2021 Autumn Term 1


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News and guidance

In the news

ASCL’s profile in the media remains very high and, during the last few months, we have provided comments and interviews to the print and broadcast media on a wide range of issues. Expand

ASCL’s profile in the media remains very high and, during the last few months, we have provided comments and interviews to the print and broadcast media on a wide range of issues.

Subjects have been very varied and have included preparations for, and publication of, gradings in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in GCSEs, A levels and other qualifications, following the cancellation of public exams; school attendance figures during the summer term; summer schools; funding for education recovery; the offer of vaccinations for 16 and 17 year-olds; and Covid measures required in schools and colleges during the autumn term, including calling for practical support for on-site asymptomatic testing and funding for high-quality ventilation equipment.

We have made regular appearances in broadcast interviews for the likes of BBC Breakfast, ITV’s Good Morning Britain, the BBC News channel, Sky News, ITV News, BBC Radio 5 Live, Times Radio, LBC radio, talkRADIO and dozens of local radio and television programmes, as well as being featured widely in the national, local and specialist press. ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton also writes a regular column for TES addressing a variety of educational subjects – see them at www.tes.com/author/geoff-barton


ASCL Influence

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch shares some of the ups and downs of engaging with government after a challenging 18 months. Expand

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch shares some of the ups and downs of engaging with government after a challenging 18 months.

“Many difficulties were to arise from the government’s handling of schools during the pandemic. A highly centralised approach to dealing with 24,000 schools. Tensions between No.10 and DfE. A refusal to trust local authorities and a failure to engage effectively with them, and their directors of public health, in ways that might have allowed a more nuanced and better response. Dreadful communications. Repeated declarations that schools would open or close, or that exams would be held – despite the evident uncertainties – until reality struck. The result was U-turn after U-turn, with pupils, parents and teachers left bewildered and floundering time and again.

”This damning indictment of the government’s approach to education during the pandemic came in a report published over the summer by the non-partisan think tank the Institute for Government (IfG) (tinyurl.com/44th99jx). Described as “an analysis of what went wrong – and a few things that went right”, the report drew on input from schools, colleges, ‘government insiders’ and organisations such as ASCL.

Most of its findings will come as no surprise to school and college leaders who have lived through the last 18 months. But the report included some quotes that will have raised eyebrows among even the most cynical. The most shocking of these was an account from an anonymous ‘No. 10 source’ on the government’s lack of contingency planning. This source told the think tank that there was a “clear steer” from the Prime Minister not to make contingency plans, commenting that the Prime Minister’s “default is to bluff. To talk up things to such an extent that they will happen through the force of his own personality. Which is a very powerful tool. But the virus doesn’t listen to those messages.

”Well, quite. We can only hope that lessons have been learned, and that the more collegiate style of governance we saw start to emerge from the DfE towards the end of last year continues.

ASCL continues to engage closely with the government and other stakeholders on members’ behalf. Here’s a sense of what that engagement has looked like over the summer.

Education recovery

We continue to make clear members’ frustration with the lack of clarity and urgency around how schools and colleges will be supported to help pupils recover from the effects of the pandemic. We know that the DfE is preparing a case, ahead of this autumn’s spending review, for more funding for education recovery. However, we remain far from convinced that the evidence it is compiling will be sufficient to persuade the Treasury to commit to anything like the amount of additional money required – or that the DfE’s obsession with the length of the school day is the right way to achieve this.

Exams in 2021 and 2022

As members will be aware, ASCL was deeply involved in decisions about how students were assessed and graded in summer 2021. The approach was far from perfect, and we’re extremely concerned about the widening gap between more and less advantaged students. But we’re pleased that results days appear to have been, for most schools and colleges, relatively calm, that students’ achievements in this most difficult of years have been recognised and that the vast majority of young people have been able to move on to their desired destinations.

The focus has now shifted to 2022 and beyond. We’ve broadly supported the proposed changes to general and vocational qualifications next year, but have expressed concern and frustration that the consultations on these issues took place so late, and did not include contingency plans. With a strong sense of déjà vu, we are now talking to the DfE and Ofqual about what a ‘Plan B’ might look like, and about how exams in 2022 should be graded to be as fair as possible to students in different cohorts.


In July, the government set out its plans for how schools and colleges will be held to account in 2021/22 (tinyurl.com/54b8bykk). ASCL has been involved in numerous meetings with ministers and civil servants about this over the last few months, making the case that publishing the usual performance data would be meaningless and counterproductive.

We were pleased that the government recognised this at the primary level. However, we were extremely disappointed with the decision to adopt a ‘business as usual’ approach at secondary. We’re unconvinced that the inclusion of caveats on performance data will be sufficient to ensure it isn’t used inappropriately to compare schools. We will continue to make this case to the government.

ITT market review

As members may be aware, the government has consulted on some radical proposals (tinyurl.com/bvzszx5r) to reform initial teacher training. ASCL, along with many other organisations, has serious concerns about the way in which this consultation took place. It included scant evidence for the significant changes proposed, and was launched at the end of an extremely busy and fraught term, with a closing date during the summer holiday.

We wrote to the schools minister to request a change to the consultation period to enable us to properly consult with members on these proposals. This request was declined. We’ve therefore submitted a holding response, outlining where we believe more information is required. We will consult with ASCL Council on these proposals in September, and share their views with the government then.

Safety measures

We continue to be involved in many conversations with the DfE about ongoing Covid safety measures. We’re pleased that the government finally agreed to relieve schools and colleges of routine responsibility for contact tracing (though it remains to be seen how effectively NHS Test and Trace is able to carry this out in an education context). We’re continuing to push for funding for settings to improve their ventilation.

Blueprint for a fairer education system

Finally, we are excited to be publishing our new blueprint, A Great Education for Every Child: The ASCL blueprint for a fairer education system, this month. The blueprint will set out a series of ‘building blocks’ for a system that works as well for disadvantaged children and young people as it does for their more advantaged peers. See page 16 for more on the changes we believe need to happen to achieve that vision.

Find out more

See all of ASCL’s consultation responses mentioned above at www.ascl.org.uk/consultations

Julie McCulloch
ASCL Director of Policy


Natasha's Law

On 21 October 2021, legislation commonly known as Natasha’s Law will come into force. Expand

On 21 October 2021, legislation commonly known as Natasha’s Law will come into force. Teenager Natasha Ednan-Laperouse died after suffering an allergic reaction to an undeclared ingredient (sesame seeds) in a pre-packed baguette. There was no specific allergen information on the sandwich packaging. Campaigning following her death has resulted in new legislation designed to protect consumers by providing potentially life-saving allergen information on the packaging of food.

Any schools and colleges providing pre-packaged food made on-site will need to ensure compliance with Natasha’s Law. The key phrase is prepacked for direct sale (PPDS). Before Natasha’s Law, the display of an allergen summary sheet or a notice to enquire about allergenic ingredients from a member of staff was sufficient allergen information for these items. However, from October, any PPDS food will have to clearly display the name of the food and a full ingredients list, with allergenic ingredients emphasised, for example in bold, italics or a different colour.


  • PPDS means food that has been packed on the same premises as it is being offered, for example, sandwiches, salad pots or cakes that are individually wrapped at the school and sold prepacked from the school or college premises. If it can be taken away and consumed at a point where access to allergen information is not available, the new rules will apply.
  • The law applies to any foods that are in packaging before they are ordered or selected. That will include food that students select themselves, as well as pre-wrapped food items that are kept behind a counter.
  • If you are plating freshly cooked food (not prepacked before the point that it is ordered), there is no need to list the ingredients in full. A reference to the presence of the 14 EU allergens is all that is needed.
  • There is a difference between prepacked and PPDS food. PPDS food is packaged at the same place it is offered and before it is ordered or selected by consumers. In contrast, prepacked food is offered or sold by a different business to the one that packaged it or offered or sold at a different location to where it was packaged. Prepacked food already requires full ingredient and allergen labelling as well as a nutritional information declaration.

Although the legislation comes into force in October, schools and colleges are advised to implement full ingredient listing on any pre-packaged foods as soon as possible to protect students and the school or college.

If you or your catering team are still unsure about whether a food is PPDS, there is an online tool that may assist: tinyurl.com/5ajvxzxz


Retiring? Join as an associate

Retirement need not mean the end of your involvement with ASCL. Expand

Retirement need not mean the end of your involvement with ASCL. We have valued your membership and hope you feel the same. By becoming an associate member, you can remain connected to and informed about education leadership. You are also able to continue to enjoy many of the benefits of ASCL membership at a reduced cost. Join as an associate member today and find out more about how we can support you in the next phase of your life.

For more details visit www.ascl.org.uk/associates



In July 2021, the DfE confirmed that the School Admissions Code 2021 ( Expand

In July 2021, the DfE confirmed that the School Admissions Code 2021 (tinyurl.com/9t72t4zd) had received parliamentary approval and, as such, would be implemented from 1 September 2021. At the same time, the DfE published non-statutory guidance on two of the main changes to the code – the extension of previously looked after child status and the revised approach to Fair Access Protocols. Both documents, available on the link above, will be necessary reading for all schools in order that they are ready for the autumn term 2021.

In addition, admission authorities also need to take steps to ensure the current admission arrangements comply with the requirements of the new code. It will be necessary for admission authorities to update their admission policies (in line with paragraph 3.6 of the code) to meet the mandatory requirements, including the extension of the top priority to those children who were previously in state care outside of England. This will apply to the admissions policy for 2021 as well as 2022 as that will have been determined in February 2021.

Admission authorities also need to make a decision on whether to join in with any available local authority in-year co-ordination arrangements or whether to deal with in-year admissions themselves. This decision will be in force until the start of the academic year in September 2022 and admission authorities must inform their local authority prior to 1 October 2021 of their decision.


Have you changed jobs this September?

If so, make sure you don’t miss out on the latest information and tell us of any change in job title, school/college address, home address and email. Expand

If so, make sure you don’t miss out on the latest information and tell us of any change in job title, school/college address, home address and email. You can change your personal information online by simply logging in to your account (www.ascl.org.uk/login) or by completing an update form (www.ascl.org.uk/updatedetails). You can also make sure that you are registered to receive our specialist newsletters for primary, post-16, business leadership, trust leaders and more.


Fire safety in schools

The DfE issued a call for evidence as part of its review of the Building Bulletin 100 ( Expand

The DfE issued a call for evidence as part of its review of the Building Bulletin 100 (BB100) ‘Design for Fire Safety in Schools’. The BB100, initially published in 2007, is non-statutory guidance on fire safety for schools. It applies to nursery schools, primary and secondary schools, including sixth form colleges, academies and city technology colleges, special schools and pupil referral units. While reviews of BB100 have been completed before, following the Grenfell Tower fire and wider work across government on fire safety standards, the Secretary of State for Education decided to revise and update BB100 to ensure it remains fit for purpose. An initial consultation was held in March 2019 as part of a technical review of BB100. A summary report on the responses to questions covered in the technical review can be found here tinyurl.com/3sxaepyt

Following receipt of feedback as part of the technical review, the DfE issued a revised draft BB100 guide. The DfE in August consulted on the main changes as set out in the consultation document and it is now due to finalise the revised guidance. The consultation draft can be found here tinyurl.com/uzxsh3yt

While this is a technical guide and therefore likely to be less helpful to schools in respect of the day-to-day management of fire safety, it is an important reference guide, particularly where there is material alteration/extension and conversion of school buildings being considered.

It is worth noting that the Fire Safety Bill currently before Parliament will reform the Fire Safety Order, and once the law is ratified and implemented, the DfE will consider whether and how the guidance should be further updated to reflect the new legislation. There is also anticipated to be further changes in fire safety law, and it is likely this will also impact other fire safety management guidance issued for schools. Therefore, schools should look out for further developments on fire safety over the coming months.


New ASCL additional benefit

Take your home workouts to the next level with Sweat IT Online, voted ‘best at home workout app’ by ELLE magazine. Expand

Take your home workouts to the next level with Sweat IT Online, voted ‘best at home workout app’ by ELLE magazine. Sweat IT Online is suitable for everyone, from complete beginners to everyday fitness enthusiasts. Sign up today and get access to its daily class schedule and over 300 on-demand classes, including strength and conditioning, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), running, boxing, yoga and mobility. Sweat IT Online’s world-class trainers will guide you every step of the way with demonstration and encouragement, so you always know what to do and how to do it.

Join today and get your sweat on. Exclusive offer for ASCL members – receive your first month’s subscription for free by using code: AS CLFREE

Redeem online at online.sweat-it.com/pages/ascl


Take control of staff absences

Education Mutual ( Expand

Education Mutual (EM) provides an innovative way to manage staff absence. As the only member-owned, DfE-recommended, absence protection provider, it runs solely for the benefit of members rather than shareholders. The EM board comprises of school business leaders who want the best for their budget, together with the flexibility of a commercial provider.

EM re-invests surplus funds back into schools with over £500,000 returned to date, further demonstrating its support for schools and its ethical ethos. EM works closely with schools and trusts to provide a range of health and wellbeing services. This includes counselling and physiotherapy sessions, 24/7 GP access and occupational health services to run in conjunction with staff absence protection, to support your staff and help reduce and prevent absences.

Get in touch:


More than 'a new normal'

As we begin to consider the post-pandemic education world, in Scotland the decision has been taken by the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville – following the recommendations from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ( Expand

As we begin to consider the post-pandemic education world, in Scotland the decision has been taken by the new Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville – following the recommendations from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) review into Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) – to conduct a radical review and upgrade of the system.

Early in 2020, the Scottish government invited the OECD to assess the implementation of CfE in Scottish primary and secondary schools, to understand how school curricula have been designed and implemented in recent years. The OECD report, which was published on 21 June, analyses the progress made with CfE since 2015, building upon observations made in Scotland, the existing literature and experiences from other OECD countries. School Leaders Scotland (SLS) contributed in full to the fact-finding discussions that informed the review. The OECD analysis sets out a number of recommendations aimed to support the Scottish education system to further enhance CfE to achieve its potential for the present and future of its learners. The report recognises that just as CfE was among the pioneers of 21st century learning, its most recent developments hold valuable lessons for other education systems and Scotland’s own curriculum policies.

The report is expansive and makes a number of recommendations on improvements that could be made to the education system in Scotland. The new Cabinet Secretary subsequently announced that all 12 of OECD: Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence: Into the future recommendations (tinyurl.com/38etuhrf) will be accepted in full, including recommendations on curriculum, assessment and qualifications, which will see the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) replaced and Education Scotland substantially reformed.

An initial Scottish government response to these recommendations is available here tinyurl.com/96ruzzfn

SLS supports the findings and subsequent recommendations of the report and looks forward to full engagement in taking them forward.

Jim Thewliss
General Secretary,School Leaders Scotland


What really matters

An excellent question indeed: Expand

An excellent question indeed: just what really matters? As we start a new academic year with all of the resolve normally reserved for New Year’s Eve resolutions, the answer to this question will give shape to education in the next and subsequent years. The answer will be set out clearly in the first September assemblies that we all know and love so well.

As a serving headteacher, I would determine, with all the natural optimism of my character, that a six-week break meant a fresh start. That among many other priorities, Alex for once would keep his shirt tucked in and the incredibly bright but very demotivated Jane (all names have been changed to protect the innocent) would flick a switch and get to work. This year it will be different, I would say.

This year, for all the reasons that don’t need to be rehearsed in this short article, it will indeed be different.

Here in Wales, our new curriculum is based on a values driven set of what matters statements. They challenge the profession and learners to dig down into a range of thought-provoking, broad headline statements around which the curriculum must be designed at a local level. The National Curriculum is no more.

Health and wellbeing and expressive arts have got equal standing in our new curriculum, which we certainly welcome. Schools must, among other areas of learning and experience, explore the effects and influences of human actions on the natural world. It has probably never been more important, given the events of these last 18 months, to place themes such as these centre stage in the education of our learners. These are the things that matter.

John Dewey, education reformer, counsels, “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow.” It may just be the right time to craft a different tomorrow by looking closely at what really matters in education.

Eithne Hughes
Director of ASCL Cymru


From good to better

Here’s the latest information from our colleagues across the nation. Expand

Here’s the latest information from our colleagues across the nation. ASCL is proud to represent school and college leaders from all over the UK – to find out more, see www.ascl.org.uk/uk

The Northern Ireland education system has a diversity of school types, each with its own distinctive ethos and values. As part of its Programme for Government, the Northern Ireland Executive is commissioning an external, independent review of education provision, with a focus on securing greater efficiency in delivery costs, raising standards, access to the curriculum for all pupils and the prospects of moving towards a single education system.

A recent report from the Education Policy Institute (tinyurl. com/8xahhekj) suggested that pupils in Northern Ireland lead the way among UK nations in most measures of pupil outcomes. In addition, international research, published by the Department of Education in recent years (tinyurl.com/uhry7fmy), has ranked Northern Ireland as among one of the best performing systems in standards of mathematics out of more than 50 developed countries for children aged nine to ten. In standards of literacy, only two countries significantly outperformed Northern Ireland, while in numeracy the system was ranked in the top seven performing countries, and in science it outperformed the average international standard (tinyurl.com/9fx2zxc).

ASCL Northern Ireland has contended for some time that the current delivery model for education is unsustainable. It is accepted that the system requires transformation to ensure it is sustainable, effective and efficient and, critically, helps to provide positive outcomes for children and young people.

The review, while considering structural and system level issues, is tasked with being student centred, with a primary focus on improving outcomes for children and young people.

For effective transformation to occur, there needs to be an evidence-based review of provision, an agreed vision for the future education system, consensus on the necessary actions for change and supply of adequate funding, where required.

This review has the potential to radically re-shape education design, delivery and provision; given the diversity in the system, any recommendations, which will be subject to political approval, will, no doubt, be met with mixed reaction.

Robert Wilson
ASCL Northern Ireland Regional Officer