2020 Summer Term

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

Remote leadership

If there is one thing that this crisis has thrown up as a challenge it is that of leading a whole school community remotely. Expand

If there is one thing that this crisis has thrown up as a challenge it is that of leading a whole school community remotely. A school or college has never been just a building.

We have been trained to read pupils’ body language, to test the mood of the class, to make quiet and imperceptible adjustments to accommodate the particular circumstances of each learner. We conduct this orchestra often with an intuitive and masterful fluidity.

So, the very notion of the profession working from home seems counter-intuitive. And yet, we have made amazing adjustments to teaching remotely while juggling the very real pressures of home life and family responsibilities. The enormity of that change in our daily work practices cannot be underestimated and the profession is to be praised for adapting so swiftly and effectively to this seismic shift. Let’s also be clear – we have been used to working long hours outside of the school setting for many years. Schools and colleges have never finished when that final bell of the day has rung.

What for me has shone through this crisis is that remote leadership at its very best is built upon the social and professional capital that leaders have already built with their teams and their communities. Where that trust exists, people have gone above and beyond all expectations. This principle applies equally to government, the consortia, local authorities and the inspectorate. Leadership remote from schools and colleges needs to be connected to the reality of what it means to do this job – not removed.

We have a new and shared meaning – a rearticulated purpose. We have a coherent, morally driven and fundamental resolve that is being played out and explored through the course of this crisis. This has certainly brought out the very best of what school and college leaders and teachers do, and are capable of doing. Our only competitor is to win against the effects of this virus. It is no longer one school competing with the other around performance measures. That now feels like a vulgar irrelevance.

Our focus as schools and colleges begin a phased reopening, must be to look after the wellbeing and emotional health of our learners and our workforce. We need to get back to routines and provide stability through focused leadership. We must be trusted not to take our eye off that purpose. Anything else will be a distraction and our most vulnerable will suffer. Deep learning will only flourish once we meet the basic needs and provide a sense of security to our learners. Or as Jennifer Hogan, author and educationalist, puts it, “We must Maslow before we Bloom.” 

Eithne Hughes
Director of ASCL Cymru

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Exceptional leadership

From the first feature I wrote for Leader, and in all my reports to Council since 2016, I have been reporting about the ongoing industrial action that has been impacting on schools in Northern Ireland. Expand

From the first feature I wrote for Leader, and in all my reports to Council since 2016, I have been reporting about the ongoing industrial action that has been impacting on schools in Northern Ireland. I am delighted to report that, at the end of April, an agreement was reached whereby the teachers’ unions ended their action short of strike and accepted a pay deal. Through all this time, ASCL leaders have worked hard in schools to maintain good relationships with their colleagues, anticipating this day. The outworking of the deal is that there will be a review of workload and accountability.

Donella (Dana) Meadows in Dancing with Systems wrote, “Systems cannot be controlled, but they can be designed and redesigned… We can envision what we really want and not what we are willing to settle for and then learn how to bring that vision lovingly into being in a world of systems that requires our full humanity, our rationality, our compassion and our morality.” These words strike a chord at this time as ASCL members in Northern Ireland, as in all regions of the UK, have faced numerous challenges associated with the current health crisis: cancelling school trips, closing schools, reopening for vulnerable children and children of key workers, coordinating remote learning, responding to daily requests for information and leading on centreassessed grades, to name just a few. Our members are role models and never has school leadership here demonstrated such humanity, compassion and morality. It is my privilege to work with people of such high calibre and integrity. 

Robert Wilson
ASCL Northern Ireland
Regional Officer

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Thank you for caring

One of the consequences of living through a situation such as that we currently find ourselves, is that language develops to reflect and describe feelings, actions and behaviours. Expand

One of the consequences of living through a situation such as that we currently find ourselves, is that language develops to reflect and describe feelings, actions and behaviours. Already existing words attain an increased level of usage: there has been an unprecedented use of ‘unprecedented’. New words and combinations of words are invented: ‘social distancing’, ‘self-isolation’, ‘the new normal’. Acronyms are invented: PPE.

It is, however, important to remember the many old, and less sensationalist, words, which seldom feature in the headlines of the populist press. These words lie at the heart of what it means to be a teacher and a school leader. They are reflective of what we have always done. And they tell the story of what individual teachers are doing, quietly, compassionately and selflessly on behalf of young people in these most challenging of times.

They describe a profession that is fully aware of the position that it holds, and the expectation of it, within the public sector response to this emergency.

Phrases such as ‘duty of care’ have never meant more than in the actions that we are currently taking. Unconditional positive regard describes the relationship between teachers and vulnerable, confused, anxious children. Social interactions based on empathy and trust underpin the creation of a learning environment that understands, and demonstrates, the importance of sustaining physical and mental wellbeing and resilience. Support is routinely proffered through unprovoked acts of kindness and genuine compassion.

At the heart of it all, teachers are going about their business showing a genuine love for young people.

The great Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy, when talking about performing under pressure, said, “Football doesn’t build character; it reveals character.”

That has never been more clearly proven than by the outstanding response to working under pressure shown by teachers and school leaders since mid-March.

But Theodore Roosevelt said it best when he said, “No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.”

Jim Thewliss
General Secretary,
School Leaders Scotland

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Guidance on the use of school funds

In uncertain times like these, schools might be tempted to dip into their school funds to bolster spending but caution is advised; spending charitable funds for novel reasons can bring problems. Expand

In uncertain times like these, schools might be tempted to dip into their school funds to bolster spending but caution is advised; spending charitable funds for novel reasons can bring problems. School funds are often raised through public appeals, awards from grant funding organisations and legacies from former staff and pupils. Best practice is that monies are held separately from the school main revenue and earmarked as ‘restricted funds’.

Occasionally, money is given to schools and academies with no particular purpose attached, but often donations are made with conditions attached. Conditions commonly include funding certain equipment or the construction of a particular building, funding a specific trip or that they should only be used for one of the academies within a multi-academy trust (MAT). Conditions can be imposed by the donor at the time of donation or can automatically attach to school funds because of the method of fundraising. The wording of an appeal to parents for school trip monies, posters at cake sales or statements to students ahead of non-uniform days can all cause restrictions to be attached to the money generated.

Once restricted funds have been generated, they can only be used for that purpose and, if the school wishes to apply the funds for a different purpose, a strict legal process must be followed. This process takes time and occasionally requires Charity Commission consent and/or a public consultation. Even in circumstances where too much (or not enough) money is raised for the intended purpose, the school isn’t free to spend the leftover funds however it wishes. Again, a strict process must be followed. Failure to follow the correct procedure is a breach of the governors’/ trustees’ legal duties and, for academies, is a breach of the Academies Financial Handbook. Before spending school funds consider:

1. Where did the money come from?

2. What did you tell the donors it would be used for?

3. Is that different from what you are now intending to use it for?

If in doubt, seek legal advice before spending school funds on novel purchases or events. 

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In the news


ASCL has maintained a high profile in the media over the course of the Covid-19 emergency, striking a calm and measured tone, while highlighting the concerns of members over elements of government guidance, emphasising the need for caution and flexibility, and scrutinising the scientific basis for the government’s approach to reopening schools and colleges to more pupils in England. Expand

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


ASCL has maintained a high profile in the media over the course of the Covid-19 emergency, striking a calm and measured tone, while highlighting the concerns of members over elements of government guidance, emphasising the need for caution and flexibility, and scrutinising the scientific basis for the government’s approach to reopening schools and colleges to more pupils in England.

General Secretary, Geoff Barton has taken part in many broadcast interviews, including BBC national television news, Sky News, BBC regional television and radio news, LBC, BBC Radio 5 live, BBC Radio 4, and talkRADIO. ASCL has also featured in many articles in the national, local and education press.

Geoff has written a series of articles, including pieces in TES on how mental health must be a top priority (https://tinyurl.com/ybcevvq3), the lack of clarity over some government guidance (https://tinyurl.com/y8hyw8jb) and, in SecEd, examining the scientific basis for the government’s approach (https://tinyurl.com/y9lo7gns).

We have also provided reassurance over the process for centre-assessed grades, highlighted concerns over the problems with the national free school meals voucher scheme and called for an expansion of the initiative for free laptops for Year 10 disadvantaged pupils to include other year groups.

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Supporting schools to learn from each other

Improving how schools use and learn from data is still one of our top priorities for the next school year. Expand

Improving how schools use and learn from data is still one of our top priorities for the next school year. We are encouraging schools to take part in our Open Data Project to explore links and patterns in their data and ultimately improve attendance and attainment.

Developed by school leaders and delivered by ASCL, the Open Data Project gives you a straightforward way of collaborating through data to develop deeper insight. It is simple to use, and if you join now, set up and training can be completed ahead of the summer break, with subscription fees only commencing from September.

So far, the project has helped schools to reduce persistent absence, benchmark against similar schools or multi-academy trusts (MATs) and focus on working with specific segments such as Pupil Premium. For more information and to get involved visit: www.opendataproject.org.uk

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Online PD

BlueSky is the only solution of its kind endorsed by ASCL. Expand

BlueSky is the only solution of its kind endorsed by ASCL. The market-leading online platform supports leaders and staff with performance review, professional learning, observations, school self-evaluation and collaborative working in the education sector.

It’s never been more important to have access to the professional learning your staff are engaging with and track its future impact on children’s learning and school goals. This timing-saving online platform empowers staff to take charge of their own professional learning by giving them insight into the impact of their work. Staff and leaders can see the impact of activity holistically, instantly identify development needs and provide opportunities for further support.

“We wanted to put in place something structured to help staff with the switch to online learning as they began teaching from home and to incorporate it into their professional development plans, where appropriate. There is obviously a lot of free CPD being made available at the moment and we needed a way to bring it together.”

Rachael Moon, Assistant Principal, Goodwin Academy


10% discount on first year subscription for A SCL members

Arrange a free online demo: Call 01483 880004 Email: ascl@blueskyeducation.co.uk or visit www.blueskyeducation.co.uk

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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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Virtual AGMs

The trust’s own articles would need to be checked for any specific details but the latest DfE Model Articles of Association ( Expand

The trust’s own articles would need to be checked for any specific details but the latest DfE Model Articles of Association (https://tinyurl.com/m7942rl) do not, directly or indirectly, provide for virtual general meetings. This is in contrast to the ability to hold virtual board meetings (see Model Article 126). Given the Model Articles require (as is common) a notice of a general meeting to state the time, date and place of a general meeting, this indicates that general meetings would have to be held in a physical place. To provide for virtual general meetings, it would be sensible to include specific provisions in the articles that would provide suitable safeguards and a sensible process to secure effective governance of the meetings.

This leaves four options under the Model Articles:

1. Delay the AGM if the trust is able to properly convene a meeting within 15 months of the last AGM that was held.

2. Where the trust has already issued its AGM notice, the trust could look to open the AGM and then immediately adjourn it.

3. If critical resolutions need to be passed, the trust can delay the AGM and members can use the written resolution procedure in accordance with Article 35 to pass any urgent resolutions but note this would not be in place of an AGM.

4. Given the social distancing rules in place, hold the AGM using the proxy provisions in the articles. The trust could convene a meeting at the house of one of the members (the convening member), but the other members (instead of attending) appoint an individual of the convening member’s family to be their proxy. This is a rather unorthodox approach but given the social distancing rules, a physical meeting can’t be convened.

The articles do allow the members to appoint a proxy and if they appointed a proxy who lived in the same household as the convening member, the quorum requirements at Article 23 would be met. Clearly however this option won’t apply if the convening member doesn’t reside with any family members who could act as a proxy for those members unable to be present. When appointing a proxy, members have the choice to direct how the proxy to vote - the model articles give two different proxy appointment options (see Articles 40 and 41).

The AGM notice will need to specify the venue for the AGM. Under the Model Articles, notice of the AGM will need to be sent to all the members, the trustees and the auditors. Whilst the home of one of the members may be the easiest venue to hold the AGM (with an adult member of their household acting as proxy) members may not be comfortable with their home address appearing on the AGM notice.

An alternative, (whilst respecting the relevant rules on social distancing) could include a public place close to their home that would not contravene government advice on social distancing (e.g. a public green/common land that is open to the public).

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Have your details changed?

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

To make sure that we can keep you up to date with the latest information and developments and to ensure that we can assist you quickly and easily if you need to contact us for advice, it’s important that you let us know if your job title, school/college address, home address, email or telephone number has changed. You can change your personal information online; simply log on to www.ascl.org.uk/login using your password, click on the ‘My ASCL’ button and then click on ‘Personal Details’ where you can edit your details. Alternatively, you can fill in this form www.ascl.org.uk/updatedetails and we will update your record accordingly.

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New ASCL guidance

The public sector equality duty ( Expand

Public sector equality duty

The public sector equality duty (PSED), known as the ‘equality duty’, was introduced by the Equality Act 2010 and brought previous equalities law under one umbrella; replaced existing race, disability and gender equality duties; and extended protection to further ‘protected characteristics’. Our new guidance paper summarises the legal duties on school and college leaders to tackle inequality in their institutions. Download the guidance here: www.ascl.org.uk/PSED


Fair and transparent recruitment processes

This new guidance has been produced to support employers and education leaders in implementing fair and transparent recruitment processes in schools and colleges in England. These processes will help schools and colleges attract and select from a wider, more diverse talent pool that addresses both the current recruitment and retention difficulties, and ensures school and college workforces are truly inclusive. The guidance has been co-authored with Hannah Jepson, Business Psychologist and Founder of LGBTed. Download the paper at: www.ascl.org.uk/FairTransparentRecruitment

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STEM Learning: Latest ASCL Preferred Supplier

ASCL is pleased to announce a new preferred supplier, STEM Learning, the UK’s largest provider of education support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics ( Expand

ASCL is pleased to announce a new preferred supplier, STEM Learning, the UK’s largest provider of education support for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

STEM Learning works with schools, colleges and others working with young people and is supported by a partnership of government, charitable trusts and employers. Its mission is to raise young people’s engagement and achievement in STEM subjects through: 

  • high-impact, subjectspecific CPD for teachers of STEM subjects; science teachers are 160% more likely to remain in the profession after participating in this CPD
  • 30,000 STEM Ambassador volunteers demonstrating the value of STEM careers
  • support for STEM Clubs to enrich the curriculum
  • thousands of qualityassured, curriculumlinked resources

STEM Learning is part of a consortium leading the National Centre for Computing Education – creating a world-leading computing education for every child in England.

All support is bursarysupported, subsidised or free. Visit: www.stem.org.uk

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ASCL Influence

Before settling down to write this update, I looked back over my contributions to Leader so far this year. Expand

Before settling down to write this update, I looked back over my contributions to Leader so far this year. In November, I focused on the implications of a potential no-deal Brexit for schools and colleges. In January, writing the day after the General Election, I talked about the Conservative Party’s manifesto promises on education. And in March, I wrote about how we’d been getting to grips with working with the newly re-elected government. 

In a year that had already seen more than its fair share of social and political upheaval, nothing could have prepared any of us for the last few months. The way in which ASCL members, and everyone else working in our schools and colleges, have risen to an entirely unprecedented challenge has been nothing short of humbling. Our children’s education is in very safe hands. 

The role of the ASCL Policy Team over this period has been to help members to navigate the bewildering array of guidance being produced by the DfE and other agencies, and to ensure that the voices of school and college leaders are heard loud and clear when any decisions are being made. Here are some of the ways in which we’ve been doing that. 

Newsletters, FAQs and guidance papers

As many members will have seen, our Public Relations Team has been sending out daily email newsletters throughout this period. The Policy Team has been spending time each morning reviewing new and updated government guidance, and flagging up in the newsletter the most important points. We’ve also been tracking questions sent by members to our dedicated coronavirus@ascl.org.uk email inbox, finding answers to these, and building what is now an extremely comprehensive set of FAQs on all things Covid (www.ascl.org.uk/Coronavirus-FAQs). Where we think members need more than just a short answer, we’ve produced guidance papers (www.ascl.org.uk/coronavirus) on issues such as planning and risk assessment, remote teaching and learning, centre-assessed grades, and reaching out to vulnerable children. 

Liaising with government 

We’ve also been in daily contact with ministers and civil servants – alerting them to members’ questions and concerns, flagging up issues on which leaders need more support or information, commenting on draft government guidance and ensuring ministers are fully aware of members’ views as they take some of the most important decisions of their careers. 

More formally, we have responded at speed to a number of quick-fire consultations, including on the cancellation of the 2020 primary national assessments, and a series of Ofqual consultations on the grading of exams and qualifications this year (www.ascl.org.uk/ConsultationResponses). 

ASCL General Secretary, Geoff Barton, has attended (virtually, of course) weekly meetings with the Secretary of State. I’ve been part of similarly regular meetings with senior officials, and members of the Policy Team have provided invaluable support, information and challenge to teams across the DfE. As ever, our approach has been one of constructive engagement, acting as critical, expert friends to government. 

At the time of writing, the most complex discussions we’re involved in concern when and how schools and colleges might open to more pupils. At the end of April, at the DfE’s request, we consulted members on possible approaches to a phased reopening of schools and colleges, on what pre-requisites would need to be in place before this could happen and on how social distancing might be achieved in schools and colleges. We received over 2,000 responses in 24 hours. A summary of your answers is available here: www.ascl.org.uk/ReopeningMembersViews 

Then a week later, again at the DfE’s request, we asked members what questions they and other stakeholders would need to have answered before schools and colleges could open to more pupils. Again, we received a phenomenal response from members, and you can see a list of your key questions and the answers here: www.ascl.org.uk/MemberQsReopening 

We hope that, through these processes, we’ve been able to represent the views of ASCL members to the best of our ability throughout this incredibly difficult time. We won’t always have got everything right, but we’ve tried to use our relationships and influence with government to, as our strapline says, “Speak on behalf of members and act on behalf of children and young people”, in ways that we never imagined would be necessary. 

‘Business as usual’

While a huge amount of our focus over the last couple of months has been on the current crisis, we’ve also been engaged in a fair amount of ‘business as usual’. To highlight just a few examples: 

Pay and Conditions Specialist, Louise Hatswell, met with the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) in March to give oral evidence for their 30th remit. We were asked about our views on the DfE’s proposals, and to expand on our own evidence. This included a discussion concerning the rationale behind our claim that any increases to starting salaries needs to be reflected across all pay ranges, and for the removal of performance-related pay from the School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).

Deputy Director of Policy, Sara Ford, has represented ASCL on the DfE’s expert advisory group on teacher and leader wellbeing. The recommendations of this group will be particularly important in the current circumstances. Sara has also been involved in discussions on the new points-based immigration, on how to tackle the high cost of supply agencies, and on the rollout of the Early Career Framework. 

Anne Murdoch, Senior Advisor on College Leadership, has, with other colleagues, been working with the Association of Colleges (AoC) on a number of issues. These include the insolvency regime, the Commission on the College of the Future, the ‘Love Our Colleges’ campaign and a project called the Leadership Exchange, which is developing a self-support group for college principals. Anne is also working with the DfE on its survey on FE workforce issues that will be launched later in the year, and she has responded to a large number of FE-related consultations over the last couple of months.

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LEADING READING