2019 Autumn Term 1

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

New Director of ASCL Cymru

As recently appointed Director of ASCL Cymru, I am delighted to serve the membership in Wales so that we can get the very best for our children. Expand

As recently appointed Director of ASCL Cymru, I am delighted to serve the membership in Wales so that we can get the very best for our children. There is much to do here in Wales, where devolved education gives us our own opportunities to be in the vanguard for positive change, reflecting our Welsh language and culture. With this too, however, comes inevitable challenges for us all.

Policy reforms are significant in Wales in terms of their quantity and impact. The different speeds of these moving pieces present the system with a series of challenges, one of which is that of coherence. The leadership skills in absorbing and implementing this transformative agenda cannot be overestimated but I believe that Wales can potentially realise the vision to create an innovative and exciting educational landscape. If we are to succeed, we need to have a significant increase in school funding; we need to tackle the cluttered and expensive middle tier; we must ensure that there is neither detriment nor disadvantage to leaders and teachers as a result of devolved pay and conditions of service; we need an accountability system and set of qualifications that are fit for purpose; and, finally, we need fully funded professional learning to develop the workforce in delivering these reforms.

This, if you like, is my manifesto for ASCL Cymru. I will work very hard with and for members, in negotiating and influencing positive outcomes in these key campaign areas. I am really looking forward to working closely with members in Wales and ASCL UK. 


Eithne Hughes
Director of ASCL Cymru

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New ASCL website goes live

The new ASCL website has been launched and will provide you with new and easier ways to engage with us online. Expand

The new ASCL website has been launched and will provide you with new and easier ways to engage with us online.

Following extensive research with all categories of membership and other website users, we have completely redeveloped the site to offer you a better experience and to give us greater scope to continually enhance the online service that you get from us.

You’ll notice a new look and feel to the website – available at www.ascl.org.uk – plus improvements and new features that include:

  • information organised in themes, making it easier for you to find the help and insight that you need on essential topics, from funding to curriculum and from business leadership to post-16 support
  • a dedicated ASCL Professional Development site providing easy to find continuing professional development (CPD) opportunities for both you and your team
  • a brand new ‘My ASCL’ section that allows you to manage your membership, send us details of changes to your role or employer, update your preferences and manage your CPD bookings
  • the opportunity to personalise your experience by getting easier access to the information and topics that are important to you
  • more examples of members sharing their experiences, helping to further develop our community

There is also dedicated information for ASCL associate members, members in Cymru and Northern Ireland, along with new ways to contact us.

As a member, you will be able to access exclusive content through a personalised login. New login details have been sent to members but if you have any queries please email website@ascl.org.uk

Later this autumn, we will also be launching a new ASCL App. Designed to help you keep ‘ASCL in your pocket’ the app will give you instant access to key information, enable you to give us feedback and share your experience, as well as making our conferences and other events much more interactive. Keep an eye on your inbox for more information about the app that is coming to a mobile device near you very soon. 

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New ASCL preferred supplier for recruitment services

ASCL is pleased to welcome Hays Education as a preferred supplier for recruitment services. Expand

ASCL is pleased to welcome Hays Education as a preferred supplier for recruitment services.

Hays Education has been established over 20 years and has a team of 170 specialist consultants in 36 offices, working with 4,000 schools, multi-academy trusts (MATs) and nurseries across the UK. Hays has access to the largest specialist database, detailed market insight to help build a strategic approach to recruitment and the most in-depth and comprehensive compliance and vetting process in the industry.

 Throughout the partnership, Hays Education will assist school and college leaders with their recruitment, online training and their personal career development. The recruiting experts plan to host business manager sessions and leadership breakfasts.

Hays will also offer career consultations to ASCL members as well as discounts on recruitment and online training. 

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Adding value

September is an exciting time. Expand

Top tips to keep parents engaged


September is an exciting time. With the influx of your new intake’s parents, now is the time to get them involved with their child’s learning. Schoolcomms encourages schools to engage with parents from day one positively and inclusively.

  • Invest in the best tools.91% of 35-44 year-olds own a smartphone compared with 64% of adults owning a laptop. Reach parents with an app like School Gateway.
  • Streamline. Parents can end up using dozens of systems: confusing for them and your staff as well as being expensive. Schoolcomms offers messaging, engagement, clubs, dinners and more in one place.
  • Be positive. If parents only hear from you with bad news they’ll disengage. Schoolcomms provides certificate and merit templates so you can communicate achievements in seconds.
  • Stay relevant. Social media is great for blanket broadcasting, but not for more specific or sensitive messages. Schoolcomms allows your school to define groups as well as individuals, to send messages to the right parents with ease.

Parent engagement is vital in improving attainment and Schoolcomms makes engagement easy and simple. Find out more and ask about its exclusive ASCL member discount here www.schoolcomms.com/asclbenefit/ or call on 0333 332 7147

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2019 exam results

Commenting on the publication of A level, AS level and vocational qualifications results, ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton said: Expand

A levels, AS levels and vocational qualifications

Commenting on the publication of A level, AS level and vocational qualifications results, ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton said:

“Congratulations to students on their results in A levels, AS levels and other important vocational qualifications. Congratulations also to the schools and colleges which have so expertly taught and supported them during a period of great change to qualifications and while under severe funding pressures because of government cuts to post-16 education.

“This year is the third phase of the introduction of new A level exams, including the most popular A level subject of maths. Students have faced the daunting prospect of going first in new and challenging qualifications which are designed to be more rigorous.

“The grading system addresses these issues by adjusting grade boundaries to take into account changes in specifications and the degree of difficulty in different papers so that students are not disadvantaged from one year to the next. This is a good thing and grade boundaries need to be understood in this context.

“But we are concerned about the impact on young people. The government’s obsession with making exams more rigorous is in danger of destroying their love of learning. Entries to both A level English and A level maths have fallen this year following the introduction of tougher GCSEs in these subjects and this should give us all pause for thought.

“We support the idea that qualifications should be challenging, but we do not think they should be grinding. We are not calling for wholesale change of qualifications in the immediate future. There has been far too much recent upheaval.

“But it would be timely and sensible for the government, Ofqual and the exam boards to conduct a review to find out more about the impact on students of the new qualifications and what adjustments might be made to turn down the pressure cooker.”

GCSE results

Our press release following the publication of GCSE results included this message from Geoff:

“Congratulations to students, schools and colleges on today’s GCSE results which are the product of a great deal of hard work. We are nearing the end of a massive programme of qualification reforms which has been extremely challenging. Our teachers deserve a huge amount of credit for all that they have done to support students taking new GCSEs which have been deliberately designed to be more difficult, and which have undoubtedly caused increased levels of stress and anxiety.

“It is great to see that there has been an increase in entries to art and design. However, we continue to be concerned about the long-term decline in the uptake of other creative arts subjects, and design and technology. This has been caused by the government’s obsession with measuring schools largely on performance in a small suite of traditional academic subjects combined with education cuts which have left them without enough funding to sustain smaller-entry courses.

“Entries to design and technology have fallen significantly this year. Since 2010 the number of entries to this GCSE subject have dropped by more than 180,000 in England. The uptake of music, drama, and media/ film/ TV studies has also fallen this year continuing long-term declines in subjects which are vital parts of our culture and economy.

“The improvement in the uptake of French and Spanish this year is encouraging, but it is nowhere near enough to make up for the decline in entries to modern foreign languages since 2010. Even taking into account this year’s improvement in French uptake, entries in this subject have still fallen by more than 40,000 since 2010 in England. German entries have fallen again this year and by more than 25,000 since 2010. These subjects are part of the English Baccalaureate suite but students are deterred from taking them because of their perceived difficulty.

“It is clear that we need to rethink the way in which we measure the performance of schools, and that our schools and colleges urgently need an improved level of funding from the government. We also need a national strategy on improving the uptake of modern foreign languages rather than trying to lever entries through the blunt instrument of school performance measures.”


It is clear that we need to rethink the way in which we measure the performance of schools, and that our schools and colleges urgently need an improved level of funding from the government. 

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Guidance on paid parental bereavement leave

The government is aiming to introduce a new right in April 2020 to two weeks’ paid bereavement leave for birth parents following the loss of a child under the age of 18. Expand

The government is aiming to introduce a new right in April 2020 to two weeks’ paid bereavement leave for birth parents following the loss of a child under the age of 18. The new entitlement will also apply to adults with parental responsibility for children in ‘non-traditional family structures’. This means that entitlement will cover:

  • adoptive parents 
  • individuals who are fostering to adopt
  • legal guardians 
  • most foster parents(although short-term arrangements, such as emergency foster care, may not be covered)

The Act also covers parents who suffer a stillbirth after 24 weeks or more into pregnancy. Bereaved parents will not require a minimum period of service to be entitled to leave, but to be eligible for statutory parental bereavement pay they will be required to have at least 26 weeks’ continuous service with their employer and have normal weekly earnings in the eight weeks up to the week before the child’s death that are not less than the lower earnings limit for National Insurance contribution purposes.

Employees will not be entitled to take the leave as individual days; it must be taken as either a single block of two weeks, or two separate blocks of one week at different times. Leave must be taken within 56 weeks from the date of the death of the child. This provides bereaved parents with flexibility as to when they take the leave; for example, they may wish to take leave around the first anniversary of the child’s death.

It will be possible to take leave straightaway during the initial period of the child’s death, without having to give a period of notice, although employees will be required to contact their employer to let them know the reason for their absence from work. Leave taken after the initial period will require one week’s notice. It is not yet known what the ‘initial period’ will be set at, but ‘a few weeks’ was stated in the government’s consultation response.

Employees will only be required to produce a written declaration confirming that they are entitled to parental bereavement leave. This will not be required during the initial period soon after the child’s death. However, the government is considering whether or not it will be a requirement after the initial period.

If this legislation is introduced in April 2020, it will help employers implement a fair and consistent approach during an incredibly difficult time for the employee. You will need to review your bereavement leave policy to ensure it complies with the new laws. It will also be sensible in these circumstances to seek appropriate HR/ legal advice as necessary.

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Executive pay

Deciding on the appropriate approach to rewarding executives within multi-academy trusts ( Expand

Deciding on the appropriate approach to rewarding executives within multi-academy trusts (MATs) has become increasingly complex in recent years. Expanded roles, increased press attention and Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) pressure makes this a particularly contentious issue for boards. ESFA guidance (https://tinyurl.com/y68s64w5) issued in July purports to be a tool to create some consistency.

As to be expected, the guidance focuses on objective indicators of academic, educational and financial performance while making clear that pay should be based on performance rather than automatic progression up a pay scale. Pay should be considered in the context of the organisation, with an express statement that “pay should not increase at a faster rate than that of teaching staff”. In this respect, the document is helpful for shedding light on the ESFA’s current thinking on the matter.

The guidance is clear that pay benchmarking is necessary, but the DfE still does not have the data to benchmark executive pay. The result is that boards are left with wide discretion to decide their approach and the actual levels of pay, but with a better understanding as to how the ESFA will approach their scrutiny. However, it still falls to individual trusts to source appropriate benchmarking for their boards to justify their decision making. This information is essential to make a genuinely informed decision on executive pay and reward.

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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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Phased return to work

A phased return to work is an arrangement most commonly used when an employee returns to work after a period of long-term absence. Expand

A phased return to work is an arrangement most commonly used when an employee returns to work after a period of long-term absence. It enables the employee to gradually return on reduced hours over a defined period of time and supports them in making the transition back to normal working hours. It can also include a short-term amendment to duties and responsibilities to ease the employee back into their role.

Planning a phased return to work

A phased return to work should be based on a recommendation of your Occupational Health Advisor or the employee’s GP. The employee’s line manager should meet with them and agree a return-to-work plan. You should take into account the reason for the absence, how hours and/or duties will gradually increase during the phased return, the duration of the phased return (a maximum of four weeks is considered best practice) and how the phased return will be monitored.

Pay during a phased return to work

There is no legislation regarding this, but in education it is the norm for an employee to receive their full normal salary during a phased return to work, even if they are working reduced hours as a temporary arrangement as part of their return-to-work plan. If the employee needs to work reduced hours beyond the brief phased return to work, you should discuss with them the potential impact of this on their salary and seek their agreement if full normal pay cannot be sustained.

What happens if a phased return to work does not work?

You should consider why the phased return failed. If the return-to-work plan was too ambitious and the employee attempted to come back too soon, an extension of the phased return may be appropriate to allow the employee a more gradual return in order to comply with the duty to make reasonable adjustments.

If the employee goes off sick shortly after returning to their normal working hours or during the phased return, you should consider whether a temporary or permanent adjustment to the employee’s role would facilitate their return. You should also consider whether there are any opportunities for the employee to move to a different role within his or her skillset and capabilities. You should not create a role if one does not exist, but it may be reasonable to give the employee priority for any vacancies that arise.

It may be appropriate to obtain additional Occupational Health advice to assist you with your decision on the next step. Under some circumstances, and with Occupational Health advice, ill-health retirement or dismissal on the grounds of capability can be considered in accordance with the organisation’s attendance policy. It is also sensible in these circumstances to seek appropriate HR or legal advice as necessary.

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Room Twelve named ASCL's preferred supplier for infrastructure services

Room Twelve works with hundreds of schools and academies, colleges and universities, providing flexible funding solutions that are approved by the DfE ‘deals for schools’ programme – from LED Lighting, AV solutions, catering equipment, sports surfaces, CCTV equipment through to modular buildings and everything in between. Expand

Room Twelve works with hundreds of schools and academies, colleges and universities, providing flexible funding solutions that are approved by the DfE ‘deals for schools’ programme – from LED Lighting, AV solutions, catering equipment, sports surfaces, CCTV equipment through to modular buildings and everything in between.

Room Twelve will work with your existing suppliers of choice or introduce you to its preferred trusted framework partners. Room Twelve Limited has been successfully awarded a place on all three lots of the Crescent Purchasing Consortium (CPC) Leasing Services Framework Agreement, which is freely accessible for the 6,000 plus members in the UK. Room Twelve aims to provide maximum peace of mind through ethical and compliant practice, with a focus on long-term partnerships.

As an ASCL preferred supplier, you can be confident of professional and proactive support. For more information, visit https://room12.com, email info@room12.com or call +44 (0)2033 011 240.

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Focus on compliance in latest Academies Handbook

The new Academies Financial Handbook ( Expand

The new Academies Financial Handbook (AFH) has been released to come into effect from 1 September 2019 (see https://tinyurl.com/y3cbt3o7). As with previous iterations, there is an increased focus on compliance. Trusts should be very mindful of these changes and adopt their approach and policies accordingly. The key changes include:

Governance Changes have been made mainly for the sake of clarification and ensuring alignment with the Governance Handbook.

Executive pay More detail has now been set out in the AFH concerning executive pay, clarifying that the rules include benefits as well as salary. Trustees must “follow evidence-based process and a reasonable and defensible reflection on the individual’s role and responsibilities”.

Whistleblowing The advice on whistleblowing procedures has been strengthened compared with previous editions, including a structure that protects and supports staff so they can report concerns without reprisals.

Internal controls This section has been rewritten to put more of an onus on trusts to have “a programme of internal scrutiny to provide independent assurance to the board that its financial and other controls and risk management procedures are operating effectively”.

The new changes include having internal scrutiny focusing on evaluating compliance with financial controls, ensuring reporting lines are independent and setting out in much more detail regulations concerning the membership and operations of the audit committee.

Another notable change is that an internal control annual summary must be delivered to the ESFA by 31 December each year with the annual accounts (beginning December 2020). It also makes it clear that the trust must maintain a risk register.

Regulator intervention A new section has been added to flag DfE intervention powers. While the AFH does not extend any intervention powers, the DfE has; a notable clarification is that a trust that has been issued with a Financial Notice to Improve (FNtI) must publish the FNtI on its website within 14 days of this being issued.

Related party transactions  Clarity has been added to the changes made last year around pre-authorisation of related party transactions. The new AFH refers to Section 33 of FRS 102, SORP and the Accounts direction in determining entities caught by related party transactions and clarifies that trading subsidiaries are caught by the regime.

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Responsibility for SEN provision

Where a child has an education, health and care plan ( Expand

Where a child has an education, health and care plan (EHCP), the legal responsibility for securing the special education provision specified in the plan rests with the local authority (LA), not the school. This is set out in section 42 of the Children and Families Act 2014. Schools only have a duty to make best endeavours in relation to the provision but this does not replace the ultimate duty on the LA.

A recent case involving the London Borough of Redbridge has concluded that the duty to secure means that the LA must “provide and maintain” the provision set out in the plan. While the LA should undertake forward planning to ensure that provision is in place prior to a child starting the school, there may be occasions where it is reasonable for there to be an initial gap in provision (that is, emergency placements) but action must be taken as soon as possible.

This is important for schools because section 42 comes with a duty to fund a school appropriately to enable the provision to be put in place, and therefore arrangements between the LA and school must be agreed in good time to allow appropriate preparations to be made prior to the child’s admission.

Given the ongoing issues with school funding, and particularly the availability of top-up funding for high-needs children, these further clarifications of the legal responsibility may be useful in discussions with LAs in order to ensure that appropriate funding is received for vulnerable pupils.

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ASCL Influence

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch summarises our influence on education policy in 2018/19, and looks to the future under a new Prime Minister and Secretary of State. Expand

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch summarises our influence on education policy in 2018/19, and looks to the future under a new Prime Minister and Secretary of State.

We live, as the proverb has it, in interesting times. Last year saw some seismic shifts in UK politics, and this year certainly isn’t shaping up to be any quieter.

The role of the ASCL Policy Team is to navigate these turbulent waters on behalf of members, and to encourage government to implement policies that will benefit both our members and the children and young people you serve. The position we take on issues is set by ASCL Council, our policymaking body. In 2018/19, Council asked us to focus on five priority areas – funding, accountability, teacher recruitment and retention, the ‘middle tier’, and ethical leadership.

So, how did we do?

Funding

We focused relentlessly last year on ensuring ministers were fully aware of the extent of the crisis in school and college funding, and the impact this is having on the life chances of young people. Our True Cost of Education report took a forensic, ‘bottom-up’ approach to what it takes to provide primary and secondary pupils with the basic education to which we believe they are entitled (www.ascl.org.uk/truecost).

We supplemented this analysis with a joint piece of work undertaken with NAHT, NEU and the f40 group, widening the lens to include funding for early years, post-16 and high needs. Together, these two pieces of analysis showed that a total of £12.6 billion additional funding is needed by 2022/23 to reverse the real-terms cuts in education over the last decade, and a further £5.4 billion over the following two years, to enable schools and colleges to provide the core education to which children are entitled.

We have taken every opportunity to share these figures with ministers, MPs and civil servants. At the time of writing, there is a growing sense that the message is starting to hit home, with the new Prime Minister committing to ‘levelling up’ funding. We will, of course, stay close to any announcements in this area, and continue to press the case for sufficient, long-term investment in our schools and colleges.

Accountability

Our aim with this strand of our work was to encourage policymakers to reduce the pressure of accountability and to prioritise what matters most in our schools and colleges. The accountability system has not gone away (and nor should it), but we have seen some positive shifts this year in how the system operates.

The most significant of these is the change to the inspection framework, on which ASCL was highly influential. Our approach was to broadly welcome the direction of travel – particularly the introduction of the new ‘quality of education’ judgement – but to register concerns about some specific proposals.

Several of these concerns were taken on board and addressed in the final version of the framework, including the dropping of the proposal to introduce on-site preparation on the afternoon prior to an inspection, the softening of the language around the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and, most significantly, Ofsted’s commitment to taking a phased approach to the introduction of the new framework, to ensure schools have adequate time to prepare.

Other successes in this area include the removal of the deeply flawed floor and coasting standards, against which we have long campaigned, and the publication of a set of far-reaching recommendations from our year-long commission on ‘The Forgotten Third’ (see article on page 14).

Teacher recruitment and retention

We have worked closely with the government this year in developing its new recruitment and retention strategy, and on the new early career framework for teachers. We will continue to push the government to pull out all the stops to ensure that we have sufficient, and sufficiently qualified, teachers in place in all our schools and colleges.

We have also made it clear that pay awards must be fully funded by central government. The announcement, at the end of the summer term, that this year’s pay increase would need to be largely funded from schools’ own budgets was completely unacceptable, and we have made the strength of members’ views on this crystal clear to ministers.

The ‘middle tier’

The complexity and inefficiency of the many organisations that make up the ‘middle tier’ between central government and individual schools and colleges continues to cause problems. In meetings this year with both Lord Agnew (Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for the School System) and Dominic Herrington (National Schools Commissioner), we have flagged up members’ concerns about the lack of clarity around how these organisations work together.

We have also engaged in depth with the Labour Party on this issue, submitting detailed responses to consultations on their proposed National Education Service and the role of local accountability within this, and meeting the Shadow Secretary of State for Education Angela Rayner and her team to discuss what an incoming Labour government should focus on in education.

Ethical leadership

Finally, ASCL has changed the zeitgeist in terms of ethical leadership this year. The ASCL-led Ethical Leadership Commission published its final report in January, along with a new Framework for Ethical Leadership, a set of resources for governing boards to use to audit their ethical practices (developed with the National Governance Association (NGA)), and a new Ethics Forum under the auspices of The Chartered College of Teaching. The impact of this work is spreading far and wide, and is providing everyone in education with a shared set of values around which we can coalesce, and a shared language with which to talk about these. See www.ascl.org.uk/EthicalLeadership

What next?

We think we have achieved some significant policy ‘wins’ this year, but there is much still to do. We will keep up the pressure on all these areas in 2019/20, as well as initiating a major new piece of work focused on social justice.

We wrote to the new Prime Minister and Secretary of State the day after they took up office, setting out our priorities for education under their government (www.ascl.org.uk/ASCLpriorities). Rest assured that we will continue to hold their feet to the fire on these issues, speaking on behalf of members and acting on behalf of children and young people. 


Julie McCulloch
ASCL Director of Policy
@juliemcculloch

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In the news

ASCL commented on the appointment of new Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, highlighting the urgency of an improved level of education funding. Expand

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


ASCL commented on the appointment of new Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Education Secretary Gavin Williamson, highlighting the urgency of an improved level of education funding. We welcomed Mr Johnson’s commitment during the Conservative leadership campaign to reverse the education cuts. But we pointed to analysis published by ASCL, NEU, NAHT and the f40 fair funding campaign, which shows £12.6 billion extra is needed by 2022/23 in order to achieve this objective, rather than the £4.6 billion extra pledged by Mr Johnson.

Our analysis covers early years, primary, secondary, high needs and 16–19 education and can be read in full at www.ascl.org.uk/CoalitionFundingPlan

Beyond the issue of funding, we called on the new Education Secretary to work with us to develop a brighter and more optimistic vision for education that is focused more on supporting our schools and colleges to deliver an excellent education for every student, and less on an obsession with the mechanics of measuring and monitoring.

We also commented on the government’s announcement of a 2.75% pay award for teachers, saying it failed to make up for years of erosion in the real value of pay, or to improve recruitment and retention, and that expecting the first 2% of the award to come from school budgets would result in more cutbacks.

In Wales, we said the settlement of 2.75% for most teachers was disappointing and we raised concerns that it was not clear how this would be funded. We said the cost must not fall on schools.

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LEADING READING