2022 Spring Term 2

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

ASCL Influence

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch on encouraging the government to focus on the issues that matter most. Expand

Working on your behalf to influence government policy

ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch on encouraging the government to focus on the issues that matter most.

Former adviser to Michael Gove, Sam Freedman, recently had reason to remind people of what he calls ‘Freedman’s law of policy’. Freedman’s law says, “The more press coverage an education policy story gets, the less relevant it is for people actually working in schools.” 

At the time of writing, there are some excellent examples of Freedman’s law doing the rounds. Recent headlines have included the Secretary of State’s warning to schools to ‘stop teaching activist propaganda’ after primary school pupils wrote to their local MP to express their views on ‘partygate’, and the government’s U-turn on previous attempts to ‘ban’ mobile phones in schools. 

That’s not to say these issues aren’t important, touching as they do on freedom of speech and the need for schools and colleges to be able to manage their own approaches to behaviour. But at a time that many of you have described to us as the toughest period of the pandemic yet, they feel irritatingly peripheral. 

We’ve been trying, in our engagement with policymakers, to keep the focus on those issues that matter most to you – our members – and to the children and young people you serve. Here’s an update on how we’ve been doing that. 

The schools white paper and SEND review 

Amidst all the noise about parties and culture wars, the DfE is putting the final touches to an important white paper on schools and an equally important green paper on SEND. We expect both to be published before Easter. 

Together with the government’s already published ‘levelling up’ white paper (tinyurl.com/2nz6xyv7), these documents will set the course for the rest of this Parliament. They will include proposals for how the government will achieve its vison of all schools being part of strong trusts, as well as a strong focus on literacy and numeracy. 

ASCL has been involved in numerous conversations with ministers and officials about these issues. We’ve been encouraging them to consider the recommendations in our Blueprint for a Fairer Education System (www.ascl.org.uk/blueprint) and have been pleased at how receptive they have been to these. We have also submitted two more detailed papers to the teams working on the white paper and SEND review, one on high needs funding and one on system reform. The latter suggests ways in which the government could achieve its vision in a manner that brings stakeholders with it, reduces disruption and, most importantly, leads to a system in which all schools and colleges are supported and challenged to provide an excellent education for every child. 

We have further contributed to the government’s thinking in this area by hosting three roundtable discussions between ASCL members and Minister for the School System, Baroness Barran. These discussions have been with ASCL’s Trust Leadership Advisory Group, and with groups of members leading maintained schools and single academy trusts. This has helped to ensure the DfE is listening to a wide range of voices as it finalises its thinking on the white paper. 

Inspection 

ASCL Council (www.ascl.org.uk/council) confirmed, at our February meeting, that our previous position on inspection remains the same this term, that is, that all requests for deferral from schools and colleges that continue to undergo significant pandemic-related disruption should be granted, unless an inspection has been triggered by safeguarding concerns. 

Ofsted continues to share with us, on a weekly basis, how many deferral requests it is receiving, and how many of these are granted. This data shows that the majority of requests are being granted. 

Performance tables 

We know how strongly members feel that performance tables should not be published this year, and we are representing that view at the highest levels of government. We are making it clear that, given the differential impact of the pandemic on schools and colleges, it is inappropriate, unnecessary and counterproductive to publish any performance data from Key Stage 2, Key Stage 4 and Key Stage 5 national assessments for 2021/22, or to use this data for any other accountability purpose. 

This argument is proving frustratingly difficult to land with the government, but we are continuing to take every opportunity to explain why this data will be invalid, and the implications of that. We are also sharing members’ concerns about the government’s decision not to include early entry data from the summer 2021 and 2020 exam series in performance tables if they are published this year, pointing out how this could disadvantage schools that use early entry as part of a principled curriculum model. 

Exams and assessments 

We continue to be involved in many conversations about GCSEs, A levels and other Level 4 and 5 qualifications this year, particularly around how effective (or otherwise) the advance information will be in helping to mitigate the differential impact of the pandemic. 

ASCL Council also took a strong position on Key Stage 2 SATs at its meeting in February. If the government and Ofsted categorically commit to not using the results of the Key Stage 2 SATs in the inspection data summary report (IDSR) or for any other form of school accountability, then our view is that, on balance, it is useful for these assessments to go ahead. 

If this reassurance cannot be given, our position is that Key Stage 2 SATs in summer 2022 should be made optional. We are now taking this view to the DfE. 

Covid measures 

Finally, we continue to liaise with the government on a very regular basis concerning the measures needed in schools and colleges as the pandemic evolves. These discussions continue to focus on the need for better ventilation, support with vaccinations and testing and much more help with the spiralling costs of supply staff. 

At the time of writing, we are in the early stages of discussions around what the government’s new strategy for ‘living with Covid’ will mean in education settings. We continue to stress the significant ongoing impact of high infection rates among pupils and staff, and the need for the government to ensure its proposed changes to public health measures do not exacerbate an already precarious situation


 

Find out more

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


Julie McCulloch
ASCL Director of Policy
@juliecmcculloch


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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. 

News coverage has continued to be dominated by the disruption to education caused by the pandemic and ensured ASCL’s profile in the media has remained very high this term. We have provided comments and interviews to the print and broadcast media on both that and a wide range of other issues. 

We have appeared in broadcast interviews for BBC Breakfast, ITV’s Good Morning Britain, ITV News, BBC News channel, BBC Radio 4’s Today and World at One programmes, BBC Radio 5 Live, Times Radio, LBC radio, talkRADIO and dozens of local BBC and commercial radio and television programmes, as well as being featured widely in the national, local and specialist press. ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton also writes regular columns for TES and SecEd on a variety of educational subjects, as well as a weekly blog for the ASCL website – see the blogs at www.ascl.org.uk/news/blog 

Subjects covered have included Ofsted inspections; the National Tutoring Programme; GCSE and A level arrangements, adaptations and mitigations; the publication of school attendance figures during the spring term; the implications for schools and colleges of energy price rises; and publication of the government’s Levelling Up White Paper.

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The future of inspection

The Education and Training Inspectorate ( Expand

The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) has a statutory duty to monitor, inspect and report on the standard of education and the professional practice of teachers. 

Inspection is an important element of public accountability and confidence, and also of improvement, supporting as it does the primacy of the learner. Inspection should also provide an assurance to parents and carers that their children’s education is of good quality, as well as to government on the effectiveness of policy in practice. 

Inspections have been disrupted for many years – first, with Action Short of Strike Action where all the teaching unions, except ASCL, refused to engage with inspectors. This was followed with the arrival of the pandemic. Formal inspections continue to be paused (subject to review), though monitoring visits and district visits have continued. 

The appointment of a new Chief Inspector last year has afforded an opportunity to redefine inspections and she has committed to consult with and listen to stakeholders, taking views on the purpose of inspection going forward, the core guiding principles/expectations of inspection and what inspection and evaluation should look like in the future. 

Part of the redefinition has been an invitation to schools to join ETI’s capacity-building project ‘Empowering Improvement – Stepping Forward Together’, which reflects ETI’s commitment to wide-scale consultation and engagement with schools, around sustainable capacity-building in the area of self-evaluation leading to improvement (from the perspective of middle leadership), and self-evaluation of learning and teaching, encompassing digital learning. ASCL sees great potential in this proposed work. Unfortunately, the staffing issues presented by Omicron have delayed the roll out and structure of this and I look forward to hearing reports from members when it begins. 

ASCL supports good accountability procedures and firmly believes that this should be closely linked to school improvement. We continue to engage with the Chief Inspector and her senior team to ensure that the inspections of the future can be supportive, fair and focused on improved learning experiences for young people. 


Robert Wilson
ASCL Northern Ireland Regional Officer 
@roberthmw  

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Playing politics?

As leaders of education in a very public space, the notions of power and influence are well rehearsed and honed. Expand

As leaders of education in a very public space, the notions of power and influence are well rehearsed and honed. 

It is an obvious point that exercising power over those in your school or college without building relationships or showing empathy and humility, may well lead to resentment. Things may get done, but at what cost? Influence, however, where we collaborate, consult, inspire and rationalise, are surely better ways forward when we are looking for change. These are things that good leaders intuitively and explicitly know and understand. 

We are facing significant and wide-reaching changes to every aspect of educational policy in Wales. Members are still in a period of crisis leadership. On top of this, the Welsh government is now robustly pursuing changing the school day and the school year. 

Why? Because this is in the government’s manifesto. Purely and simply. The evidence that such changes will support learners or the profession is gossamer thin, inconclusive and contradictory. If the rationale was compelling, this might be exciting. However, we have neither heard nor seen any rationale and therefore the next steps may well falter. 

Like many aspects of policy reform, if the ‘why’ is not thought through and clearly articulated, then it will cause upheaval and uncertainty for little gain. Change does not equate to reform. It’s just change. 

The power, of course, resides with the Welsh government to plough on regardless and given the fact that public announcements have been made, this is likely. The public perception that the profession enjoys overly long summer holidays is being tested in surveys posted on social media. 

We shall of course continue to engage and to exert our influence on this and other policy shifts and hope that we reach common ground and agreement as to the benefits to the profession and the learners in Wales. After all, as the author Rashid Jorvee advises, “If you understood the plan of your government, that means it is a policy or if you don’t it means it is politics.” 


Eithne Hughes
Director of ASCL Cymru
@ASCLCymru

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The times they are a-changin'

As the first signs of spring start to appear, there is also a tangible feeling of optimism in the air that we are on the way to recovery, and we are beginning to learn how to live with Covid. Expand

As the first signs of spring start to appear, there is also a tangible feeling of optimism in the air that we are on the way to recovery, and we are beginning to learn how to live with Covid. 

Education, like all other systems, has been severely tested at macro and micro levels by both internal and external pressures. 

We appear to have survived, and in the context of effecting a recovery, it would be negligent if we were not to ask ourselves why. 

Systems survive crises because they have a core principle that is supported by ethical working practices. 

Over the past two years, teachers have had the wellbeing of young people at the very core of their practice and have demonstrated a commitment to work well beyond their contractual obligations and in a genuinely collegiate manner on their behalf. School leaders have become recognised as informed and trusted leaders and servants of their community. 

The recovery space is already being filled by those who seek to determine what the future should look like and how the recovery programme should be driven. Old, often tired and discredited agendas are being revived, new exciting ideas and initiatives abound and snake oil salesmen are dusting down their suitcases. 

Scottish school leaders have, over the past two years, spoken truth to power, provided government with sound guidance and direction, kept their schools open and functioning, educated young people and supported (and on many occasions fed) their families. 

School Leaders Scotland (SLS) members have demonstrated the moral and practical right to be fully engaged in shaping the future of Scottish education and society. 

School Leaders Scotland is determined that their voice will inform and direct this debate and that empowerment of school leaders will be a fundamental part of any reform.


Jim Thewliss
General Secretary, School Leaders Scotland
@LeadersScotland

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Admission appeals

It is worth remembering that the regulations that amended the appeals framework due to Covid-19 remain in force until 30 September 2022. Expand

It is worth remembering that the regulations that amended the appeals framework due to Covid-19 remain in force until 30 September 2022. 

It remains possible for appeals to be held virtually or on the papers during this period and while the guidance does make reference to physical appeals being possible, admission authorities may decide not to hold such meetings where it is not felt safe to do so in light of government guidance or particular circumstances relating to Covid-19 in the school’s area. 

Where appeals are likely to be held online, it may be useful to make that clear as early as possible to panel members, as it will be the appeal panel that makes a final determination on the format of the appeal hearing.

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Virtual AGMs

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 ( Expand

The Corporate Insolvency and Governance Act 2020 (Coronavirus) (Extension of the Relevant Period) Regulations 2020 (SI 2020/1031), which allowed a temporary relaxation for companies to hold a virtual annual general meeting (AGM), is no longer in force. 

The Companies Act 2006 (section 360A) specifically states that there is no preclusion on the holding and conducting of a general meeting in such a way that persons who are not present together at the same place may by electronic means attend and speak and vote at it. But it is not clear from the Act whether this allows fully virtual meetings, or hybrid meetings where some parties attend in person and others remotely. Most commentators say it does not, hence the need for the regulations. 

Not all trusts are required by their Articles to hold an AGM and those trusts that have adopted the latest DfE model Articles of Association for trusts (June 2021) are expressly permitted to hold the AGM virtually. 

For other trusts, there are various technical ways of getting around this issue, including delaying the AGM, adjourning the AGM, passing written resolutions or holding the AGM using proxies.

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Children missing in education

January saw a reminder of the large number of children who do not appear on any school roll( Expand

January saw a reminder of the large number of children who do not appear on any school roll(s). Estimated at between 80,000 and 100,000 children, these pupils are not known to be accessing education. Following Covid lockdowns, an inquiry has been launched to “find these children” and understand the reasons behind continued and increasing absence, and to try to ensure that support is available for children to return to school or access education safely. 

Given the recent focus on trying to ‘recover’ education lost over the pandemic, the significant drop in attendance and the highlighted figures showing pupils ‘missing education’, there is concern that there will be even further attainment gaps to make up if attendance improvement is not also deemed a priority. 

While there are many reasons for non-attendance, there is still a significant link to Covid and that needs to be recorded accurately. In January, the DfE provided an addendum (tinyurl.com/mt6hwz7r) to its guidance on recording pupil absence due to Covid, for 2021/22. 

This guidance makes it clear that these codes (Code X and Code I) should only be used where attendance would be contrary to UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA)/the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) guidance or legislation in relation to the incidence or transmission of Covid and should not be used for incidental issues such as anxiety around attending school due to Covid. 

Accurate use of the codes will enable further understanding of the impact of Covid on attendance and the potential impact on education going forwards. 

We await the outcome of the DfE’s recent consultation on school absence. However, getting the relevant data is a critical first step, as there is a vast difference in how attendance is monitored across the country, making it difficult to spot potential issues to tackle them at an early stage. 

Schools need to be aware of what their own attendance data looks like and what actions they can take to monitor and deal with any attendance concerns. The first step will be a robust policy for setting out support for regular attendance. Second, ensure that staff are familiar with Attendance Codes relating to Covid and how these should be used to properly record attendance and/or absence. 

The next point is to consider how schools and local authorities (LAs) issue penalty notice fines for non-attendance and how schools should consider any roll changes and what information needs to be passed to LAs to ensure that data being fed through to the DfE is as accurate as possible. 

This will ensure that pupils do not fall through the gaps and risk missing education at a crucial time. 

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Equality, diversity and inclusion

ASCL is committed to supporting and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion ( Expand

ASCL is committed to supporting and promoting equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) among school and college leaders, and in our own organisation.  

Leaders' Networks

We have established the ASCL Ethnic Diversity Network (www.ascl.org.uk/EDINetwork), the ASCL LGBT+ Leaders’ Network (www.ascl.org.uk/LGBTLeaders) and the ASCL Women Leaders’ Network (www.ascl.org.uk/womenleaders). Please visit their individual pages via the links to find out more. 

  • To join any of our leaders’ networks and for an invitation to the next meeting, please contact CorporateAdmin@ascl.org.uk indicating the network you would like to join.
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Are your details up to date?

If you’ve moved role or employer or changed your home address, email or phone number, please take a few moments to let us know. Expand

If you’ve moved role or employer or changed your home address, email or phone number, please take a few moments to let us know. 

It’s vital that we know about any changes to your personal contact details or employment. You can do this easily by logging into your MyASCL account (www.ascl.org.uk/login) or by completing the form at www.ascl.org.uk/updatedetails to send us your latest details. 

Ensuring that we have your most up-to-date details will enable us to help you quicker should you need to contact us for support. It will also enable us to ensure that you receive all your member benefits.

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Subscribe to our newsletters

As well as publishing Leader magazine, we also issue a twice-weekly briefing and several key email newsletters to keep members up to date with all the latest information. Expand

As well as publishing Leader magazine, we also issue a twice-weekly briefing and several key email newsletters to keep members up to date with all the latest information. These include specific newsletters that cater for ASCL’s wide variety of members: 

  • Business Matters
  • Post-16 News
  • Primary Focus
  • SEND & Inclusion News
  • Trust Leadership
  • Independent Sector News
  • Cymru Briefing
  • Northern Ireland News 

To subscribe to any of these newsletters and other communications, log in to your ‘MyASCL’ account (www.ascl.org.uk/login), select ‘Preferences’ and select the newsletter you would like to receive. You can see previous issues of all the newsletters at www.ascl.org.uk/newsletters

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School data management

Wonde's innovative school data management platform is a powerful, secure solution designed and built to give schools confidence in the control and management of their data. Expand

Wonde's innovative school data management platform is a powerful, secure solution designed and built to give schools confidence in the control and management of their data. 

The platform is used and trusted by more than 24,000 schools while 400+ leading edtech applications, supported by Wonde, enjoy knowing the data they access is accurate, relevant and timely. 

Schools have full visibility and control over the data they share with third-party applications. The intuitive platform includes key features such as the ability to approve data sharing agreements, approve/revoke third-party application access and restrict data sharing where required. In addition, MATs have a central account where data sharing can be controlled from one central platform, meaning their schools can concentrate on teaching and supporting pupils. 

Any recent changes made within a school’s management information system (MIS) are reflected in the third-party applications they access, saving valuable staff time, improving accuracy and ensuring that schools and pupils are always ready to make full use of the third-party apps used across their school. 

With both ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials Plus accreditations, schools can be sure their data is safe and secure with Wonde. See how your school can work better: 

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Keeping children safe in education

There are a few tweaks to the guidance - including an expectation for all governors to receive safeguarding training and more guidance on Prevent - but the hot topic is a proposed expectation that schools and colleges carry out online checks on job applicants. Expand

There are a few tweaks to the guidance - including an expectation for all governors to receive safeguarding training and more guidance on Prevent - but the hot topic is a proposed expectation that schools and colleges carry out online checks on job applicants. Paragraph 215 of the proposed new guidance (tinyurl.com/2zk5fn6n) sets out the duty but does so in nine short words: “consider carrying out an online search (including social media)”. 

Many employers in other sectors carry out such checks already and given we have been encouraging staff and students to give thought to their perception online for a while now, it is highly likely that this expectation will make it into the guidance come September. In preparation, schools and colleges should take two steps:

  1. Start discussing how you will amend your recruitment process to account for this change.
  2. Consider who will take responsibility for carrying out online searches and how they will report back to those leading on recruitment
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'Essay mills'

The UK government, in its Skills and Post-16 Education Bill currently going through Parliament, is to ban 'cheating services', commonly known as 'essay mills'. Expand

The UK government, in its Skills and Post-16 Education Bill currently going through Parliament, is to ban 'cheating services', commonly known as 'essay mills'. 

These are (usually online) services offering to provide students with essays for money. As currently drafted, the Bill only targets post-16 education, including university education. 

This legislative change is in line with the government's 'levelling up' agenda and particularly its focus on safeguarding academic integrity and standards. 

The current draft is not entirely watertight. What is clear is that the government intends to make it a criminal offence to provide, arrange or advertise these cheating services for financial gain. 

The penalty will be a fine, although how the fine will be calculated and how liability will be divided between the corporate body and directors/managers/members of companies is also unclear and it is hoped that the relevant provisions of the Bill will be amended for clarity as it goes through Parliament. 

You can follow the passage of the Bill through Parliament here: bills.parliament.uk/bills/2868/publications

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Draft Online Safety Bill

The Draft Online Safety Bill ( Expand

The Draft Online Safety Bill (the Draft Bill) is an attempt to put an end to the 'land of the lawless' by regulating online content in a way that goes further than any previous legislation has done. 

It puts the duty of care on social media sites to remove harmful and illegal content. The media regulator Ofcom, under the current draft, is given significant powers including powers to investigate, audit and fine companies who fail to do so. 

However, the report of the Joint Committee on the Draft Bill (published 14 December 2021) ( Draft Online Safety Bill (parliament.uk) (tinyurl.com/2tkzdu7u)) made it clear that there is still a lot of work to do. 

Many schools and colleges have been the victims of abusive content posted online, be it about the school or college or members of staff. In many cases the content is untrue and potentially harmful to individuals and/or the school's reputation. Posters on social media platforms such as TikTok can stay anonymous if they wish to do so, making it hard for schools to take action. 

It remains to be seen whether this type of content will meet the threshold for the harmful/illegal content targeted by the Bill. Further clarification on the threshold has been recommended by the Joint Committee and would certainly be welcomed. 

It will also be interesting to note whether the Bill will give victims of harmful content (such as schools and staff members) a course of action, such as a right to request for the content to be removed or the poster identified. As it stands, the draft Bill puts most of the power in the hands of the regulator, Ofcom. 

The Bill will now go back to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) for a final decision on what to include, with a view to presenting it back to Parliament. It will then go through the various stages in Parliament when individuals and organisations will be able to suggest changes through their local MP. 

We expect that the Bill will change significantly from its current draft and hope that, in doing so, it will give schools and colleges more power in dealing with abusive online content.

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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. ASCL members can call the ASCL Hotline on 0116 2991122 for support on legal issues relating specifically to their own employment. If you would also like to seek advice from a legal professional please contact Browne Jacobson via:

Tel: 0370 270 6000 @brownejacobson
Web: www.brownejacobson.com

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