December 2014

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

A level playing field

What is your reaction when you hear the word ‘change’? I must admit that there are times when I feel like sympathising with the Duke of Cambridge who observed in the late 1800s, “Any change, at any time, for any reason, is to be deplored. Expand

What is your reaction when you hear the word ‘change’? I must admit that there are times when I feel like sympathising with the Duke of Cambridge who observed in the late 1800s, “Any change, at any time, for any reason, is to be deplored.”

The reality is that as leaders of schools and colleges we cannot hide from change and in fact have become highly skilled in implementing it. Having said this, we appear to be in a period when even school and college leaders cannot protect our educational system from the impact of continual change. ASCL’s timeline for changes in our examination and curriculum structures demonstrates that it will be 2019 before our system emerges from year-on-year alterations to the grading and structure of GCSE, A level and other qualifications. The guidance on combining qualifications or ‘discounting’ also continues to be adjusted on a regular basis. I was about to write that one needs a PhD to keep up with this complex set of rules, but I have to admit that I have a doctorate and still cannot keep up with all the regulations. A new inspection framework is currently being consulted on, and if schools wish they can opt into Progress 8 from summer 2015. While ASCL broadly supports both of these proposals since they represent the ‘least worst’ of the available options, there is no doubt that they have added to the dizzying amount of change that currently exists within our system.

One of the ideas that ASCL is currently putting forward as part of its self-improving system blueprint is that our accountability structures need a period of stability. Once we define what we mean by high-quality performance we then need to give schools and colleges a prolonged period to demonstrate that they are achieving these standards. Many of you may have seen at the recent set of information and data conferences that schools judged to be below the current floor standard may actually be judged to be doing very well when the new floor based upon Progress 8 is fully introduced in 2016. Change alters the perspective and time is needed to adjust.

All leaders want to achieve the highest possible standards for their pupils, but constant change is making it very difficult to establish what these standards are and whether they will be the same next week, next month or next year. It is time to work out what our common goals are and then commit to stop moving the goalposts.


Peter Kent is ASCL President for 2014/15

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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.

A level reform

General Secretary Brian Lightman was quoted by the BBC online about the government’s proposed changes to A and AS levels. Brian said, “Politics is getting in the way with secondary schools facing confusion and uncertainty over planning for exams.” He said that headteachers were struggling with a “lack of clarity” about how the A and AS level changes should be introduced and the expectations of universities. Brian said, “It is difficult to plan without the whole picture. Headteachers are very worried about making the right decisions for young people.”

Exam grade appeals

Brian also featured in a story in the TES about the record number of students who had GCSE and A level grades changed after appeal. The rate has increased by nearly 20 per cent in a year, according to Ofqual. Figures released by Ofqual revealed a 48 per cent increase in exam scripts being returned for re-marking this year compared with 2013.

Brian said, “We’re not surprised to hear that there has been a significant increase in requests for re-marks. Many schools have told us of a worrying number of results that simply did not reflect how well students should have done. In an informal poll we carried out of 200 schools, 95 per cent said they had submitted appeals and 25 per cent had seen changes to their students’ marks. 

“There is a growing lack of confidence in the exam system, which has been exacerbated by frequent and ad hoc changes to qualifications. These are confusing to teachers, students, parents and employers.”

Post-16 funding

The Guardian featured comments from ASCL Colleges Specialist Stephan Jungnitz on a story about post-16 funding cuts, policy changes and careers advice. The newspaper reported that while the DfE’s 5-16 year-old funding has been protected, post-16 money has not. This is forcing post-16 providers to run bigger classes but at a detriment to smaller classes in less popular courses, such as modern foreign languages, for instance.

He said, “You may find places where French is clinging on but German is no longer possible. Given that Germany is an important trading partner and hugely influential in Europe, that does not seem very sensible.” He also said that subjects such as economics and further maths have also become difficult to sustain. “Drama, art and music are being absolutely clobbered. And that, too, seems economic nonsense given this country’s output in the creative industries.”

He also said, “There are significant numbers of redundancies happening across colleges and schools. It takes a long time for an institution to build up knowledge and expertise in a subject area.”

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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.

Post-16 GCSE retakes

ASCL welcomed the news from Minister Nick Boles that the government is reviewing its policy on requiring post-16 students who failed to get a C grade in GCSE English or maths to retake the qualification. General Secretary Brian Lightman said, “We are pleased the government has listened to concerns raised by ASCL and others. Developing good literacy and numeracy skills is essential, but for a minority of students GCSEs are not appropriate.”

ASCL in Northern Ireland and Scotland

General Secretary Brian Lightman and President Peter Kent attended the ASCL Northern Ireland Conference in November that the First Minister of Northern Ireland Peter Robinson also attended.

Brian and Peter together with Deputy General Secretary Malcolm Trobe also represented ASCL at the School Leaders Scotland (SLS) conference. Both ASCL Northern Ireland and School Leaders Scotland continue to be very influential and thrive.

Teacher training

Brian met Charlie Taylor Chief Executive of the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) for a discussion about Initial Teacher Training (ITT), development of teaching school alliances and the future of National College licensed programmes.

ASCL believes that the future supply of teachers cannot simply be left to the market. While entry to the profession may be through a variety of routes, long-term centralised planning is required to ensure consistent high quality and the targeting of shortage areas of teacher supply.

Funding

Brian also met with Her Majesty’s Treasury finance team to discuss school and college funding and priorities for the next spending review that will take place after the election. ASCL continues to press for a funding mechanism that distributes funding equitably and according to need, and that allows equality of opportunity to students in all types of institution.

Prior to this, Deputy General Secretary Malcolm Trobe and Funding Specialist Richard Newton Chance attended a School and Academy Funding Group meeting at the DfE at which they were able to raise a number of issues, including representation at Schools Forum, and seeking confirmation that the National Insurance increases planned for April 2016 were going ahead. They also again stressed the need for a national fair funding formula that is activity based, transparent, fair and sufficient, and includes post-16. Richard has also contributed to the research being conducted in to special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) funding by the DfE.

Performance tables

Malcolm and Curriculum and Assessment Specialist Cherry Ridgway have been in ongoing discussions with Minister David Laws and DfE officials on discounting and performance table issues. We were pleased with the announcement that the DfE has reversed its decision on iGCSE English literature – this will count as a full GCSE in 2015 and 2016. The DfE also reversed its decision on discounting of maths and statistics at GCSE – both will count in Progress 8 in 2015 and 2016.

School efficiencies

Business Leadership Specialist Val Andrew attended the DfE Efficiency Sub Group meeting last Friday. The issues discussed included the ongoing development of a toolkit that schools can use to measure their levels of efficiency and a benchmarking report card that will help schools measure expenditure levels against schools in similar situations.

Academy chains

Over the last half-term, Pay, Conditions of Service and Employment Specialist Sara Ford has been negotiating with several academy chains to develop pay and conditions policies that secure the best terms for members while ensuring that they have the autonomy required to continue to improve standards in their schools. If you have any questions about this work, please contact Sara on sara.ford@ascl.org.uk

DfE ‘Working Longer’ project

Pensions Consultant David Binnie has joined the steering group of a major DfE initiative to explore the implications of teachers having to work longer. It is intended to engage in research, including appointing independent research professionals, to identify the issues for both teachers and employers once the raised retirement ages begin to impact. The outcomes are due in the autumn of 2016.

Teachers’ Pensions Scheme Pension Board

The DfE has published the membership of the newly constituted Pension Board that will play a major part in the governance of the reformed scheme. We are pleased to announce that David Trace, an ASCL member, has been accepted as a Board member. David was nominated jointly by ASCL and NAHT with the full support of the joint teacher unions.

David has been a long-term ASCL Council member, a former Chair of the Pay and Conditions Committee, serving through most of the pension reform process, and brings valuable knowledge and experience to this important role.

David’s role will be to promote the interests of all scheme members as one of four member representatives. It is reassuring to have an ASCL presence on such a significant body.

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Clouds and privacy

Some schools and colleges are reluctant to use ‘the cloud’ as a data store on the grounds that it is less secure than the earth-bound systems they have in place. Expand

Some schools and colleges are reluctant to use ‘the cloud’ as a data store on the grounds that it is less secure than the earth-bound systems they have in place. However, it is worth noting that a cloud standard (ISO/ HEC 27018) is now in place. To achieve it, the cloud operator undertakes to ensure:

  • all tools comply with legal requirements for data access, correction and removal
  • material will only be processed as requested by the customer
  • material will only be used for marketing with the explicit consent of the customer
  • disclosure will be limited to law enforcement
  • they will assist in notification obligations
  • it will have a clear and unequivocal policy for the return, transfer and erasure of data
  • it will undertake regular security audits

Any school or college considering using the cloud should check that the operator is compliant with this standard as a basic check. In addition, the DfE has published guidance on data protection for schools considering the uptake of ‘cloud’ software services.The guidance includes a number of responses to testing questions that are highly relevant to schools and colleges when protecting sensitive data. See online at http://tinyurl.com/lv3z629

Tier 4

Independent schools and colleges that recruit numbers of Tier 4 students need to be checking whether the refusal rate is likely to concern the Home Office sufficiently question the renewal of their sponsor status and to prepare their defence accordingly.

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Employment information

The minimum wage has been raised to £6. Expand

The minimum wage has been raised to £6.50 an hour for adult workers, £5.13 for 18-20 year- olds and £2.73 for apprentices. Statutory sick pay has gone up to £87 and statutory maternity pay to £138.18 or 90 per cent of pay – whichever is the lower. The ‘statutory weeks’ pay’ has gone up to £464 (£470 in Northern Ireland).

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Guidance

When a school has held annual briefings on safeguarding, has interspersed continuing professional development (CPD) sessions on it during the year and warned staff not to interact with pupils on social media, one may think that it has done all it can. Expand

Reminders on safeguarding vigilance

When a school has held annual briefings on safeguarding, has interspersed continuing professional development (CPD) sessions on it during the year and warned staff not to interact with pupils on social media, one may think that it has done all it can. Yet the school still found it has a teacher who held indecent images on a computer and sent inappropriate messages to a pupil. It is a reminder that vigilance is essential. The increase in information coming in to investigators has been from about 600-700 cases a month to 1,800. The pressure on all child protection partners, including schools, is growing at a time of shrinking resources. Schools and colleges need to build this into their own risk assessments. Other partners will not always be able to shoulder their share of the burden but it is discouraging that in the wake of the Rotherham affair a report by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that the police chief had ‘a limited understanding of the risks’ of abuse; and his officers, not surprisingly perhaps, showed an ‘inconsistent approach to child sexual exploitation’.

Leader contains general guidance on the law. If you have a specific legal issue, we recommend that you seek advice from a qualified legal professional.

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Stress-buster!

Benenden health’s top tips to reduce stress: Expand

Benenden health’s top tips to reduce stress:

  • Eat a balanced diet – this can help lift your mood and combat stress.
  • Develop a positive mind set – write down three things at the end of each day that made you happy or that you are grateful for.
  • Exercise – this will give you something else to focus on, as well as time to think through the source of your stress.
  • Make a list – write down everything that’s worrying you. You can then identify the things you can change and start to change them.
  • Take a break – move away from your desk even if only for a short time and do something else.
  • Reconnect with fun – don’t lose sight of the positives in life. Keep visual reminders of things that lift your mood like photographs of your family or of your favourite sport.
  • Talk to someone – whether you confide in loved ones or visit a trained professional, don’t be afraid to talk about your problems; letting everything out can be a huge weight off your shoulders.

Benenden health has made it easy for you to help take care of the health and well-being of your staff by making its discretionary healthcare services simple and surprisingly affordable at only £8.19 per employee, per month.

For more information please call 0800 970 6497 quoting ASCL14 or visit www.benenden.co.uk/ascl14

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Election Noticeboard

We have launched an election noticeboard containing brief summaries of what we currently know about the future education plans of the main parties. Expand

We have launched an election noticeboard containing brief summaries of what we currently know about the future education plans of the main parties. The noticeboard will be updated regularly as policies become clearer and further announcements are made. The noticeboard also includes links to:

  • ASCL’s manifesto
  • a brief outline of the policy making processes of the main parties
  • who’s who at the DfE and the Labour team
  • guidance on engaging your MP
  • suggested questions to ask your MP or PPS
  • blogs from the party conferences by ASCL President Peter Kent

In addition, it has been announced that, subject to the progress of business, the last sitting day of Parliament before the dissolution prior to the General Election will be on Thursday 26 March 2015. The General Election will be on Thursday 7 May 2015.

For the latest election updates, visit: www.ascl.org.uk/election-noticeboard

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Cast-iron consultation

One judicial review issue that can affect schools and colleges is consultation. Expand

One judicial review issue that can affect schools and colleges is consultation. A recent case at the Court of Appeal restated the basis for cast-iron consultation that will not be overturned.

The principles are: the people being consulted should be given adequate information; the consultation should take place at the formative stage of a policy (not when the decision has been made); and there is a genuine consideration of the product of the consultation. There is no duty to put forward options that the consulter has already disregarded. There is a balance to be struck between duties of fairness and expense (not only the expense of the consultation). Finally, although it was not an issue in this case, consultation is not negotiation. There is no obligation to arrive at a decision that is agreeable to all parties.

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Do we have your correct details?

Please take a minute to make sure you inform us of any change in job title, school/college address, home address and email. Expand

Please take a minute to make sure you inform us of any change in job title, school/college address, home address and email. You can do this online. It’s easy; simply log on to the ASCL website at www.ascl.org.uk and then click on ‘edit your details’ (in the gold ‘my account’ box on the left-hand side) and update your details. If you have moved to a new school/college or have a new position, please email membership@ascl.org.uk

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Guidance on early intervention to help deter radicalisation

Commenting on Home Secretary Theresa May’s proposals to put a duty on schools and colleges to help prevent young people from being drawn into terrorism, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman said: Expand

Commenting on Home Secretary Theresa May’s proposals to put a duty on schools and colleges to help prevent young people from being drawn into terrorism, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman said:

“Our first priority is to keep young people safe. The role of schools and colleges is to provide early intervention, and to protect and divert young people away from organisations that hold extremist views that are not acceptable in British society. ASCL is preparing guidance for school and college leaders which sets out the actions they can and should take when they suspect young people may be vulnerable to radicalisation or extremism.

“We need to be very careful about making assumptions about young people. It is not necessarily the case that because a vulnerable young person behaves in a certain way or has certain experiences, he or she is either committed to an extremist ideology or may become a terrorist.

“The only way we will tackle this effectively is for education, community and civic leaders to work together to deter young people from being drawn into extremist groups.”

ASCL specialists are preparing the guidance and we will let you know when it becomes available.

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New ASCL partner

We are pleased to announce that we are working in partnership with Academy21 – our preferred supplier – for online schooling. Expand

We are pleased to announce that we are working in partnership with Academy21 – our preferred supplier – for online schooling. Academy21 offers a first-class education for vulnerable pupils unable to attend mainstream school. Launched in September 2011, it has quickly established itself as the chosen alternative solution for local authorities and schools across the UK.

By blending Academy21’s unique learning management system with the Blackboard Collaborate virtual classroom, students are provided with engaging, interactive and personalised programmes of study. Academy21 provides an exciting new approach to learning with the ability for schools to closely monitor pupil progress. Attendance is shown in real time with pupil engagement measured in each lesson. Weekly reports and teacher assessed activities are available for instant viewing.

Summer 2014 examination results show 45 per cent A*-C with a 95 per cent overall pass rate – an exceptional performance by students who have often missed large parts of their secondary education. Students, parents and schools are recognising the advantages that an online school can offer vulnerable young people.

Tony Sullivan, Managing Director at Academy21, said, “We are delighted to have been offered the opportunity to work in partnership with ASCL. We will work with absolute integrity to fulfil the core purpose of ASCL by offfering students enrolled with us the highest quality educational experience.”

For more details telephone 01438 535001 or email enquiries@academy21.co.uk

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Dealing with cyberbullying

New advice outlining how schools can guard against and address cyberbullying has been published by the DfE. Expand

New advice outlining how schools can guard against and address cyberbullying has been published by the DfE. (see http://tinyurl.com/qgm9ntf). ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman was quoted in Parliament Today commenting, “Whilst new technologies and wide access to the Internet bring exciting educational opportunities, cyberbullying can have a pernicious impact. ASCL welcomes this useful guidance document which will help schools and colleges in their efforts to do everything they can to protect their staff.”

Please also see the ASCL guidance paper on social networking and social media (see www.ascl.org.uk/social-media-guidance) that offers some thoughts on how to safeguard yourself as well as your staff, and to avoid compromising your professional position.

In addition, ASCL Professional Development is running a seminar on e-safety – ‘E-safety: Providing safe and effective practice; for more information or to book your place, see www.ascl.org.uk/e-safety-event

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Bite the ballot

National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) is on 5 February 2015 and includes a nationwide series of events aiming to empower young people aged over 16 to register to vote. Expand

National Voter Registration Day (NVRD) is on 5 February 2015 and includes a nationwide series of events aiming to empower young people aged over 16 to register to vote.

Bite The Ballot, a party-neutral youth organisation, is coordinating NVRD and is running activities across the UK to encourage mass-democratic participation. Building on NVRD 2014, the campaign has attracted significant support, with key partners including UK Youth, Asda, Citizens UK and Twitter – as well as a host of celebrities including Jamal Edwards, Eliza Doolittle, Rick Edwards and Vivienne Westwood.

NVRD activities will run from 2-6 February 2015 with an array of educators, businesses and youth organisations participating in this national day of action. To register for #NVRD 2015 visit www.bitetheballot.co.uk/NVRD Free resources including assembly, lesson and campaign packs are available to download on the website.

NVRD is designed to be youth-led and intended to empower as many pupils (aged 16+) to register themselves – and their peers – to vote. Please share this information with your pupils.

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Maesteg muscle

The town of Maesteg in Wales is celebrated for its muscular rugby players, but it was in the headlines for a different reason recently when one school embarked on an assertive home-visiting policy when children were absent. Expand

The town of Maesteg in Wales is celebrated for its muscular rugby players, but it was in the headlines for a different reason recently when one school embarked on an assertive home-visiting policy when children were absent. In this context it is worth a reminder that teachers’ powers to restrain or control by the use of physical force only extend to situations where the pupil is under the lawful control of the teacher; and a pupil is not under the lawful control of a teacher when in his or her home. It was reported that some parents were not entirely enamoured of this way of working. If one of these parents had used physical force to express his or her feelings and this was foreseeable, there may have been an issue with the governors’ duty of care to their employee.

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Partners' rights

From 1 December there is a right for husbands, and long-term partners of either gender, to accompany a pregnant woman to antenatal classes. Expand

From 1 December there is a right for husbands, and long-term partners of either gender, to accompany a pregnant woman to antenatal classes. This includes babies conceived through artificial insemination. The number of such classes is two, and the length of time is capped at 6.5 hours per appointment. It is unpaid leave.

Also from 1 December 2014 the new right to share maternity leave between partners came into force. ACAS has published a guide to the new arrangements and to good practice. Schools and colleges will need to have amended their maternity leave policies to take account of the new arrangements by January.

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Where to blow the whistle?

Public Concern at Work (PCAW), the whistleblowing authority, has noted a 57 per cent increase in queries from education employees. Expand

Public Concern at Work (PCAW), the whistleblowing authority, has noted a 57 per cent increase in queries from education employees. All employers should have a whistleblowing and complaints policy. If a whistleblower concludes that both his immediate line manager and every other power in the direction of the school, including the governors, are ‘all in it together’, then the concern may be taken to the maintaining local authority. The whistleblower will have to show that there were good reasons for the belief that blowing the whistle within the organisation would be futile. There seems to be confusion among employees in academies over where to go. The DfE has pointed out definitively that every academy trust must have a policy that makes the routes clear and that the individual should go to the Education Funding Agency (EFA) if there is no reasonable chance of a report being considered within the trust.

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Taking a leave of absense?

One of the great bugbears of schools and colleges is the member of staff who is persistently absent. Expand

One of the great bugbears of schools and colleges is the member of staff who is persistently absent. This is not always their fault but that doesn’t make it any better. However, capability as a fair reason for dismissal includes incapacity through illness; and mental and physical ability to perform the tasks of a teacher is one of the pre-employment checks that must be carried out by any maintained school. A case heard by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) involved a worker who was absent for 206 days over a three-year period. A total of 184 of these absences were the result of his long-term problems. The others were things like a sprained ankle that could happen to anyone.

The employer gave him a final written warning, which was a model of good practice. It pointed out that his absences had cost the company £22,000. It described the adjustments the company had made to help him and made the point that no alternative duties were available. After the final warning he had two further periods of absence. The company dismissed him.

The Employment Appeal Tribunal came down on the side of the employer. The final warning was issued in good faith; there were prima facie grounds for it to be issued; and it was not manifestly inappropriate to issue it.

The conclusion, which may give some comfort to heads and principals confronted with a similar problem, was: ‘[I]t is legitimate for an employer to aim at consistent attendance at work and the carefully considered final written warning was plainly a proportionate means of achieving that legitimate aim.’

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Changes to state pension 2016

The government has announced details of the proposed changes to the state pension. Expand

The government has announced details of the proposed changes to the state pension. These were originally programmed for 2017 but will now take place from 1 April 2016. A new flat rate pension of at least £148.40 per week (currently £113.10) will be introduced for those reaching their retirement date (taking into account changes to state retirement age) after 6 April 2016. The changes will apply to those men born on or after 6 April 1951 and women born on or after 6 April 1953. There will be changes to pension conditions - more details are on the government's website; see http://tinyurl.com/qxtrr58

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Resignation before Dismissal

In a landmark case, a judicial review has allowed a policeman to resign ahead of an enquiry into the death of a suspect, despite the police force refusing to approve this. Expand

In a landmark case, a judicial review has allowed a policeman to resign ahead of an enquiry into the death of a suspect, despite the police force refusing to approve this.

This would not be an effective tactic in an educational context where safeguarding is an issue. If a school is likely to dismiss, it must inform the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) if a member of staff resigns before action can be taken. If the member of staff is in breach of the Teachers' Standards: Part Two, the duty is to refer to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL).

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Outsourcing responsibilities

When funding gets thin, some academies may be exploring the possibilities of outsourcing some support staff services. Expand

When funding gets thin, some academies may be exploring the possibilities of outsourcing some support staff services. It is important to remember that it is the responsibility of the academy to make sure that the contract for outsourcing includes staff who are transferred retaining their rights under the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). Contractors will expect that the academy will protect them against any deficit in the scheme and make it good, so it will be important to discuss this with insurers and the scheme. The same applies to any further transfer (when the contract for those services is let again).

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LEADING READING