2020 Autumn Term 1

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

In the news

ASCL has been mentioned in thousands of newspaper reports, and our General Secretary Geoff Barton has been interviewed on many national and local television and radio news programmes, including several appearances on BBC Breakfast. Expand

ASCL has been mentioned in thousands of newspaper reports, and our General Secretary Geoff Barton has been interviewed on many national and local television and radio news programmes, including several appearances on BBC Breakfast. Unsurprisingly, the dominant issues have been the failure of the standardisation model for awarding grades this summer in lieu of exams, and the reopening of schools and colleges in September.

On the former, ASCL has written to the Secretary of State for Education requesting an immediate, independent review to rapidly ascertain what went wrong, and why the problems were not foreseen. Most importantly, we have said that lessons must be learned for the future, and highlighted the fact that, at the time of writing, there is still no Plan B for next summer’s exams if they are once again disrupted by coronavirus.

On school and college reopening, we have explained the superb work being done to welcome back pupils in September, while also explaining the challenges and complexity involved in implementing the government guidance. And we have repeatedly emphasised the need for the government to give more consideration to developing a back-up plan in the event of further widespread disruption over the coming months as a result of infection spikes.

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ASCL Influence

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch describes an ongoing game of ‘Whack-A-Mole’ with the government. Expand

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch describes an ongoing game of ‘Whack-A-Mole’ with the government.

The Prime Minister famously equated the government’s approach to dealing with Covid-19 with a game of ‘Whack-A-Mole’. Liaising with his government over the last few months has felt rather like being stuck in our own, never-ending Whack-A-Mole game. We’ve needed not only to be poised with our mallet ready to knock back some of the government’s less helpful ideas (no, school and college leaders wouldn’t really welcome you publishing different re-opening models in August), but also to coax some particularly shy moles out of their holes in the first place (but they would quite like more clarity on the use of face coverings).

We’ve had to determine and communicate our views on a whole range of subjects at an unprecedented speed. I’m immensely grateful to our Council members who, at a time when they’d never been busier themselves, took part in fortnightly committee meetings to help the policy team to think through many complex issues, and to ensure we were representing members’ views in all our dealings with government.

Here’s an indication of some of the discussions we’ve been involved in.

Funding

We’ve been actively involved, since March, in the development of the exceptional costs package to reimburse schools and colleges for additional expenses incurred as a result of Covid. We’re continuing to call on government to extend this fund into the autumn term.

We’ve also impressed on the government the impact of lost income over this period. We’re in active discussions with the team overseeing the RPA (DfE’s own insurance scheme for schools) about how they might include lost revenue in their business interruption cover in future.

We also liaised closely with the DfE school food team on the national free school meal voucher scheme, sharing members’ frustrations about the operation of the scheme. We submitted a detailed response to the National Audit Office’s (NAO’s) investigation into the scheme in July. More positively, we were delighted to have played a role in convincing the government to provide free school meal vouchers over the school holidays, and to include eligible students in Year 11 and Year 13. In the longer term, we’re working with a group of like-minded organisations to call on the government to support families eligible for free school meals through the holidays on a permanent basis.

Finally on funding, and again looking further ahead, we’ve been involved in discussions on changes to the National Funding Formula (NFF) for 2021/22. We’re particularly pleased with the inclusion in this, confirmed in July, of historic teachers’ pay and pension grants.

Assessment and qualifications

Never has our commitment to speaking on behalf of members and acting on behalf of children and young people been more important than in our engagement with government, Ofqual and the exam boards around assessment this year. Along with many other organisations, we supported the principle of a model that took centreassessed grades (CAGs) and moderated them to ensure consistency and fairness. We published detailed guidance for members on producing CAGs, and on whether and how to share them with students. We flagged up to Ofqual potential issues with the moderation process that would need to be mitigated. We also called for the model to be published in advance, to help identify and iron out any problems.

Had this happened, we could have found ourselves in a very different place on A level results day. As the issues with the implementation of the model became clear, and guided by the hundreds of messages we received from members, we called for a reversion to CAGs for both GCSEs and A levels as the ‘least bad’ option. This is far from perfect, and has created a host of ongoing issues for students, schools, colleges and universities, but it meant that the most glaring injustices were corrected.

Looking ahead, we have held a number of meetings with exam boards and other assessment experts to explore the pros and cons of different approaches to GCSEs and A levels in 2021. These in-depth discussions helped to inform our response to Ofqual’s consultation on this issue, in which we called for greater recognition of the disruption to learning that many students will have faced, and for more planning for likely ongoing disruption next year (www.ascl.org.uk/Ofqualconsultation2021). The need for a robust ‘Plan B’ has only been highlighted by this year’s fiasco. We cannot risk anything like this happening again.

At primary, we successfully encouraged the government to delay the statutory rollout of the Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA) until September 2021. We’re disappointed, though, that – at the time of writing – the government does not appear to have any plans to review the Key Stage 1 or 2 SATs to recognise the impact of Covid. We’re asking them to formally consult on the content, structure and timing of the SATs – in the way Ofqual has done on GCSEs and A levels – to ensure schools are able to focus on what children most need next year.

Inspection and accountability At the time of writing, we’re in ongoing discussion with both DfE and Ofsted about appropriate and proportionate approaches to accountability and inspection in 2020/21.

We’ve made it clear that publishing performance tables next year would be entirely inappropriate. Different communities will have been affected in different ways by the disruption. Any comparative data would therefore, in our view, be both meaningless and potentially counterproductive.

On inspection, we’ve expressed our concerns about the proposed Ofsted ‘visits’ in the autumn term. We agree with Ofsted’s desire to understand more about the impact of Covid on education, but are concerned about any attempt to pass judgement on individual schools during this period.

SEND
A significant focus for ASCL this year has been to raise awareness of the unmet needs of pupils identified with a SEND but without an EHCP. We hosted a series of roundtables to explore the challenges faced by schools in supporting these pupils, and invited the DfE SEND team to attend these roundtables.

We have been pleased to see significant progress on this issue, including a greater emphasis from Ofsted on SEND being everyone’s responsibility, and a government commitment to address the issues raised by the Education Committee’s critical report on SEND (https://tinyurl.com/yxsoffdh).

Julie McCulloch
ASCL Director of Policy
@juliecmcculloch


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Three-year budget planning advice

ASCL Funding Specialist Julia Harnden has updated the three-year planning guidance previously published in April, for staff and board members who are involved in the completion and ratification of multi-year budget planning. Expand

ASCL Funding Specialist Julia Harnden has updated the three-year planning guidance previously published in April, for staff and board members who are involved in the completion and ratification of multi-year budget planning. It includes the latest information on School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) recommendations for 2020/21 and the National Funding Formula (NFF) for 2021/22. Download the guidance at www.ascl.org.uk/3YearBudgetPlan

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Commission on the College of the Future

The Commission on the College of the Future published its final report on its vision for the future of colleges on 22 July and it includes contributions from a number of leaders from across the education and skills sector. Expand

The Commission on the College of the Future published its final report on its vision for the future of colleges on 22 July and it includes contributions from a number of leaders from across the education and skills sector. ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton provides one of the contributions, on transition from school to college. The report is a vision for the future of colleges across the UK, including a remit for empowering people with opportunities for lifelong learning, boosting productivity and strengthening every community’s sense of place.

The commission set out to affirm the role that colleges play in the education and skills system, believing that systemic change is needed to unlock the potential of colleges to meet the challenges they face.

The vision is launched in a video (https://vimeo.com/439938140) and report People, Productivity and Place: A new vision for colleges (www.collegecommission.co.uk/vision). The collection of short essays, each from leading voices from the education and skills sector, call for greater collaboration across the education system.

The commission began last year by asking what the sector wants and needs and its conversation now moves on to realise the vision in each of the four nations, prior to the publication of the white paper on FE reform, due out in the autumn.

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ASCL calls for review into grading fiasco

Just as Leader went to press, ASCL wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Education to request an immediate independent review into the grading fiasco ( Expand

Just as Leader went to press, ASCL wrote a letter to the Secretary of State for Education to request an immediate independent review into the grading fiasco (see www.ascl.org.uk/SoSLetterGrades).

And commenting in our press release about this, General Secretary Geoff Barton said: “There is an urgent need for the Department for Education to commission an immediate independent review which will rapidly establish exactly what went wrong with the process for awarding grades to A level and GCSE students this summer, and to publish its findings and recommendations.

“This degree of transparency is necessary at a time when public confidence has been badly shaken. It seems to be clear that the statistical model for moderating centre-assessed grades was flawed, and that it produced many anomalous results. But how did this happen, why were the problems not foreseen, and why were ministers not on top of this? “Most importantly, what lessons can we learn for the future? While the government plans for students to sit GCSEs and A levels next summer, there is currently no Plan B if there is widespread disruption because of coronavirus.

“The government and Ofqual should be putting in place a robust contingency plan, drawing on the lessons from this summer’s debacle.”

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ASCL KS2/KS3 Language Learning Transition Toolkit - new resources

Following the launch of the KS2/KS3 French Transition Toolkit, ASCL together with ALL’s Primary Steering Group ( Expand

Following the launch of the KS2/KS3 French Transition Toolkit, ASCL together with ALL’s Primary Steering Group (www.all-languages.org.uk/primary-2/) have now developed a Spanish KS2/KS3 transition toolkit to help create a successful bridge between language learning in primary and secondary settings.

The aim of these resources is to provide an informed, actionable base for secondary modern foreign languages (MFL) teachers to build upon, so teachers can organise learning in a way that allows pupils to demonstrate what they already know and how well they have explored and retained this knowledge.

Find out more and download the toolkits at www.ascl.org.uk/MFLKS2Toolkit A toolkit for German will be available shortly.

You can also read how a coalition of organisations including ASCL and the British Academy are working together to tackle the decline in language learning on by clicking here.

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Covid-related questions

If you have Covid-related questions to which you need specific answers, you should contact the ASCL Hotline directly on 0116 2991122. Expand

If you have Covid-related questions to which you need specific answers, you should contact the ASCL Hotline directly on 0116 2991122. If you wish to alert us to concerns you’d like us to raise with government, or to share approaches you’re taking in your school or college that others might find helpful, please use the coronavirus@ascl.org.uk email inbox.

We will also continue to add to our dedicated coronavirus webpage (www.ascl.org.uk/coronavirus) and our coronavirus FAQs (www.ascl.org.uk/Coronavirus-FAQs) on a regular basis.

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Maximising procurement in education

Education Buying ( Expand

Education Buying (EB) is a leading national consultancy for procurement in education that:

  • delivers flexible support from dedicated procurement and service specialists 
  • offers a personalised approach to the purchasing needs of colleges, individual schools, and academies

Its free EB Starter service helps schools reclaim time and demonstrate value for money with: 

  • access to the Contracts Register to monitor all contracts; never miss an expiry date 
  • easy-to-use frameworks for best value on contracts 
  • quality-assured suppliers across office supplies, furniture and more

Need expert support?
Education Buying offers three paid-for services with one-to-one support from procurement experts: 

  • EB Manage – for existing procurement teams; calls to experts, upskilling, support building a Contracts Register, wider frameworks access 
  • EB Strategic – for small or no procurement teams; overview of spend with the Strategic Procurement Report, including EB Manage services 
  • EB Consult – bespoke consultancy, contract reviews and support, data analysis 

For more information visit: educationbuying.com

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Adding value

Schools have worked tirelessly on providing a blended curriculum over recent months and, as they return for the autumn term, school leaders are grappling with how to balance teaching and learning, while ensuring student wellbeing is a priority, and that there is support for all children to adjust back to school life. Expand

Schools have worked tirelessly on providing a blended curriculum over recent months and, as they return for the autumn term, school leaders are grappling with how to balance teaching and learning, while ensuring student wellbeing is a priority, and that there is support for all children to adjust back to school life. The focus on the whole student has never been more important. Three questions school leaders have raised are:

  1. How will we know which students are ready to engage in learning? 
  2. How will we identify gaps in reading and across core subjects?
  3. What will our baseline look like this year without national data?

Whatever you need, GL Assessment can help. PASS, a pastoral survey, will flag those who are concerned about being back at school and who are not yet ready to learn. The adaptive New Group Reading Test will assess gaps in students’ reading skills and the Progress Tests will pinpoint strengths and weaknesses across the English, maths and science curricula. Alongside FFT Aspire, CAT4 will provide you with retrospective KS2 indicators, 9–1 GCSE and A level indicators and FFT estimates.

Find out more by visiting www.glassessment.co.uk/backtoschool emailing backtoschool@gl-assessment.co.uk or calling 0330 123 5375

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A note on behaviour

As the majority of pupils return in September, school may well seem a very different place and adapting to being back in a school setting will not come easily. Expand

As the majority of pupils return in September, school may well seem a very different place and adapting to being back in a school setting will not come easily. Experiences during lockdown may well have impacted on behaviour and this may present on return to school.

School routines are also likely to have changed to make sure the setting is Covid-19 safe, and how pupils will adapt to this alongside the upheaval of the preceding few months is anyone’s guess. For some pupils this will, of course, be harder than others for a number of reasons, including the presence of special educational needs and disability (SEND), bereavement or mental health issues. Reasonable adjustments and support will be needed. Schools should work closely with any vulnerable groups and implement supportive strategies on re-integration.

It will be necessary to make some adjustments to your behaviour policy for the safety of all staff and pupils and the need for pupils to behave differently when they return to school and adapt to the new systems put in place. If you are carrying out a policy review or adding a Covid-19 addendum, this should still be read alongside the main behaviour policy and other linked policies e.g. anti-bullying, e-safety and peer-on-peer abuse. Any changes will need to be communicated to pupils, parents/carers and staff.

Some of the suggested areas for addition to your current policy are behaviours concerning alternative routines for arrival/ departure, following instructions on hygiene and sanitising, instructions on who pupils can socialise with at school and how the school is navigated e.g. one way systems. There will need to be expectations about coughing, sneezing, spitting, and disposing of materials. All things that perhaps were not overtly highlighted before but will be key behaviour factors now. There will be updates to rules on conduct in relation to remote education. There will be increased reliance on online learning and it will be of relevance if urgent and short notice local lockdowns become common place.

The DfE has suggested, in the planning guidance (https://tinyurl.com/yyd7jgow), a list of behaviour principles for schools to consider when updating their polices (some mentioned above), but what schools need to be thinking about is their own systems and procedures and what behaviours need to be monitored and challenged in order to keep everyone using the school environment (in whatever form) safe.

Pupils will need to be given regular reminders of behaviour expectations as the ‘new normal’ beds in and the fact that the changes may not come naturally at first. However, deliberate non-compliance will result in sanctions and any policy should be updated to reflect that in order to keep the school community safe.


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Changes to timings

In order to comply with government guidance to ensure all children are able to return in September, schools and colleges have been undertaking risk assessments and looking at protective measures that can be put in place. Expand

In order to comply with government guidance to ensure all children are able to return in September, schools and colleges have been undertaking risk assessments and looking at protective measures that can be put in place.

Prior to the summer break, smaller groups/bubbles to separate children were adopted with the view of maintaining social distancing. Now that schools and colleges have returned to full capacity in September, social distancing will be more difficult, but additional steps can be taken to reduce contact, such as staggering start and end times to the school day for groups as bubbles, in line with government guidance to reduce groups mixing and large groups including parents gathering at entrances. Such changes should not reduce the teaching time for children and times for breaks and so forth can be reduced to assist.

There is an expectation that schools and colleges will work closely with staff, unions and parents when considering appropriate changes that can be made to reduce the risks surrounding the virus. Accordingly, parents and carers should be kept informed about the changes. In addition, the time that registers are kept open should be adapted to reflect the changes.

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Admissions Code consultation

The DfE is currently consulting on a draft version of the School Admissions Code that was last updated in 2014. Expand

The DfE is currently consulting on a draft version of the School Admissions Code that was last updated in 2014. Key changes include introducing a section on in-year admissions, clarifications concerning Fair Access Protocol (FAP) admissions and introducing a definition of children with challenging behaviour. The new in-year provisions seek to enable greater clarity to parents on how in-year admissions work, which will require admission authorities to set out how parents can apply for a place, and where this is managed themselves, an application form for them to complete and when parents will be notified of the outcome of any application. There will be a greater role for local authorities in collating information regarding schools in their areas about how their in-year admissions work.

There are some changes to FAP provisions to explain that the FAP should only be used for children where ‘reasonable measures’ have been taken to secure a place through in-year admissions processes.

The draft Code introduces a definition of ‘children with challenging behaviour’, which seeks to aid clarity for all concerned, although, in reality, it is a very wide definition.

There are also other more minor drafting changes to the Code proposed that include making it even more explicit that the published admission number only relates to the relevant year of entry and not to other year groups, additions to the definition of looked after (and previously looked after) children and clarifications to some elements of 1.9 of the Code. The consultation closes on 16 October 2020 with a final new Code likely to be published in December 2020. You can access the consultation and draft Code at https://tinyurl.com/yatoy7fa

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Covid complaints

In these times of turbulence it is inevitable that schools will not have managed to please all of the people all of the time. Expand

In these times of turbulence it is inevitable that schools will not have managed to please all of the people all of the time. This means that concerns and complaints may be raised from parents and members of the public, whether in terms of seeking general reassurance that the school is following safe practices or perhaps in relation to specific actions that the school has taken or has not taken.

The guidance for schools during Covid-19 has been fairly consistent in its stance that the senior leaders of schools and trusts are in the best position to make decisions about their individual schools based on their knowledge of its geography, community and resources.

This approach essentially continues into the beginning of the new school academic year. What this means in practical terms is that you need to be prepared to justify any actions that you take, so make sure that you have recorded variations to policy procedures whether specifically for each policy or whether you have a record that the governing body empowered the SLT to vary any policy or procedure appropriately in the current pandemic situation. If you do this, you can justify the variation on the grounds of health and safety and having to adapt to keep the school community as safe as possible.

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Have you changed jobs this term?

To make sure that we can keep you up to date with the latest information and developments and to ensure we can assist you quickly and easily if you need to contact us for advice, it’s important that you let us know if your job title, school/ college address, home address, email address or telephone number has changed. Expand

To make sure that we can keep you up to date with the latest information and developments and to ensure we can assist you quickly and easily if you need to contact us for advice, it’s important that you let us know if your job title, school/ college address, home address, email address or telephone number has changed.

You can change your personal information online; simply log on to www.ascl.org.uk/login using your password, click on the ‘My ASCL’ button and then click on ‘Personal Details’ where you can edit your details. Alternatively, you can fill in this form www.ascl.org.uk/updatedetails or email membership@ascl.org.uk and we will update your record accordingly.

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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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Keeping children safe

Effective from 1 September 2020, the new Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance ( Expand

Effective from 1 September 2020, the new Keeping Children Safe in Education guidance (https://tinyurl.com/y9enuttq) includes various changes, some of which will require action by schools/academies/trusts/colleges.

New paragraphs have been added to Part One and Annex A, which include further detail on Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) and Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) (paragraph 28), and paragraphs 34–38 that cover mental health.

Under paragraph 211 in Part Four, an additional bullet point has been added that requires the guidance to be followed where an individual has “behaved or may have behaved in a way that indicates they may not be suitable to work with children”.

This widens the scope of the guidance beyond allegations that relate directly to behaviour towards children, the example in the guidance being domestic violence incidents.

Paragraphs 214–217 provide additional guidance on managing allegations against supply staff. While it makes sense for the school to investigate allegations made against an agency worker with the cooperation of the agency, interestingly the guidance refers to the school discussing with the agency whether it is appropriate to suspend or redeploy the worker. Schools are unlikely to be amenable to redeploying an agency worker and cannot enforce suspension for someone who is not their employee.

Staff should read the document and be made aware of the resulting changes to policies and practices. It is also advisable to retain evidence of their understanding of the statutory guidance.

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Exclusions and admissions

A school has recently asked Browne Jacobson whether a permanently excluded child can apply for admission to the school that had originally permanently excluded him. Expand

A school has recently asked Browne Jacobson whether a permanently excluded child can apply for admission to the school that had originally permanently excluded him.

While common sense would dictate that this cannot happen as it was a permanent exclusion from the school, the legal response is more complex.

The issue is not covered in admissions or exclusions law or guidance. If the parent of a child who had been permanently excluded from your school later applied for a place, it would be necessary for the school to reject the application and defend any subsequent appeal.

While this would generally be on the grounds of prejudice, that is, the problems that the admission would cause to the school, there would be an additional ground that the school could not place the child on roll as it would contravene the Education (Pupil Registration) (England) Regulations 2006.

These regulations set out the grounds on which a pupil must be deleted from the school roll. These mandatory requirements include where a child has been permanently excluded from the school. Therefore, while this would apply at the time of the original permanent exclusion decisions, it would continue to operate to prevent the re-admission of the permanently excluded child at a later date following a parental request for admission. Even where places were available or an admission appeal panel upheld the parental appeal, the school would have to delete the name from the school roll in compliance with the regulations

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Starting a new school day

As in all the other home nations, the reopening of schools after five months and the issue of exam results have dominated the education debate in Northern Ireland during the summer. Expand

As in all the other home nations, the reopening of schools after five months and the issue of exam results have dominated the education debate in Northern Ireland during the summer.

Having published the ‘New School Day’ guidance in late June, our Education Minister, Peter Weir, said in early August “I am pleased to announce that I have agreed with my Executive colleagues that, taking account of the scientific and medical evidence, it is now appropriate for all pupils to return to school during the week commencing 31 August. This return will be on a full-time basis of five days a week for every pupil, including those who attend Special Schools.” Pupils in P7, Year 12 and Year 14 returned on 24 August.

Everyone in the education sector will welcome the probability of a return to some sort of normality. There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the mental health and wellbeing of children and young people. The school setting contributes so much to the development of our young people and we trust all will be safe and have confidence in being there.

Since the cancellation of examinations, ASCL Northern Ireland Executive strongly advocated that the grading process needed to focus on pupils and not the system and was strong in the view that the process would only work if the profession worked together in a consistent, fair and ethical way.

Eventually, and after some very stressful days for students and their teachers, we arrived at a situation that will allow young people, who have demonstrated fortitude and resilience though the Covid-19 pandemic, with a platform for them to go forward positively into sixth form, higher education, employment or training.

There are lessons for all in education to learn and there will be a time for reflection. Now, with an uncertain academic year ahead of us, this is the time to focus on the young people in our care.

Amit Ray, writing in Walking the Path of Compassion, said, “Some fish love to swim upstream. Some people love to overcome challenges.” ASCL Northern Ireland members will continue to overcome challenges as they lead our schools and we will be here to support them.

Robert Wilson
ASCL Northern Ireland Regional Officer
@roberthmw

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Resilience and realistic optimism

As schools and colleges formally open at the start of September for all learners, the routines of previous years are scattered to the wind. Expand

As schools and colleges formally open at the start of September for all learners, the routines of previous years are scattered to the wind. As a serving headteacher, I would see every year group in a tightly choreographed assembly while eye-balling those who looked like I was less than fascinating. The school’s expectations were outlined with a run-through of exam results, a quick check on uniform and amazement at just how much the students had grown over the summer.

This September is clearly somewhat different. The challenges you face are probably the greatest of any academic year that has gone before. From dealing with subject access requests for centre-assessed grades, to carrying out huge numbers of risk assessments, translating new specifications into meaningful teaching and continuing to prepare for the new curriculum – the list is enormous. No NPQH could have prepared you to deal with this pandemic.

However, the leadership muscles you have developed are already strong. Even with long to-do lists and multiple dilemmas, you have already demonstrated optimism, resilience and agility. Despite being under intense pressure, you have kept a confident, calm exterior that says, it will all be okay. While those sleepless Sunday nights begin to creep in, you will no doubt smile, even when you don’t want to because you know that those with the least influence have been most influenced by this virus. And what your community needs is for you to exude optimism and confidence through practical and focused leadership.

For the first few months of this extraordinary autumn term, schools and colleges will be akin to a decompression chamber for everyone, as we hopefully slowly emerge from the depths of this crisis. A safe place for us all to resurface. To slowly experience a reduction in this intense pressure will take a collective effort from leaders at all levels. It is that resilience and realistic optimism, keeping learners at the heart of all we do, which will see us re-settle, re-orientate and recover. As author JR Ward says, “Then again, he supposed the healing process, in contrast to trauma, was gentle and slow… The soft closing of a door, rather than a slam.”

Eithne Hughes
Director of ASCL Cymru
@ASCLCymru

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A tale of optimism

As schools in Scotland prepare to receive young people back into full-time education it is an opportune moment to try to extract something positive and optimistic from the experiences of the last few months. Expand

As schools in Scotland prepare to receive young people back into full-time education it is an opportune moment to try to extract something positive and optimistic from the experiences of the last few months. This I do in two distinct areas.

Firstly, School Leaders Scotland (SLS) has shown itself as a professional association that does indeed represent its members at the highest level and support them in the key areas of school leadership. We have been one of only two professional associations attending the Covid-19 Education Recovery Group that has met at least once weekly since April and we have fed back high-level national guidance to members in over 70 newsletters. Indeed, many of you have sent us messages of appreciation.

One SLS member said, “I’d like to thank you for the support and guidance over the last couple of months. The updates and prompt responses have allowed me to shape the work of our school and support my colleagues through what was a huge additional workload.”

While another commented, “I wanted to reply to you with genuine thanks. Knowing that you are on our side, understand our concerns and recognise our efforts to make the experience of pupils the best it can be at such a difficult time, means a lot. In short, thank you for saying thank you, and for seeing what we are and what we do.”

Secondly, the level of professional leadership, pragmatic optimism and explicit empathy in advance of the challenges posed by the reopening of schools speaks volumes for the quality of the people leading our schools and has been truly humbling.

One leader said, “Together we can do this.” Another said, “When the decision on what August will look like and the timeline for going forward is available, I will be refreshed, confident and ready to return to the battle.”

To misquote Dickens: It was the worst of times. In the return to the best of times the school leaders I know understand their role in instilling the belief necessary to overcome the foolishness of the age.


To misquote Dickens: It was the worst of times. In the return to the best of times the school leaders I know understand their role in instilling the belief necessary to overcome the foolishness of the age.


Jim Thewliss
General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland
@LeadersScotland

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LEADING READING