent Appeal Panel (IAP) decision of a permanent exclusion decision in Swansea. The IAP had upheld the permanent exclusion, and this was challenged in the High Court by the pupil’s parents. 

It was argued that the IAP had not undertaken its decision-making role in line with the requirements of the statutory guidance and, as a result, the IAP decision was flawed. The High Court agreed with these arguments and highlighted the need within the legislation, for decision makers, including the IAP, to have regard to the statutory guidance when making decisions. 

While the Welsh exclusions framework is different to that which operates in England, the same legislative requirement to have regard to statutory guidance is in place and, as such, it is necessary for decision makers within the English framework (headteachers, governors and independent review panels) to ensure that their decisions reflect the requirements set out with the DfE’s exclusion guidance from September 2017 (tinyurl.com/bddpzpnm). 

This requirement will not change following the implementation of the amended statutory guidance, which was the subject of a recent consultation. Indeed, given the proposed changes to that guidance, it will be more important to ensure that decision makers adhere to the guidance at all times.

  • Read more on the proposed new exclusions guidance here
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Proposed new exclusions guidance

The consultation ( Expand

The consultation (tinyurl.com/u8erpsxk) on the proposed new statutory guidance on school suspensions and exclusions has now ended and we expect the final version to be published in the coming months. The guidance will come into force for all suspensions and exclusion decisions from September 2022. 

The proposed changes largely reflect the recommendations set out in the Timpson Review of School Exclusions (published in May 2019) – see tinyurl.com/3f3d4bvn. Although the overarching framework of exclusion reviews remains the same (by governors and an independent panel), proposed changes include:

  • a change of terminology from ‘fixed term exclusion’ to ‘suspension’
  • the removal of the headteacher’s right to withdraw a suspension or exclusion
  • a greater emphasis on governing boards’ responsibilities in reviewing exclusions data, obtaining training and challenging headteachers
  • a greater emphasis on pre-exclusion considerations and the use of directing pupils to be educated off-site to improve behaviour as a preventative strategy
  • a narrower interpretation of managed moves than that currently understood by the sector
  • a greater role for virtual school heads and social workers
  • greater clarity around timescales
  • the right of the governing board to reinstate for any length of suspension 

Given the greater emphasis on pre-exclusion considerations and the proposed changes to the current behaviour guidance (tinyurl.com/29jsfb32) schools will need to think about their current policies and practice and whether they remain fit for purpose come September. 

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Retiring? Join as an Associate member

Continue to be part of our great community when you retire from a school or college leadership role with ASCL Associate membership. Expand

Continue to be part of our great community when you retire from a school or college leadership role with ASCL Associate membership. On retiring from school or college leadership roles, many ASCL members transfer their membership to ASCL Associates. 

ASCL Associate membership offers the perfect way to remain connected to and informed about education leadership. It also provides new opportunities to build your community and to get involved in supporting serving school and college leaders. 

ASCL Associate membership means that you can continue to receive ASCL publications such as Leader magazine, email news updates and access to website resources. 

Plus, you’ll find that Associate membership comes with additional benefits and new opportunities through the exclusive magazine Associates News, social activities, the ASCL Associates Committee, volunteering and chairing our popular planning for retirement events.

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Guidance on trans issues

It has been reported that new government guidance to help schools and colleges navigate trans issues is in the early stages of development. Expand

It has been reported that new government guidance to help schools and colleges navigate trans issues is in the early stages of development. Given that Scotland released its own guidance for schools last August (tinyurl.com/yk5ee9bh), and a number of councils have published their own toolkits (despite facing legal challenge on the content), it is clear that government guidance for schools in England is long overdue. 

There is a lot going on at present in relation to trans issues, from the publication of the Cass interim report (tinyurl.com/mr23wutp) in February 2022 (which is looking at the current service model for children and young people needing support around their gender identity), to the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s (EHRC’s) recent guidance for single-sex service providers (tinyurl.com/u8vwasx9) and the lawfulness of excluding trans-people from single-sex services. 

There are also a number of new cases and appeals on trans issues waiting to be heard by the courts. It is within this context that schools and colleges are trying to support pupils questioning their gender identity on issues relating to toilets and changing facilities, sporting events, changing names and pronouns, uniform, safeguarding, records, data sharing and confidentiality. 

Guidance to reassure schools and colleges that they are acting lawfully will no doubt be a welcome development. 

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LEADING READING