2020 Autumn Term 2

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

Crisis-driven innovation

Wind and rain have returned as the long shadows of autumn have arrived, along with perhaps the most challenging period for leaders since this pandemic began. Expand

Wind and rain have returned as the long shadows of autumn have arrived, along with perhaps the most challenging period for leaders since this pandemic began. The joy of seeing children return to classrooms has been replaced by a daily struggle to remain open and deliver the curriculum, and delays in testing have made things even more difficult. For many, the vocabulary used in our SLT meetings would be more familiar to a medical team in a disaster area than a group of education professionals. 

They do say, however, that crisis drives innovation and I’m hearing increasingly from leaders that they are looking to continue with the changes driven by Covid when this virus has passed. Will we retain our new systems for reducing movement around the school? What about those Year 7 ‘bubbles’ where the curriculum is now delivered in a more flexible way by a smaller number of teachers? And will the rapid development of our online ‘virtual classrooms’ allow us to redefine what learning looks like in the future? 

The government’s ‘catch-up’ funding is also fuelling lots of great conversations and innovation in schools and colleges about how we can help children who’ve lost out on so much through absence from school. It is encouraging to see leaders attempting to not just spend the money now but use it in a way that has a lasting effect into the future. The evidence-based approaches being developed and implemented now will set a pattern for the future that we will want to continue. 

None of this is easy and finding the head space and capacity in leadership teams worn down by non-stop corridor duties is so hard. Government actions at times haven’t helped. Emergency legislation forcing schools to provide remote learning is the kind of misjudged action we see with a new teacher who lambasts an entire class for the poor behaviour of one child. 

When we can lift our heads and look to the future, we can start to see the positive lessons that we might take from this awful crisis. Doing so also gives us and our teams the motivation to endure another day on the Covid frontline. The virus will cast a long shadow on the months ahead of us but those shadows don’t have to be all dark. Leaders working with optimism and creativity will ensure our schools and colleges emerge strengthened and even better places to work and learn.

Richard Sheriff
ASCL President 2020/21
@asclpresident

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ASCL Influence

Julie McCulloch, ASCL Director of Policy, outlines our seven current priorities for government. Expand

Julie McCulloch, ASCL Director of Policy, outlines our seven current priorities for government.

I don’t know about you, but I’m starting to feel like I’m living in a warped, not particularly festive, version of ‘The Twelve Days of Christmas’. Altogether now: “In the seventh month of Covid, the government brought to us – (no more than) six people meeting, four education tiers, three local alert levels – and more than 20,000 thoroughly confused ASCL members.” 

We’ve been doing our best to help with that confusion, continuing to invite questions and comments from members, raising those with government and sharing updates, information and guidance. But we’ve also been working proactively on members’ behalf, making it clear what leaders need the government to do. 

So here’s our contribution to the carol concert in which none of us wants to be taking part – seven ASCL policy priorities. 

1. Provide better public health support for leaders dealing with Covid cases

The government’s guidance for the full opening of schools promised that schools and colleges with confirmed Covid cases would receive detailed, bespoke support from public health experts. In reality this support has often been sorely lacking. Local health protection teams (HPTs) quickly became overwhelmed and, following urgent meetings between the DfE, ASCL and other organisations, the DfE helpline was set up to provide additional support. 

This approach has, in some cases, worked well. We’ve received some reports from members who have received the support they need, in a timely manner. 

But we have also received many reports of ongoing issues. These include helpline staff who appear to have little public health expertise sometimes providing advice that is later contradicted by HPTs. Recently we have also heard worrying reports of schools and colleges reporting a second or subsequent case being told that they needn’t “bother” phoning the helpline again, as they “already know what to do”. 

We have raised all of these issues with the DfE, and this has led to some improvements. However, we remain deeply concerned that school and college leaders are not receiving the expert public health support they were promised in dealing with this unprecedented situation and we are continuing to raise this issue at the highest levels of government.

2. Don’t publish performance tables in 2021

ASCL believes that publishing performance tables next year would be meaningless and counterproductive. It would mislead parents by not recognising the varying impact Covid has had, and will continue to have, on different schools and colleges. It would also put additional stress on leaders, teachers and children by encouraging them to compete with one another rather than focus on what their pupils need. 

We’ve made this point numerous times in meetings with the Secretary of State, the schools minister, the 10 Downing Street policy unit and many DfE officials. At the time of writing, no announcement about performance tables has been made. We’ll keep pushing. 

3. Make the assessment of GCSE, A level and vocational qualifications as fair as possible 

The question of what to do with exams in 2021 is hugely challenging, and there are no easy answers. ASCL’s contribution to this debate has included putting together a detailed set of proposals for how we think qualifications could be assessed as fairly as possible, and for contingency plans for students unable to sit exams. We were very pleased to have secured the support of four other organisations for these proposals – NAHT, NEU, NASUWT and NGA. You can read our proposals here: www.ascl.org.uk/exams2021proposal

At the time of writing, we are taking part in detailed discussions with the DfE and Ofqual about these issues, in which we are stressing both the need to get this right and the importance of making decisions as soon as possible.

4. Cancel SATs in 2021

The government has so far given no indication that Key Stage 1 and Key Stage 2 SATs will be cancelled or adapted this year. This seems increasingly inappropriate and counterproductive given how much learning time children have lost and continue to lose. 

ASCL’s view, led as ever by Council, is that SATs should be cancelled in 2021, even if performance tables are suspended. The stated role of SATs is to assess the performance of schools, not individual pupils. Schools will have had such different degrees of disruption over the year leading up to SATs that any attempt to use these assessments to compare schools will be meaningless and potentially hugely misleading. 

We are in ongoing discussions with the DfE about this issue. 

5. Be realistic about the remote learning that schools and colleges can provide 

ASCL strongly opposed the introduction of the remote learning continuity direction, with Geoff describing this in his TES blog as “a piece of political posturing: a dog-whistle gesture intended to show a government getting tough with schools on behalf of parents”. 

We are continuing to make it clear that, while schools and colleges are providing high-quality remote education to pupils whenever necessary, the government needs to be realistic about what that education looks like. In particular, we are currently in detailed discussions about the expectation on schools in Tier 2 situations, which look particularly challenging.

6. Postpone the resumption of full Ofsted inspections until at least September 2021

As we enter the second wave of the pandemic, it is unthinkable, in our view, that full Ofsted inspections should resume in January, or at any point during this academic year. We are making this argument strongly with Ofsted, with the DfE and in the media.

7. Reimburse schools and colleges for additional Covid-related costs 

We are making it very clear in meetings with ministers, the DfE funding team and the Treasury, the amount it is costing schools and colleges to make their premises ‘Covid-secure’ in accordance with government guidance. We have also been flagging up the spiralling costs involved in bringing in supply staff to cover teachers who are ill or having to self-isolate. 

So far, the government is still refusing to cover these costs. We will continue to point out the impact it is having both on school and college budgets and on the education they are able to provide.

Julie McCulloch
ASCL Director of Policy
@juliecmcculloch

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In the news

ASCL continues to have a high profile in the media as we highlight the issues facing schools, colleges and students during the Covid crisis. Expand

ASCL continues to have a high profile in the media as we highlight the issues facing schools, colleges and students during the Covid crisis.

Recent interviews include General Secretary Geoff Barton on ITV’s Good Morning Britain, and BBC Radio 4 News, making the point that delaying next year’s exams by three weeks doesn’t go far enough in addressing the level of disruption experienced by students, and an earlier interview on BBC Breakfast about the need for urgent and robust contingency planning. 

ASCL also released a set of joint proposals with NAHT, NASUWT, NEU, and NGA, to make next summer’s exams as fair as possible amidst the ongoing disruption of the pandemic (https://tinyurl.com/y68qbs6j). ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch was interviewed on BBC Newsnight about our proposals. 

Julie recently outlined in an article in TES the problems experienced by members in accessing advice from the DfE helpline in the event of positive Covid cases, which you can read here: https://tinyurl.com/yxk8fv4q 

Recently, ASCL has also highlighted the financial impact on schools and colleges of Covid costs – you can see the analysis we produced here: https://tinyurl.com/y4mhqlgu – and explained the difficulties being experienced by staff and pupils in accessing Covid tests, which included interviews on BBC Radio 4 Today, BBC Breakfast and BBC Radio 5 Live.

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Strong leadership

Home baking has always been one among many of my wife’s skills. Expand

Home baking has always been one among many of my wife’s skills. In pursuing a career in teaching, her frustration was that she hasn’t been able to bake as often as she would have wished. As in many households, the frequency and variety of home baking has increased over the past few months. In thinking about what to write for Leader, my eye settled on the tin of Tate & Lyle Golden Syrup on the kitchen table and in particular the legend on the front: “Out of the strong came forth sweetness”. 

That reflects the influence and impact Scottish school leaders have had on their school communities since March. They have shown individual and corporate strength and resilience, being champions and advocates for young people and families, and fighting and campaigning on their behalf with local authorities and Scottish government. They have taken the lead where, on many occasions, no one else could or would, and they have been beacons of collegiality in their determination to ensure that all who should or could have a focus on child welfare were fully engaged in its delivery. 

Empathy and concern have been the driving force in leading school recovery. It hasn’t been through commitment to the school improvement plan or to the ethereal ‘school’, but through an overt demonstration of responsibility to the stressed, confused and damaged young people who often look to the school as a source of reassurance and certainty. 

School leaders have been acutely aware that the number one priority for parents when they send their children off to school each morning is that they will return home safe and well and that close behind that is a hope they have learned something. 

Scottish school leaders have stood strong at the time when their community needed them to do so. But more importantly, they have done it with genuine love. “Out of the strong came forth sweetness.

Jim Thewliss
General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland
@LeadersScotland

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Still leadership

What is it in these times that is required of us, when we are faced with the wicked problem of virus versus education? The problem we have is truly wicked because traditional solutions simply don’t work. Expand

What is it in these times that is required of us, when we are faced with the wicked problem of virus versus education? The problem we have is truly wicked because traditional solutions simply don’t work. Conventional solutions are not only an inadequate response but potentially counterproductive. 

And this wicked problem is global, knotty, intergovernmental and one with no equal. Indeed, each problem posed in our schools and colleges demonstrates the interconnectedness of all the moving parts in our communities. Solutions and fixes depend upon a myriad of elements. You will know this only too well through your extensive work to get learners back into your setting – not simple anymore and certainly not easy. 

One thing is certain, however: strong, strategic leadership is absolutely vital in terms of outcomes. This crisis has needed still and quiet leadership that does not desire to be bigger than the crisis itself. This isn’t about personality leadership but seeing what needs to be done and getting on. Keeping a fixed gaze on what is important in the melee of distractions. 

I am reminded of the wonderful Dr Seuss book, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back, where the central character leaves a pink cake stain in the bath. The stain spreads around the house as the children desperately try to get rid of it. The cat lets loose a number of increasingly small cats from beneath his hat, the smallest of which solves the problem. Is this not what we need here in the face of this wicked problem? To look for small gains to make the greatest difference. No grand gestures or heroics. 

Still leadership is compelling, hypnotic and effective. Trust your instincts. Give yourself space to think. 

The author Toba Beta says, “A man of calm is like a shady tree. People who need shelter come to it.” Still leadership, remember, is still leadership.

Eithne Hughes
Director of ASCL Cymru
@ASCLCymru

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New ASCL premier partner

We are pleased to announce Alps as our new premier partner. Expand

We are pleased to announce Alps as our new premier partner. Alps is a powerful educational philosophy that helps teachers unlock the full potential of every student. 

Dr Kevin Conway CBE developed the thinking behind Alps during a 25-year career in education. He strongly believed in the power of analytical insight in helping people from all backgrounds to achieve their potential. His techniques were first put into practice at Greenhead College, Huddersfield, while he was principal from 1987 to 2001. Since then, Alps has grown significantly. In the academic year 2019/20 Alps was used by more than 1,400 schools in England, Northern Ireland and Wales, with a growing international presence among British curriculum schools in 14 countries across the globe. 

Alps helps nurture a culture of positivity and continuous improvement by providing staff with the analysis and insight they need to help every student achieve more.

Find out more online at alps.education

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Employment status

Employment status can be seen much like The Duck Test: Expand

Employment status can be seen much like The Duck Test: “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.” 

Employment status is the label given to a working relationship – typically employed or self-employed. This label is important because it will dictate things like employment rights and tax. 

Employment status is defined by two things:

  1. The contract. It will set out the rights, responsibilities and what is agreed between the parties in a relationship.
  2. The day-to-day relationship. This is key because if the relationship between the parties looks like employment, then regardless of what the contract says, an employment relationship can be created, either at the outset or over time. 

In other words, even if a contract says someone is self-employed, if they 

  • look like they are an employee and 
  • behave like they are an employee and
  • are treated like an employee then
  • they probably are an employee. 

As a result, it’s important to:

  • get the right contract in place
  • treat self-employed individuals accordingly
  • keep the situation under review
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Your subscription, your support

In what has been a very challenging year, we hope that you will agree that, for the service and support provided, ASCL membership represents excellent value for money. Expand

In what has been a very challenging year, we hope that you will agree that, for the service and support provided, ASCL membership represents excellent value for money. 

This year, in unprecedented times, we have worked very hard to keep members updated and informed on all aspects of managing the impact of the pandemic on education as well as other issues. 

We introduced daily briefings, video updates plus the incredibly popular Team ASCL webinars that have been viewed tens of thousands of times. We’ve also been updating our FAQs several times each day as well as working hard with policymakers to shape and improve guidance. 

We’ve also experienced record requests for support from members on an ever-growing range of issues. During the 2019/20 academic year, we dealt with an unprecedented 6,979 enquiries from members. Read more about this and how we helped members throughout the last year on page 18

In recent months, ASCL has again expanded its field staff across the UK to ensure that the highest level of support for members can be maintained. In addition, our reserve fund now stands at approximately £2.5 million and is there to draw on should ASCL need to support members facing significant legal challenges. 

We continually look for opportunities for efficiency savings without compromising our service to members and we ensure that our procurement policy optimises value for money. 

Fees for the majority of membership categories will be frozen for 2021 with a small increase in fees for headteachers and principals and for CEOs and executive heads. Subscriptions for the headteacher/principal/ head of school membership category will increase by 50p per month from 1 January 2021 and subscriptions for the executive headteacher/ executive principal/CEO membership category will increase by £1 per month. 

As part of our commitment to continually enhancing our support to members, we are pleased to be working with Rob Robson, ASCL Trust Leadership Consultant, who is leading work on developing networks and resources for colleagues leading groups of schools.

Expenditure in 2019

Approximately 76% of ASCL’s income in 2019 was derived from members’ subscriptions. The largest proportion of our expenditure (60%) was spent directly on supporting our members. This includes regional, field and hotline officers; in-house solicitors and legal support staff; publications; legal fees; dealing with pensions and pay and conditions issues; and training and support for our local representatives across the UK. The chart below shows how we used your subs in 2019 to provide you with support and guidance. 

Don’t forget that if you pay your subscription personally, 100% of the annual fee is tax deductible. You can find out more about this at: www.ascl.org.uk/tax-benefits Support when you need it If you need any help or advice about any leadership issues, please call our Hotline on 0116 299 1122 or email: hotline@ascl.org.uk

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Covid-19: Managing higher cleaning and catering costs

Government guidelines stipulate intensive cleaning and tougher measures for catering. Expand

Government guidelines stipulate intensive cleaning and tougher measures for catering. Some education leaders have suggested the enhanced cleaning could double costs. Three steps to guarantee success when buying cleaning and catering: 

1. Plan – find out if the value of your contract is above or below OJEU thresholds and establish your timescales for buying a new one to ensure Public Contracts Regulations (PCR) 2015 compliance. 

2. Define your requirements – evaluate what you need and why and consult with those involved. Consider current government guidelines and any future risks. 

3. Run a tender – on receipt of bids, check that the winning supplier is vetted and that legally sound contract terms are agreed. Education Buying’s innovative frameworks help schools, academies, colleges and MATs: 

  • save up to 12% on cleaning and catering 
  • deliver social value by inviting bids from suppliers who are committed to giving back 
  • ensure compliance with PCR 2015 
  • access pre-vetted suppliers 

Sign up to save here: www.educationbuying.com Log in and click on Frameworks. 

Need procurement expertise? 

Sign up and get three months free on EB Manage, a service supported by dedicated procurement experts for £28 per month. Use code: 3MONT HSFREE and save 25% on the annual plan.

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Remote education

The Secretary of State has issued a continuity direction under the Coronavirus Act 2020, which creates a new legal duty on schools to provide remote education to pupils. Expand

The Secretary of State has issued a continuity direction under the Coronavirus Act 2020, which creates a new legal duty on schools to provide remote education to pupils. The duty applies to all state schools, including maintained schools and academies, as well as fee-paying independent schools for pupils where their fees are paid out of public funds. 

It applies to all pupils of compulsory school age and pupils who are not yet of compulsory school age but are educated in a class with those who are (for example, reception class pupils). It explicitly does not apply to post-16 education. 

The duty applies to pupils who cannot attend school because it would be unlawful or contrary to guidance issued for them to attend school. So, for example, it applies when a pupil has to self-isolate or in a situation where there was a local lockdown that closed schools. 

This duty came into force on 22 October, but schools have of course already been proactive in ensuring that pupils receive education at home when they are not able to do so at school. Unless it is extended or revoked, the direction will last until the end of this school year.

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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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Centre-assessed grades

While the deadline for appealing centre-assessed grades ( Expand

While the deadline for appealing centre-assessed grades (CAGS) has passed, schools are still having to consider complaints about alleged bias and discrimination in the awarding of CAGs. As Ofqual sets out in its guidance to centres, a complaint about discrimination should be made to the centre first. As with any complaint, schools should follow their policy on complaints when dealing with such issues with any investigation completed by someone who is not implicated in the complaint itself. Many schools have received complaints relating to alleged discrimination and the key to any investigation is establishing whether any protected characteristic (race, disability, gender and so forth) was taken into account when the CAGs were awarded when they should not have been. 

Given that parents will not have been privy to decisions on CAGs, parents often seek to rely on previous alleged incidents as evidence for discrimination or bias towards their child that is alleged has been present in the awarding of the CAGs. Any investigation may also therefore need to consider other incidents if they have not already been through the complaints policy. 

As with any complaint, a clear, reasoned response then needs to be drafted and sent to the parent following the investigation. If discrimination or bias is not found, then parents will be able to complain to the exam board about their allegations and so the reasons for the finding need to be clear from reading the letter, as it may be ultimately considered by the exam board themselves.

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Duties of academy trust members

With the growing prominence of the role of members in academy trusts, there is also growing interest in their duties. Expand

With the growing prominence of the role of members in academy trusts, there is also growing interest in their duties. Browne Jacobson is increasingly asked if there are any limits on how members can exercise their powers. 

Remarkably, until a Supreme Court judgment over the summer, there was no firm authority on what the duties of members of charitable companies were. The Charity Commission argued for some time that members had a fiduciary duty but that view was untested. 

In July, the Supreme Court delivered its judgment in Letimaki and others (Respondents) v Cooper (Appellant) (www.supremecourt.uk/cases/uksc-2018-0150.html), which among other issues, considered whether or not members of charitable companies have fiduciary duties. 

In the judgment, the Supreme Court described a fiduciary as someone who owes a single-minded duty of loyalty to their beneficiary. The Court found that members of charities are fiduciaries and that a member cannot use their powers otherwise than for the benefit of the charity. 

Browne Jacobson recommends that academy trusts take the opportunity to clarify both the role and responsibilities of members to help aid the effective governance of the trust. One way of doing this is through putting in place a ‘members’ handbook’ providing a practical reference guide to support your members carry out the role effectively.

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New Academies Financial Handbook

On 1 September 2020, the latest iteration of the Academies Financial Handbook ( Expand

On 1 September 2020, the latest iteration of the Academies Financial Handbook (AFH) came into force (https://tinyurl.com/y49h6sy7). At the end of July, the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) also published the Academies Accounts Direction 2019 to 2020 (https://tinyurl.com/yxopbvnm), as well as a supplementary bulletin (https://tinyurl.com/y6mej56w) to the Academies Accounts Direction providing guidance on matters arising from the Covid-19 pandemic, which may impact on the 2019/20 accounts (the bulletin has the same status as the Accounts Direction). 

These are important documents for academy trusts that every trustee and accounting officer will need to read and understand. As in previous updates, the ESFA includes in the guidance a summary of the main changes. 

While it is important to familiarise yourselves with the changes, trusts should view this as more than a compliance exercise. The annual update is also a good opportunity to pause, learn and reflect on your trust’s arrangements for effective management and control to ensure compliance with the funding agreement. The changes should not be simply seen as another compliance box to tick, but rather as an opportunity to learn from the issues that the ESFA has identified in the sector and has sought to address through the update to the AFH.

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Exclusions and coronavirus

In light of the continuing impact of coronavirus on many aspects of society, including education, the DfE has decided to extend some of the variations to procedures concerning exclusions. Expand

In light of the continuing impact of coronavirus on many aspects of society, including education, the DfE has decided to extend some of the variations to procedures concerning exclusions. These continued variations will take place until 24 March 2021. 

The variations allow governing board reviews and Independent Review Panel (IRP) meetings to be held remotely across this period. The same tests for determining whether a remote hearing can be held continue to apply – that it is not possible for the hearing to be held in person due to coronavirus restrictions; all participants have access to appropriate facilities to allow full engagement in the hearing; and the meeting can be held fairly and transparently in this manner. 

All timescales for holding meetings have reverted back to those set out in the 2017 exclusions guidance but where those deadlines are missed for reasons relating to Covid-19, schools will be expected to hold reviews as soon as reasonably practicable. One change to timescales does continue – parents will still be given 25 school days to request an IRP from the date of receipt of the governing board’s letter.

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LEADING READING