February 2015

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

In the news

There was a vast amount of media coverage featuring senior ASCL officers in recent weeks both in broadcast and print media. Expand

There was a vast amount of media coverage featuring senior ASCL officers in recent weeks both in broadcast and print media. Here is just a flavour of some of the coverage.

Funding in Wales

ASCL Cymru Secretary Robin Hughes was featured by several media outlets, including BBC television, radio and online news, about Education Minister Huw Lewis’s comments about cuts to the education budget in Wales. Mr Lewis also apologised for the Welsh government’s decision to claw back £4.4m from this year’s education budget in order to fund the NHS in Wales. Robin said that there was a picture emerging across Wales of “Severe financial hardship for our schools. It’s a hardship that puts the recent record-breaking results that we’ve seen with GCSEs and A levels this summer at risk. Without the resources to maintain that progress, clearly, that progress is at risk.”

Double inspections

General Secretary Brian Lightman was quoted in The Telegraph on a story about new Ofsted plans to send two inspectors into a school on the same day to conduct independent inspections, with their findings and judgements compared. Brian said, “It is a welcome step that Ofsted recognises there is an issue of reliability and is planning to address it. However, if it is going to proceed with double inspections, there needs to be proper quality assurance and absolute transparency about the detail of the process. Inspectors also need to have regards to the already heavy workload that the inspection process creates. Double inspections will inevitably mean more pressure for schools.”

Budget crisis

Brian was quoted in an article in The Independent about a budget crisis. Brian said, “We are very concerned for the prospects for funding for the next couple of years. We have been saying the funding of education post-16 is not sustainable, and now that coincides with increased national insurance payments and the employers’ contribution to pensions going up. We are clear about the extent of the problem. It is our top concern, which we have already brought to the attention of ministers. We’ve got to the position where basic provision and front-line services will be cut.”

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ASCL Influence

Here is just a small selection of the meetings and lobbying activity that senior ASCL officers have been involved with on your behalf and, in particular, we have highlighted areas where ASCL has had a direct influence on policy. Expand

Here is just a small selection of the meetings and lobbying activity that senior ASCL officers have been involved with on your behalf and, in particular, we have highlighted areas where ASCL has had a direct influence on policy.

Ofsted handbook

ASCL has continually urged Ofsted to recognise formally the volatility in the 2014 GCSE results and we are pleased that this has been acknowledged in the updated Ofsted handbook published in December 2014. The handbook specifically now states, ‘Inspectors should note that the introduction of an early entry policy and changes in GCSE examination structure have had an impact on the 2014 Key Stage 4 results. The changes should be taken into account when considering results alongside those of previous years, as neither direct comparisons nor production of three-year trends are possible.’

Our Inspections Specialist Suzanne O’Farrell has produced a summary of all the changes (see www.ascl.org.uk/handbook). For further information, please also see the updated Ofsted handbook online at http://tinyurl.com/pmnnegb

Meeting with the Secretary of State

President Peter Kent chaired an invitation round table with the Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan and a number of influential policy makers and officials to discuss aspects of a self-improving system. A wide-ranging discussion focused on preparing young people for life in the 21st century, accountability, oversight and intervention and teacher professionalism.

Meeting with Minister of State

General Secretary Brian Lightman met with Nick Boles, Minister of State for the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) and the DfE, to discuss apprenticeships, careers guidance and post-16 English and maths. They talked about the problems of a teacher and lecturer shortage, setting pupils up to fail through repeated GCSEs, and students who miss the pass grade being denied access to further education or apprenticeships. They also discussed the need for credible and respected functional skills qualifications. Mr Boles responded by setting up meetings with the Education Training Foundation (ETF) that our colleges specialist will attend.

Meetings with political parties

Deputy General Secretary Malcolm Trobe and Director of Policy Leora Cruddas met with Jon Cruddas, Labour’s Policy Review Coordinator and MP for Barking and Dagenham. They discussed the Labour party’s policy narrative, how the principles underpinning ASCL’s blueprint for a self-improving system align with the party’s policy narrative and key election messages. Brian Lightman also met with the executive of the Liberal Democrat Education Association (LDEA) to discuss emerging Liberal Democrat policy and ASCL’s blueprint.

Meeting with chair of Ofsted

Brian Lightman, President Peter Kent and Immediate Past President Ian Bauckham met with the Chair of Ofsted David Hoare and Ofsted’s National Director for Schools Sean Harford. They had a wide-ranging and constructive discussion covering several important points, including the following: the school improvement cycle, which takes at least three to five years; building leadership capacity; Ofsted becoming more of a health check; the importance of leaders becoming inspectors; regionalisation; and the importance of leadership teams and middle leaders. Mr Hoare made it clear that he values ASCL’s contribution to the work of Ofsted and consultations on its future direction.

National College licensed provision

Brian and Russell Hobby from the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) met with Minister David Laws and officials to discuss the future of National College licensed provision. Brian also chaired a meeting with a group of licensees to discuss this further. Our aim is to ensure that high-quality provision remains available to teachers at all stages of their careers.

Funding update

Deputy General Secretary Malcolm Trobe and Funding Specialist Richard Newton Chance met with the Treasury Education Team to discuss a wide range of issues, including the national funding formula, capital and democratic accountability. They again emphasised the difficulty that schools will have in meeting the increased costs in 2015/16, even in authorities benefiting from the Fair Funding Formula uplift.

Richard also met with officials from the Schools Funding Unit at the DfE to discuss particularly deprivation funding and the special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) reforms. He raised the wide variation in how local authorities were responding to the changes and the pressure being put on schools as a result.

It is apparent from discussions that short time scales after the next election make it extremely unlikely that there will be moves towards a National Fair Funding Formula before 2017/18 and that 2016/17 was likely to look very similar to 2015/16. It is worth lobbying your local MP if you want to see the implementation of a new funding formula, as not all the political parties are equally committed.

Pensions update

Pensions Specialist Stephen Casey and Pensions Consultant David Binnie attended the Teachers’ Pensions Discussion Forum.

The forum discussed representation on the newly created Teachers’ Pensions Scheme (TPS) Advisory Board. ASCL has secured its presence on this very influential new body that will be charged with making recommendations to the Secretary of State over any changes to the TPS in future.

David Binnie also attended the inaugural steering group meeting of the Working Longer project, which is a DfE-sponsored process to identify and respond to the possible consequences of teachers being obliged to work longer. This two-year project will include the commissioning of professional research. Its findings will have significance for ASCL members both as individuals having to work longer and as those charged with managing teachers.

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Manual handling

A special school that employed a learning support assistant (LSA) to push young people in wheelchairs found itself the subject of a claim for a neck injury. Expand

A special school that employed a learning support assistant (LSA) to push young people in wheelchairs found itself the subject of a claim for a neck injury. There were 40 children in the school with wheelchairs, some in powered wheelchairs and some in manual ones. The court decided that the evidence suggested that the complaint related to a single incident and was a temporary injury and that the longer-term problems with the claimant’s neck were constitutional and degenerative and that the employer could not be held responsible. However, they did make a number of important points.

The burden of proof is on the employer to show that the duty to provide a safe method of work has been complied with. In this case, there had been risk assessments and training, and the employee had shadowed other staff as part of her induction. To insist that all young people used powered wheelchairs would be contrary to the best interests of the young people and so the risk assessments had to take account of the need to push some chairs some of the time. They did. The school did not employ a health and safety officer as such but the member of staff with that responsibility had had five days training and regular refresher courses and risk assessments had been worked out in conjunction with physiotherapists and occupational therapists. The court took the view that ‘when all is said and done the safe pushing of manual wheelchairs is not a difficult or complex matter’, and the LSA was able to make a visual assessment of the difficulty of pushing each student.


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New food standards guidance

As part of the School Food Plan, a new set of standards for all food served in schools was launched by the Department for Education (DfE). Expand

As part of the School Food Plan, a new set of standards for all food served in schools was launched by the Department for Education (DfE). (www.schoolfoodplan.com/standards). They become mandatory in all maintained schools, and new academies and free schools from January 2015. In addition, the EU has issued a directive on the labelling of food to warn sufferers of allergies. Schools and colleges should make sure that the 14 allergenic substances (http://allergytraining.food.gov.uk/english/rules-and-legislation) are clearly identified in their canteens. Where a contractor is used, the school should ensure that the contractor is aware of responsibilities and spot check to make sure that things are as they should be.

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Comprehensible legislation

The pressure on legislators to achieve legislation that is comprehensible was shown in a recent case where a parent took action against a school for refusing admission to his disabled child because the child was unsuited for boarding and reasonable adjustments could not be made. Expand

The pressure on legislators to achieve legislation that is comprehensible was shown in a recent case where a parent took action against a school for refusing admission to his disabled child because the child was unsuited for boarding and reasonable adjustments could not be made. The facts of the case were fairly commonplace and decided on a technicality but in the course of the case the judge found it appropriate to comment of the crucial clause in the legislation, ‘I cannot imagine the English Department of the school being very impressed with the punctuation, grammar or the use of language in these paragraphs...’ More haste, less speed.

One legal issue that did emerge from the linguistic morass was that even if the local authority (LA) refuses to name a school for a child with what were still, at the time of the events concerned, ‘special needs’, this does not preclude a parent or guardian from applying in the normal way and, in that case, the school does need to understand that the mere fact that the LA has not named the school does not mean that a claim for discrimination cannot be brought if the child is refused admission.

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Compulsory retirement age

A recent case illustrated the need to be careful that a provision, criterion or practice does not inadvertently discriminate. Expand

A recent case illustrated the need to be careful that a provision, criterion or practice does not inadvertently discriminate. One may think that a PhD was a safe requirement for a university post. However, in a recent Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) ruling it was found that there was an argument to be heard that people of a certain age had begun their studies at a time when it was not automatic to study for a PhD if one wanted an academic career. That could constitute indirect age discrimination.

In another case, however, an employer-determined compulsory retirement age was held to be justified. In this case, a judge objected to being compulsorily retired at the age of 70. The reasons for the decision against him have a resonance in an educational context when dealing with long-serving staff whose performance is declining. The alternative to a compulsory age would be a performance management system.

This would not only be ‘distasteful and undignified but potentially damaging to the rule of law’ – presumably, because it would not do to admit that a judge may be incapable of judging. Although it was discriminatory, the retirement rule was therefore appropriate, reasonable and necessary.

As for the particular age chosen, this ensured that a judge retired ‘at the top of his game’. Schools and colleges are advised not to apply an employer-determined retirement age. However, one wonders whether some of the arguments in this case may not apply equally well to the disagreeable notion of young people being taught by those who are no longer ‘at the top of their game’.

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Special needs

Although we are getting used to a new vocabulary, some essential issues of legal dispute may not change. Expand

Although we are getting used to a new vocabulary, some essential issues of legal dispute may not change. For example, a parent recently failed to persuade a judge that ‘suitable travel arrangements’ meant a door-to-door pickup for a child with special educational needs (SEN), and, in another case, there was a failure to establish that this clause meant that transport should be laid on outside the normal to-and-from school hours to enable a disabled child to attend out-of-school activities.

Another case revolved around the frequently contested area of the phrasing of a statement. In this case, it was that the child should be ‘taught in small groups’. The Upper Tribunal (UT) decided that the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) had not clarified its thinking sufficiently to decide the issue of whether this meant that all lessons should be in small groups or whether, as was contended for the local authority (LA), it could encompass the child being taught in a small group inside a larger class.

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Warring parents

Schools sometimes find themselves in the middle of a parental battle over the next step their child will take in education, be it school or college. Expand

Schools sometimes find themselves in the middle of a parental battle over the next step their child will take in education, be it school or college.

It is worth remembering that if there is no agreement, there may have to be a court order and that order will be based on the principles that underlie any order in relation to a child. These are the ascertainable wishes of the young person; his or her physical and emotional needs; the likely effects of a change; any background factors, for example the gender of the young person and interests; any harm or risk of harm; and the capability of the parents to support the young person. In a leading case, the fundamental issues that the court must consider in making a decision on a school are that a school should give a young person equal opportunities, aspiration and a capacity to make life decisions.

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Stress

‘Work-related stress’ is a common note on fit notes. Expand

‘Work-related stress’ is a common note on fit notes. An employee may claim unfair dismissal or constructive unfair dismissal aggravated by disability discrimination if it is not dealt with; and there is a possible claim for psychiatric injury. However, these claims will not necessarily succeed.

Stress itself is not a disability and nor is it psychiatric injury, although it can lead to it. In a recent case, an employee of Southwark London Borough Council who was a schizophrenia sufferer claimed psychiatric injury through stress. The court applied the test, which is whether the employer had acted as ‘reasonable and prudent’ in reacting to her problems. It had met with her, discussed her problems, and at one point hired a temporary worker to lift the pressure.

The employer had acted reasonably and prudently. The claim was dismissed. In this case, the employee was clearly and declaredly vulnerable and the employer knew it.

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Separate development

A Scottish newspaper reported that teachers are alleged to be undermining the Scottish government’s policy to promote the use of Scots, rather than English, in the classroom. Expand

A Scottish newspaper reported that teachers are alleged to be undermining the Scottish government’s policy to promote the use of Scots, rather than English, in the classroom. If this is true, it raises in an acute form the question of whether a teacher is obliged to follow professional judgement and conscience or the contractual obligation to an employer.

Wales has met a similar challenge by establishing Welsh or English or dual-medium schools. The problem in Scotland is the less distinct difference at present between English and Scots.

The situation is easier in Gaelic-speaking areas where the language is distinct from English. A similar issue of language status, of course, arises between the three languages of Northern Ireland but it does not seem to have presented the same difficulty in the classroom.

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IGCSE

Commenting on the news that IGCSEs will not count in the school performance tables from 2017, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman said, “It is extremely difficult for teachers to plan ahead and prepare for exams if the rules keep changing. Expand

Commenting on the news that IGCSEs will not count in the school performance tables from 2017, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman said, “It is extremely difficult for teachers to plan ahead and prepare for exams if the rules keep changing. It is even more confusing for parents and students. This decision should have been made months ago.

“Some schools will have started planning for next year on the assumption that IGCSEs would be in the performance tables. The awarding bodies will have put a great deal of time and resource into making the qualifications fit the new criteria.

“This kind of ad hoc, last minute change is not helpful. We need a clear, consistent, long-term direction for qualifications in England.”

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Stepping up to senior leadership

ASCL in partnership with SecEd has produced a guide aimed at middle leaders who want to step up to senior leadership positions. Expand

ASCL in partnership with SecEd has produced a guide aimed at middle leaders who want to step up to senior leadership positions. Key content includes securing your first senior leadership post; tips on ensuring job applications are effective; how to survive the interview day; and an insight into what senior leaders look for when appointing others. You can view the guide online at www.ascl.org.uk/seced The guide also highlights how ASCL’s free support network, Ahead, can help middle leaders on their journey to senior leadership. Find out more at www.ascl.org.uk/ahead

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Election noticeboard

See our election noticeboard that contains summaries of what we currently know about the future education plans of the main political parties. Expand

See our election noticeboard that contains summaries of what we currently know about the future education plans of the main political parties.(www.ascl.org.uk/election-noticeboard). The noticeboard is updated regularly as policies become clearer and further announcements are made.

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ASCL Annual Conference 2015

At this year’s conference, you can hear from keynote speakers, including representatives from three of the main political parties, Ofsted, the Gates Foundation, Professor Steve Peters and Sir Michael Barber. Expand

20-21 March, Hilton London Metropole 

At this year’s conference, you can hear from keynote speakers, including representatives from three of the main political parties, Ofsted, the Gates Foundation, Professor Steve Peters and Sir Michael Barber. You can attend up to four sets of breakout sessions on a wide variety of topics, network with colleagues and visit the large and varied exhibition. Places are filling fast so don’t miss out. Visit www.ascl.org.uk/annualconference for more information and to book your place.

Here’s what one delegate had to say about last year’s conference: “The best CPD for senior leaders available. I feel renewed; the passion, expertise and values of the speakers have seen me return to school with a greater sense of purpose and enthusiasm.”

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Teacher salaries

Commenting on figures published by Incomes Data Services (IDS) on teacher salaries at different career points, Brian Lightman said, “Headteachers all over the country are telling me that they are finding recruitment Whereas difficulties in the past have tended to be in shortage subjects such as maths and physics, the problem is now affecting many more subject areas. Expand

Commenting on figures published by Incomes Data Services (IDS) on teacher salaries at different career points, Brian Lightman said, “Headteachers all over the country are telling me that they are finding recruitment Whereas difficulties in the past have tended to be in shortage subjects such as maths and physics, the problem is now affecting many more subject areas. The recruitment crisis is the result of a combination of factors. Lower pay combined with an unsustainable workload and a constant stream of rushed reforms are among these.” ASCL has made the case to the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) that the only way to address this issue is an above inflation pay rise that is funded by government. A pay rise that is not funded would lead to further cutbacks in front-line provision causing further increases in workload and, as the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) has warned, jeopardising standards. Read the full report online at http://tinyurl.com/ncrl4fx

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New Year’s honours list

We are delighted that former ASCL president and former curriculum and assessment specialist Sue Kirkham has received an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. Expand

We are delighted that former ASCL president and former curriculum and assessment specialist Sue Kirkham has received an MBE in the Queen’s New Year’s Honours List. Sue joined ASCL Council in 1993 and continued on Council throughout her two headships. She chaired the education committee for three years and was honorary secretary. Sue was the last President of the Secondary Heads Association (SHA) and the first President of ASCL as we changed our name during her presidential year in 2005/6. She was our education specialist from 2008 to 2014 and is a recognised national expert on curriculum, assessment and qualifications. General Secretary Brian Lightman said, “ASCL members and Sue’s colleagues at ASCL will share my delight in this tremendously well-deserved recognition.”

We would like to congratulate all headteachers, principals, teachers, staff and governors who received honours this year. See the list online at www.ascl.org.uk/new-yearshonours-2015

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Improving Ofsted reliability

In response to the news that Ofsted is to trial ‘double inspections’ in the spring to verify the reliability of the inspection process, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman said: Expand

In response to the news that Ofsted is to trial ‘double inspections’ in the spring to verify the reliability of the inspection process, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman said: 

“Inaccurate inspection judgements can have disastrous implications for a school. Therefore it is a welcome step that Ofsted recognises there is an issue of reliability and is planning to address it. However, if it is going to proceed with double inspections, there needs to be proper quality assurance and absolute transparency about the detail of the process. Inspectors also need to have regards to the already heavy workload that the inspection process creates. Double inspections will inevitably mean more pressure for schools.”

For more on this, see schoolsweek.co.uk/coming-soon-ofsteddouble-inspections

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Brand new Framework for Governence

The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Wellcome Trust have launched a new framework for governance – A Framework for Governance: Expand

The National Governors Association (NGA) and the Wellcome Trust have launched a new framework for governance – A Framework for Governance: A flexible guide to strategic planning (http://tinyurl.com/lfju494). It can be used by any school regardless of phase, type or governance structure. The framework sets out how governors can evaluate their own practice, how to set the strategic direction for a school and how to monitor progress.

Welcoming the framework, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman said, “A successful partnership between school leadership teams and their governing bodies is extremely important and is a key requisite for all educational establishments. Whilst it is important that school leaders are accountable to their governors, it is of equal importance that school leaders are given the autonomy to do their jobs and run their schools using their own professional judgement. We hope that this new framework will enable this.” In addition, the new version of the Governors’ Handbook, updated for January 2015, is now available on http://tinyurl.com/oqfyyle It includes new and updated content reflecting changes to both existing DfE policy, such as the revised School Admissions Code, as well as new departmental advice, such as promoting British values as part of pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development.

The handbook also contains updated links to resources designed to aid governors to contribute to the success of their school and towards the provision of effective school governance.

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New ASCL guidance papers on safety and safeguarding, equalities, British values, the curriculum and governance

Following the ‘Trojan Horse’ inquiry and the subsequent Ofsted response, ASCL has produced the following three guidance papers to help members who may wish to evaluate their school policies, processes and practices in relation to student safety, safeguarding, the promotion of British values and the duty to provide a broad and balanced curriculum. Expand

Following the ‘Trojan Horse’ inquiry and the subsequent Ofsted response, ASCL has produced the following three guidance papers to help members who may wish to evaluate their school policies, processes and practices in relation to student safety, safeguarding, the promotion of British values and the duty to provide a broad and balanced curriculum. All of our guidance papers can be found online at www.ascl.org.uk/help-andadvice/guidance-papers

Guidance Paper

Statutory Duties Related to Safety and Safeguarding, Equalities, British Values, the Curriculum and Governance. This guidance paper outlines the statutory duties in relation to safety and safeguarding, equalities, British values and the curriculum. It outlines the requirements in the inspection framework and considers the role of governance, and what to do if governors are disregarding their statutory duties. It sits alongside the exploratory self-evaluation framework, below.

Guidance Paper

An Exploratory Evaluation Framework – Safety and Safeguarding, Equalities, British Values, the Curriculum and Governance. For those school and college leaders who believe that they could or may be affected by any of the issues highlighted in the ‘Trojan Horse’ inquiry, this guidance paper is intended to be the start of a process of evaluation of the school or college’s policies, processes and practices.

Guidance Paper

Inspection, Oversight of and Intervention in Schools: The Role of Ofsted, Regional School Commissioners and Local Authorities. This guidance paper provides a factual overview of the respective roles of Ofsted, regional school commissioners and local authorities (LAs) in relation to schools they maintain. It makes the distinction between the inspectorate, which has no executive powers in relation to schools, local authorities that have executive powers in relation to schools they maintain and regional school commissioners who are the agents of the secretary of state and have executive powers in relation to academies. The document clarifies the phrase ‘eligible for intervention’ and offers guidance to schools that are in this position.

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Experts join forces to shape the future of assessment

AQA has announced a working group of senior education experts, including General Secretary Brian Lightman, which will team up with its own in-house team to shape the future of assessment. Expand

AQA has announced a working group of senior education experts, including General Secretary Brian Lightman, which will team up with its own in-house team to shape the future of assessment. The group will develop policies the next government could implement. Commenting on the announcement, Brian Lightman said, “It is vitally necessary to equip the teaching profession with a deep understanding of the theory and practice of assessment. As well as ensuring that all qualifications are fit for purpose, it is essential that full consideration is given to the role of formative and diagnostic assessment in the classroom.”

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New timeline

ASCL Curriculum and Assessment Specialist Cherry Ridgway has produced a newly updated timeline of suggested activities to help you to manage curriculum and assessment changes over the coming years. Expand

ASCL Curriculum and Assessment Specialist Cherry Ridgway has produced a newly updated timeline of suggested activities to help you to manage curriculum and assessment changes over the coming years. Please look out for a copy of it in this mailing pack. You may find it useful to put a copy in the staff room. It can also be downloaded from www.ascl.org.uk/timeline In addition, see page 29 for a summary of the changes.

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Unorthodox punishments

The case of the classroom assistant found guilty of assault for tying a child to a chair and sticking ‘Post-its’ to her fingers, is a reminder that sanctions in a school, as opposed to the use of force to restrain, are for the headteacher to determine; and teachers need to understand that they should not invent their own forms of punishments. Expand

The case of the classroom assistant found guilty of assault for tying a child to a chair and sticking ‘Post-its’ to her fingers, is a reminder that sanctions in a school, as opposed to the use of force to restrain, are for the headteacher to determine; and teachers need to understand that they should not invent their own forms of punishments.

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Rules

How far can an employer make rules to control the behaviour of his or her employees? When the footballer Rio Ferdinand added an abusive comment to a response to a critical tweet, the Football Association (FA) fined him for ‘bringing the game into disrepute’. Expand

How far can an employer make rules to control the behaviour of his or her employees? When the footballer Rio Ferdinand added an abusive comment to a response to a critical tweet, the Football Association (FA) fined him for ‘bringing the game into disrepute’. Free speech may be a human right but it may lose you your job. The key thing is that the employee should have been aware of what was expected and what rules apply. Particularly in relation to social media, schools should have rules and make it clear that sharing your view of management and the young people to 600 of your closest friends may be seen to bring the school into disrepute and attract disciplinary action. Abuse is not whistleblowing.

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LEADING READING