2021 Summer Term

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

In the news

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

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

We’ve provided comments and interviews to the print and broadcast media on a wide range of issues over the last few months. These included discussions on students wearing face masks in classrooms; assessment and grading in England, Wales and Northern Ireland in GCSEs, A levels and other qualifications, following the cancellation of public exams; plans for education recovery; sexual harassment and abuse; pupil premium funding; school attendance figures; and mental health support. We also generated several news stories following keynote speeches from a number of high-profile speakers at our virtual Annual Conference in March.

ASCL General Secretary, Geoff Barton, also writes a weekly column for TES addressing a variety of educational subjects – see them at www.tes.com/author/geoff-barton

In recent months, our broadcast interviews have included BBC Breakfast and the BBC News Channel, BBC Politics Live, Sky News, ITV Good Morning Britain, ITV News, BBC Radio 5 Live, Times Radio, LBC radio, talkRADIO and dozens of local radio and television programmes.

Our profile in the media remains very high. In March, ASCL received over 3,000 mentions in the media, marginally more than February’s 2,888 mentions. April was relatively quieter, reflecting the fact that schools were effectively back to normal activity, with 993 mentions.

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ASCL Influence

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch on discussions with government that are, finally, starting to move away from face coverings and bubbles, and towards education recovery. Expand

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch on discussions with government that are, finally, starting to move away from face coverings and bubbles, and towards education recovery.

Almost 18 months since we all first heard about the emergence of a strange new virus, our very frequent engagement with ministers, civil servants and advisers about what this means for schools and colleges shows no sign of abating. However, while some of these meetings and discussions continue to focus on short to medium-term public health issues, such as face coverings and bubbles, they are now concentrating increasingly on longer-term educational issues.

Here are some of the areas where we are currently involved in detailed discussions, and where we have been able to exert influence over the last few months.

Education recovery

We have been involved in many discussions with the DfE, Ofsted and other organisations about education recovery. At the time of writing, the government’s plans for education recovery appear to be unravelling, with the Treasury agreeing to commit only a fraction of the £15 billion called for by former Education Recovery Commissioner Sir Kevan Collins. This has led to Sir Kevan’s resignation.

We have made it clear that the amount of money the government plans to put into education recovery is insufficient and shows a failure to recognise the scale of learning loss experienced by many pupils during the pandemic. We agree with Sir Kevan’s statement, in his resignation letter to the Prime Minister, that a successful recovery cannot be achieved with a programme of support of the size currently proposed. We will continue to press for a more substantial and ambitious recovery package from the government. We are also making it clear that any policies which come with additional costs will need to be fully funded, and any that would require changes to staff terms and conditions, would need to be properly consulted on.

2021 and 2022 exams

We are still deeply involved in detailed discussions about the later stages of the grading process this year, and particularly about how the appeals process will work. At the time of writing, we are pushing back strongly against any attempt to put more of the burden of the appeals process onto schools and colleges – particularly over the summer.

We are also taking part in regular meetings about what exams should look like in 2022. We have gathered views to inform these discussions from ASCL Council and from ASCL members through the TellUs@ascl.org.uk inbox. It’s fair to say there are no easy answers here, but we are sharing the range of members’ views and helping the DfE and Ofqual think through different approaches.

Relaxation of system of controls

The DfE recently asked us to gather thoughts on the impact of the current system of controls in schools and colleges, and on how and when these might start to be relaxed. Again, we drew on Council members to help respond to these questions.

The government is clearly trying to achieve a balance between providing as much clarity and certainty as possible about what restrictions may continue to be required next year, while recognising that the public health situation continues to be volatile. We will continue to gather and share members’ views to inform this planning.

Academisation

ASCL Trust Leadership Consultant Rob Robson and I meet regularly with the DfE’s academy strategy team. This is enabling us to input into a range of policies, including on trust partnerships and the new proposal to require schools with triple RIs to join trusts. This work is guided by our Leadership and Governance Committee.

Sexual harassment and abuse

Following the issues exposed by the ‘Everyone’s Invited’ website, we brought together a series of resources (www.ascl.org.uk/PositiveRelationships) to help members to handle allegations against their school or college, and to review their broader approach to this issue. We have worked closely with a number of organisations to share guidance and other resources, including those representing the independent sector. Geoff Barton has also been part of the reference group for Ofsted’s rapid review of sexual abuse in schools and colleges.

Early Career Framework

We have been involved in discussions on the Early Career Framework (ECF) for a long time and are pleased to see this finally coming to fruition. There are still some issues to resolve with the ECF, including whether there will be sufficient capacity for all schools to opt for the provider led route (as opposed to delivering their own training) if they wish.

We are, however, positive about the potential for the ECF to provide a good grounding for early career teachers, to support them in delivering a high-quality learning experience for children and young people and, hopefully, to result in more teachers staying in the profession.

  • You can read more about the ECF in Malcolm Trobe’s article here.

MFL teachers added to the shortage occupation list

We are very pleased that, following significant lobbying by ASCL, the government has agreed to add modern foreign language (MFL) teachers to the shortage occupation list.

As part of the points-based immigration system, people applying to come to the UK through the skilled worker route must reach 70 ‘points’ to be eligible for a work visa. Being on the shortage occupation list is worth 20 points, which should make it much easier for MFL teachers from across the world to teach in the UK.

Blueprint for a Fairer Education System

Our focus on longer-term educational issues will be further boosted, with the publication of our Blueprint for a Fairer Education System. As members will know, this is something we have been working on for the last 18 months or so.

The blueprint will set out a series of ‘building blocks’ for a system that works well for all children and young people – particularly the most disadvantaged – along with some key changes we believe need to happen to achieve that vision.

We plan to launch the blueprint in September.

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Political optimism

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/Membership/ASCL-UK

At the time of writing this article, we in Wales are in a hiatus of political leadership. Our Education Minister, Kirsty Williams, and her Director of Education, Steve Davies, are sadly both stepping down. Elections have been and a new government is now formed.

ASCL Cymru has enjoyed a very good relationship with the Welsh government, and while, inevitably, we may not always have seen eye to eye, we have at least had an open, honest and unfettered dialogue.

Wales has seen the biggest shake up of reforms in years and now we have an as yet unknown new leader to navigate the education system.

Our learners’ futures depend upon this appointment. We in the past, as elsewhere in the UK, have suffered when a minister fails to listen, understand and take the profession with them. As a serving headteacher, I felt this keenly when, for example, draconian accountability measures were imposed, or when budgets were slashed or, indeed, where there was little understanding of the very basics of teaching. The idea that the only qualification required for the job of education minister was having once been to school rarely leads to good decision making.

So, if we had the luxury of choice, what would we want from Jeremy Miles, the newly appointed Minister for Education? More money for schools, yes. Investment in leaders’ continuous professional learning, absolutely. A more nuanced accountability and assessment system, unquestionably. The list could of course be significantly longer.

What we want, too, is a minister who respects our profession.

One who puts children ahead of political expediency. One who has decency and integrity and really understands the complexities of leading and managing a school before trying to layer on policy. Indeed, a minister who is an excellent role model to all of our learners. We certainly need that during this moment in time, where complaints of sleaze and dishonesty are almost unnoticed and indeed expected by many in society.

Holding public office is serious stuff. Just being elected is not enough; it is those observable behaviours of integrity and decency that our young people need to witness and emulate. I cite American politician Nancy Pelosi, who said: “One of the things that encouraged me so much when elected to leadership, were the letters from fathers of daughters, saying, ‘My daughter can now do many more things because of you.’”

Let’s hope that by the time this is published, we are in a period of political optimism.

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A lasting legacy

Ask any group of school leavers in Northern Ireland what the highlight of their time in school was and a likely response will be “doing the Duke of Ed”. Expand

Ask any group of school leavers in Northern Ireland what the highlight of their time in school was and a likely response will be “doing the Duke of Ed”. Of course, they are referring to completing their Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE) and in particular, their expedition, be it in the Antrim Hills, the Lake District or the Wicklow Mountains. Since it began in 1956, many young people have developed their confidence, resilience, time management and team working skills, which will inevitably help them in their journey through life.

The role that schools in Northern Ireland play in facilitating DofE cannot be overestimated; indeed, it was through school that I began working for my awards, leading to receiving my Gold on board the Royal Yacht Britannia in 1977, going on to establish an award unit in my first school and continuing a close involvement throughout my career.

In recent years in Northern Ireland, in an effort to ensure maximum impact, the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award has a Joint Agreement with Gaisce – The President’s Award that enables young people who complete the programme to have a choice of award certification: a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award Certificate, a Gaisce – The President’s Award Certificate or an International Award Certificate. Regardless of cultural identity, DofE has contributed significantly to the lives of our youth and has shaped many in a very positive way.

Prince Philip’s mentor, German educator Kurt Hahn, advocated “experiential” learning, that is, putting young people in situations that challenge them mentally and physically. Kurt Hahn said he wanted to prevent the erosion of children’s “inherent spirituality”. The award has certainly brought out the best in many young people, with more than 3,000 gaining an award in 2019/20.

Northern Irish society has much to be thankful to the Duke of Edinburgh for and, with the commitment of many teachers and youth leaders here, his legacy will live on.

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Love over gold, mind over matter

As leaders, and as human beings, we seek inspiration in all sorts of ways and from different sources: Expand

As leaders, and as human beings, we seek inspiration in all sorts of ways and from different sources: history, faith, family, reading and role models to mention just a few. It’s important that as leaders we have clear and explicit values that we live through our actions. Our moral and professional credibility is crucial in enabling those around us to have confidence in our judgement to make the correct decisions, and our resilience is crucial in maintaining a calm determination and our humility in acknowledging collegiate success.

Leaders must understand and remember that to lead is a privilege that is loaned and entrusted to them. More importantly, they should never forget how easily hubris will destroy that essential trust, and thereby the permission to lead.

The impact of making decisions based on a flawed set of values has never been clearer than over the past couple of weeks. Football, in the great scheme of things, is unimportant, but when owners who are entrusted with the dreams of football club supporters treat them with nothing less than open contempt, that devalues us all as leaders.

I find my inspiration in strange places. I was listening to a Dire Straits CD last week (I appreciate that many colleagues will not know who they are, or what a CD is). The lyric, “It takes love over gold, and mind over matter” struck a leadership chord.

In the week when a new Scottish government is elected and when the general public expressed its disgust at corporate greed, it would be good to remember that to lead is indeed a privilege, which is gifted by common consent to be exercised on behalf of the common good.

If our political and corporate leaders seek role models, they would do well to look at the professional and moral empathy that SLS members display daily in their role as leaders and servants of their school community.

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Are you changing jobs in 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.

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New ASCL Premier Partner

ASCL is pleased to introduce Barker as a new Premier Partner for Property Consultancy. Expand

ASCL is pleased to introduce Barker as a new Premier Partner for Property Consultancy. Effective estate management is central to delivering the best education outcomes. Barker is one of the country’s leading education property consultants.

Barker’s award-winning team provides a complete range of services from condition surveys to major projects and estate master-planning. It maintains a detailed knowledge of funding streams, government policy, education guidelines and initiatives related to the schools and academies sector.

Barker plays a proactive role in assisting schools and trusts to gain funding from any available streams and helps to manage property portfolios in the best possible way.

Barker’s eoPortal solution (see eoportal.co.uk/education) is recognised by the DfE as an effective way to manage estate data and is referenced in the Good Estate Management for Schools (GEMS) guidance. The portal has been adopted by many of the country’s leading trusts to help them collate, analyse and report their estates data to enable better decisions and drive carbon reduction.

Barker is pleased to offer ASCL members a free, no-obligation estates review.

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Update on exclusions

In 2019, when Sir Edward Timpson provided his report to the ( Expand

In 2019, when Sir Edward Timpson provided his report to the (then) Secretary of State, Damian Hinds, it was clear that there would shortly be new Statutory Guidance on Exclusions to follow. The DfE explicitly committed to this with new guidance expected in the summer of 2020, having agreed to implement all 30 of the recommendations made in the Timpson report. While Covid put a hold on new guidance, we are expecting updated exclusions guidance and behaviour guidance, likely this summer. The following are some of the key changes that we’re expecting:

  • A change of the names of exclusions from ‘fixed term’ to ‘suspension’ and from ‘permanent exclusion’ to ‘expulsion’. The DfE has already started using these terms in its Covid guidance on exclusions with the aim being to ensure that parents are clear on the differences between the different types.
  • For the first time, it will provide guidance on how managed moves are to operate as well as how ‘in-school’ units should be operated and used from the DfE’s perspective. There is currently no guidance on either managed moves or units within school, meaning that the process and use of these varies hugely.
  • Further clarity on the role and importance of governors and trustees in the exclusions process to ensure that this is crystal clear. Sir Edward Timpson also recommended that governors and trustees undertake suitable training for their role in the process, which, while not currently required, is clearly important.
  • A look at the accountability system in relation to permanently excluded pupils. The DfE committed to a consultation on how to reform the accountability system to make schools responsible for excluded pupils post-exclusion. This is not a new recommendation, with the 2016 white paper suggesting something similar, and we await any consultation proposals on the details.

When we have a clear idea of the specific changes that will be made to the exclusions process, we will provide a further update.

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Costs of school uniforms

At the time of writing, the Education ( Expand

At the time of writing, the Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill is at the report stage in the House of Lords and is expected to pass through with relative ease (see bills.parliament.uk/bills/2615).

Once enacted, it will require the government to publish legally binding guidance that obliges school authorities to consider costs when setting school uniform policies. While the current non-statutory guidance on school uniforms issued in 2013 states schools should “give high priority to cost considerations” when developing a uniform policy and “be able to demonstrate how best value has been achieved”, concerns remain about the high costs of uniforms across a number of schools.

Schools may want to take a proactive approach and review their current uniform policies in advance of the guidance coming into force so that if any changes are required, they can be consulted on in good time for the start of the September term.

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Everyone's Invited

As the Everyone’s Invited movement has resulted in numerous individuals reporting inappropriate behaviours by staff or other students, the interest in how much of a problem such behaviour is for schools has also increased. Expand

As the Everyone’s Invited movement has resulted in numerous individuals reporting inappropriate behaviours by staff or other students, the interest in how much of a problem such behaviour is for schools has also increased.

A number of schools and trusts have received freedom of information (FOI) requests regarding information held by them relating to sexual misconduct or sexual assault reports over the past few years. The requests are varied and quite detailed.

Such information held by schools and trusts will be considered to be in the public interest, but education organisations will be concerned about sharing such information to the world at large under an FOI request. Not only because individuals, whether alleged victims or alleged perpetrators, could be identified, but also because release of the information could impact on any ongoing investigations or criminal proceedings. Further organisations will be concerned about how any future such disclosures could impact them.

There are a range of exemptions that can be considered under the FOI Act 2000 where organisations are concerned about any of the above. These include the exemption under Section 40(2) of the FOI Act concerning personal data. Other sections may also be considered in very specific cases, for example, where the matter may be current and release of the data would or would be likely to prejudice the prevention or detection of crime; apprehension or prosecution of offenders or the administration of justice; or if release of the information may endanger the physical or mental harm of any individual.

Legal advice should be sought where the school or trust has any concerns about releasing the data requested or about the exemptions that could be applied.

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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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Identity

An increasing number of students now identify as non-binary ( Expand

An increasing number of students now identify as non-binary (neither male nor female/gender-fluid). Anyone identifying as transgender is expressly protected from discrimination under the Equality Act 2010. However, it is not clear whether these protections extend to those identifying as non-binary.

Last year, an employment tribunal case, Taylor v Jaguar Land Rover Ltd, held that persons identifying as non-binary are covered under the definition of gender reassignment in section 7 of the Act and are therefore protected from discrimination. Although the judge in that case noted that this is a novel area of law and, as the case is not binding, it could be decided differently in higher courts, our advice for schools and colleges is to treat students identifying as non-binary in the same way that they would treat students identifying as transgender.

This means developing policy and practice that aims to eliminate discrimination and foster good relationships between those who identify as non-binary/transgender and those who do not. This will involve thinking about issues such as uniform, toilets and changing facilities, sporting events, use of names and pronouns, records and data sharing as well as ensuring staff are appropriately trained in supporting students with these matters.

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Identifying progress gaps in preparation for September

As this academic year draws to a close, you will have begun preparations to ensure your staff and students have a positive and optimistic start in September. Expand

As this academic year draws to a close, you will have begun preparations to ensure your staff and students have a positive and optimistic start in September. Across the summer term, your attentions will have shifted to the priorities for Year 10 and 12 students.

Many schools will have carried out internal assessments across the last few weeks and outcomes from these allow you to ask questions about the progress status of students about to enter the final year of their courses:

  1. What does our tracking data tell us about how the current progress of our students compares to expected progress?
  2. What intervention strategies might we adopt to ensure all students receive appropriate support in September?

Connect, an online analysis platform from Alps, has been updated with new features and a new look, mirroring the optimism for the year ahead. It can support you in making the analysis of your end-of-year assessments quick and easy for all staff. Its unique modelling tools support teachers in assessing the intended impact of interventions as you prepare for 2021/22.

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Behaviour hubs: update

The DfE’s new behaviour hubs will partner schools or multi-academy trusts ( Expand

The DfE’s new behaviour hubs will partner schools or multi-academy trusts (MATs) with a lead school or lead MAT. They will work together to improve, diagnose issues and develop new approaches to address poor behaviour. Schools will receive a range of support.

The lead school, through these hubs, will offer training and support as well as online resources, networking and mentoring to support leaders in implementing these changes and, in turn, create a sustained change in behaviour management and a sustainable behaviour culture throughout schools or trusts.

This type of support is not new to schools, which have been working in the self-improving school system for a while now. They have been working closely with other schools to share knowledge and resources. Many schools have already formalised partnerships with a memorandum of understanding or school networks to share know-how, training, staffing or continuing professional development (CPD) delivery.

These institutions have done this through various types of legal structures, ranging from the formal to informal and from federations or MATs to simple contracts, with groups forming collaborative groups, sharing specialists or developing their own service level agreements. The structure chosen by schools working together will often depend on the autonomy required and type of schools involved.

These formalities are helpful to clearly document how, for example, the relationship works, commitments of the parties, the intellectual property involved, responsibilities of each party, key performance indicators (KPIs) and the data sharing that is expected of schools working together. It will be useful to see how the behaviour hub relationships are going to be managed on a day-to-day and a structural/contractual basis for the benefits of those involved. However, the impact of inter-school collaboration is widely seen as positive and the development and maintenance of relationships that help improve behaviour in schools and the community can only be a positive step.

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Admission appeals

The Education and Skills Funding Agency ( Expand

The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) has published a review of key themes emerging from complaints concerning academy admission appeals held during 2020. The review considers both general complaints concerning the operation of admission appeal panels, as well as some particular concerns regarding the amended procedures implemented to allow appeal panels to function during the Covid-19 pandemic, and the requirements relating to social distancing.

In terms of Covid-19 appeal requirements, the ESFA has noted there had been a lack of clarity for the decision being taken to hold appeals in a particular format (that is, by video or on written submissions) and a failure to communicate that decision to the appellants. This was a requirement of the amended appeals guidance and should have formed part of the communications between clerk, panel and the parties.

The ESFA also had particular concerns about the lack of clarity concerning appeals held on the basis of written submissions – about the process to be followed and the need to ensure that parties were able to fully set out their cases. The ESFA was also concerned about clerks’ records of decisions in written appeals, given that the requirement to ensure clear records were maintained regarding the panel’s decision and the reasons for it had not been changed under the amended guidance.

More generally, the ESFA’s publication of key themes echoed some of the faults that have arisen in previous complaints regarding admission appeals, including focus reports issued by the Local Government Ombudsman in 2011 and 2014.

Common faults identified included poor quality decision letters that adhered to a template and did not properly identify the cases advanced by either or both parties; poor communication in the run up to appeal hearings, including the late circulation of evidence; a lack of clarity in decision letters and notes of the hearing regarding what evidence had been received and taken into account by the panel; and poor records being kept of the appeal hearing and decision making.

The ESFA reminds admission authorities, which are responsible for appeal panels, that panels and clerks must operate in compliance with the statutory framework and must be fully trained prior to starting their roles.

Given the continuation of the Covid-19 amending regulations for this summer’s appeals, the ESFA review will be an important tool for schools to consider ensuring they do operate within the framework established under the Appeals Code.

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LEADING READING