February 2017

NEWS AND GUIDANCE

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News and guidance

ASCL Influence

Here is just a small selection of the meetings and lobbying activity that senior ASCL officers have been involved with on your behalf and, in particular, we have highlighted areas where ASCL has had a direct influence on policy. Expand

Here is just a small selection of the meetings and lobbying activity that senior ASCL officers have been involved with on your behalf and, in particular, we have highlighted areas where ASCL has had a direct influence on policy.

Apprenticeship Levy

ASCL has taken every opportunity to lobby about the Apprenticeship Levy. We will continue to call on the government to make schools exempt.

ASCL Funding Specialist Julia Harnden has had a series of meetings to discuss growing the number of appropriate apprenticeship programmes that are relevant to schools and to ensure that schools can make best use of the levy funds they must pay from April.

We are very disappointed at the lack of approved programmes that currently exist for the sector and we are planning a meeting with Peter Lauener, Chief Executive of the Education Funding Agency (EFA), soon to highlight our concerns.

The impact on maintained schools is still uncertain, other than that they will have to contribute as part of their local authority. We are pushing both the DfE and the Local Government Association (LGA) for guidance to be made available for schools and local authorities on how this will work and, very importantly, how maintained schools can access levy funding to support training for apprentices they employ.

In relation to the publicsector- body target of 2.3% of the workforce being apprentices, our information is that this is an aspirational target and it is unlikely that any sort of claw-back will be applied.

ASCL considers that offering apprenticeships in schools is a positive move for certain roles such as teaching assistants and technicians and in administrative work (providing that all aspects of safeguarding are met). However, ASCL is committed to protecting teaching as a graduate profession. We believe that subject knowledge acquired in higher education gives teachers confidence and credibility in the classroom.

The English Baccalaureate (EBacc)

The Conservative Party committed in its manifesto to “requiring secondary school pupils to take GCSEs in English, maths, science, a language and history or geography, with Ofsted unable to award its highest ratings to schools that refuse to teach these core subjects”.

The ASCL policy team worked hard with senior DfE officials and the incoming administration in 2015 to persuade ministers that it was not a good idea to implement EBacc in this way. Prior to the launch of the EBacc consultation on 3 November 2015, we had already successfully made the case to the DfE that:

  • there should not be a requirement on secondary school pupils to take the EBacc subjects – rather this could be expressed as a national ambition
  • school leaders will be able to decide who they put forward for EBacc entry
  • the proposed EBacc measure should not be a ‘limiting judgement’ in the Ofsted framework

Ministers accepted all three proposals. We are continuing to press for the government’s position, following the consultation that ended last year in January, in order to allow schools to make the appropriate curriculum and staffing arrangements in good time for September 2017.

Since the launch of the consultation, ASCL’s policy team has continued to work at the highest levels of the civil service and government to ensure that your voice is heard and that policy is evidence-informed and implemented in the best way for children and young people. Find out more at www.ascl.org.uk/influencing-policy/eb

Year 7 resits

In April 2015, the government announced that, in order to ensure “zero-tolerance of failure and mediocrity”, children who ‘failed’ their end of primary school exams would be required to resit them in Year 7. Despite widespread concern, this proposal was rapidly formalised by its inclusion in The Conservative Party Manifesto 2015, and later in the March 2016 white paper Educational Excellence Everywhere.

It was clear from initial conversations with ASCL Council members, and our wider membership, that there was a great deal of disquiet about this proposal.

ASCL has engaged with the government, and with the wider teaching profession, on this issue in a number of ways, including numerous discussions with the Standards and Testing Agency (STA); holding a seminar with representatives from ASCL, STA and external experts, where we offered alternative approaches; working in partnership with other unions on a unified approach to the issue; and publishing a paper that outlined our major concerns and that proposed a number of alternative solutions.

In October 2016, the Secretary of State for Education announced that the government would not be going ahead with the resit proposal. Instead, it plans to introduce a targeted package of support to help teachers to support struggling pupils to catch up in Year 7. This package is likely to involve the government identifying, promoting and funding effective interventions, drawing on advice from experts such as the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF).

This is an approach that, we believe, is much more likely to deliver the government’s desired outcomes without the negative consequences of the original proposal.

For more on ASCL’s work on this issue, see www.ascl.org.uk/influencing-policy/y7

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PISA results

The Programme for International Student Assessment ( Expand

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2015 report was published in December (www.oecd.org/pisa/).

Commenting on the report, Leora Cruddas, Director of Policy, congratulated schools and pupils on the test results, particularly in science where we continue to perform significantly above the international average. However, she also stressed the need to tackle teacher shortages in order to improve the PISA ranking. She said: “A significant barrier to achieving that goal is the ongoing crisis in teacher recruitment and retention which is severely affecting the ability of schools to recruit specialist staff in science, maths, English and other key subjects.

"Today’s report provides yet more evidence of the scale of this problem, showing that many headteachers in England believe staff shortages are hindering learning. This reflects our own findings in a recent survey in which more than half of respondents said teacher shortages were so severe they have had an impact on the performance of pupils in their GCSEs.

“To take our education system to the next level, the government must focus on what matters most – our teachers. We need to recruit more teachers and then do more to retain them. They must be paid properly and they need to be supported with world-class professional learning programmes.”

For more, read Leora’s blog online: Five lessons we should learn from PISA www.ascl.org.uk/news-and-views/blogs

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Exclusions

We have recently been advising on a number of exclusion queries and particularly around the role of governing bodies in the exclusions process. Expand

We have recently been advising on a number of exclusion queries and particularly around the role of governing bodies in the exclusions process. Case law has established that the governors’ role in exclusions is key. Governors must act within the law and ensure that a sufficiently robust review is undertaken of the headteacher’s decision to exclude. An important part of the review process, which must be undertaken by governors, is allowing both the headteacher and the parent to make oral and written representations to the governing body prior to the decision being made. This flows from the legal framework that supports exclusions as set out in the School Discipline (Pupil Exclusions and Reviews) (England) Regulations 2012 and also the requirements of natural justice.

Where a parent wishes to make representations that may take in wider issues around the actions of the school, which may be subject to separate complaints procedures, the governing body must allow the representations to be made as part of the exclusions process and consider the representations when making the decision. The right to make representations is not limited by reference to any test of relevance to the exclusion. Therefore, parents can put forward any case they wish to. It will be for the governors to determine whether those representations are relevant to the decisions they have to take and to ensure that a full note is made of the decisions reached and the reasons that underpin them. A failure to do so will undermine the governing body’s position and leave the decision open to challenge in legal proceedings or before the Independent Review Panel.


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Art history A level rescued

Exam board Pearson has confirmed plans to develop a new art history A level for teaching from September. Expand

Exam board Pearson has confirmed plans to develop a new art history A level for teaching from September. This follows the AQA board decision, last October, to drop the subject, as it feared the new qualification was so wide-ranging that accurate marking would be impossible. Pearson also announced plans to take on AS and A levels in statistics, also dropped by AQA . However, Pear son has decided against designing a new qualification for archaeology due to its technical nature.


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Schools National Funding Formula – Stage 2

In December, the government announced the second stage of consultation on its plans to introduce a new National Funding Formula for schools in England. Expand

In December, the government announced the second stage of consultation on its plans to introduce a new National Funding Formula for schools in England.

Commenting on the announcement, ASCL Interim General Secretary Malcolm Trobe, said: “ASCL has been campaigning for a fairer system of school funding for over 20 years, so we welcome the fact that at long last we have a government which is addressing the issue. The way in which funding has been distributed to schools has been flawed for many years. Similar schools are funded at very different levels just because they are in different parts of the country.

“There is a great deal of detail in the consultation published that requires forensic analysis before we can draw firm conclusions as to whether the government has been successful in ensuring that similar schools are funded at the same level across the country. It is also important that schools in the worst-funded areas are given extra support as quickly as possible, and that there is sufficient transitional support for schools which will see their funding reduced by this redistribution. We need to examine the detail of the proposals to see how well the government has achieved these objectives.

“The funding formula is aimed at improving the way in which money is distributed to schools. The wider problem is that the overall level of education funding is not sufficient. As today’s National Audit Office report shows, schools face having to make £3 billion of savings by 2019-20. We are very concerned that the life chances of young people are being put at risk by such huge real-terms cuts, and we will continue to press the government to invest more in education. Reform of the school funding system is vital, but so is more investment.”

In addition, ASCL Funding Specialist Julia Harnden has produced a useful summary of the government’s proposals on funding, which highlights key points and also explains how members can respond to the consultation. See the summary online at http://tinyurl.com/hyc5xfl

ASCL will be submitting a response to the consultation in due course. The consultation is available online at http://tinyurl.com/hlodtal and the deadline for responses is 22 March 2017.

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Teacher recruitment targets

The Initial Teacher Training Census 2016–2017 has been published. Expand

The Initial Teacher Training Census 2016–2017 has been published. It shows that the target for recruitment to initial teacher training courses for secondary education was missed for the fourth year in succession.

In a statement to the media, Interim General Secretary Malcolm Trobe, said: “Teacher shortage is a major issue all around the country and addressing this needs to be at the top of the Education Secretary’s priority list. It is very concerning that the target for recruitment to initial teacher training courses has been missed again, particularly when we have concerns that this target is not sufficient to meet the demand for new teachers in the first place. There is a need to simplify the routes into teaching, including making it more straightforward for potential trainees to apply. The DfE should enable a broad-based discussion, led by the profession, to work with the department to develop an overarching strategy for teacher recruitment and retention.”

ASCL will continue to lobby the government on the ongoing difficulties with teacher supply and stress the need for a robust and wide-ranging strategy to be urgently developed and implemented.


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HMCI final Annual Report published

In December, Sir Michael Wilshaw published his final Annual Report as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Ofsted ( Expand

In December, Sir Michael Wilshaw published his final Annual Report as Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Ofsted (http://tinyurl.com/gwesay2).

Recent Ofsted statistics show that the proportion of schools judged good or outstanding at their most recent inspection was 89% – five percentage points higher than 12 months previously. Interim General Secretary Malcolm Trobe said the high proportion of schools judged good or outstanding “reflects the enormous efforts being made across the country by dedicated school leaders and teachers in all phases. They deserve great credit for their commitment and professionalism.”

In his annual report, Sir Michael talked about a growing north/south divide at secondary level. However, Malcolm said the reasons for variations in school performance “are hugely complex and hard to solve. Industrial decline, generational unemployment and high levels of deprivation have had a devastating impact on many parts of the country, creating extremely challenging social conditions.”

Malcolm highlighted the urgent need for the teacher shortage situation to be addressed, saying: “Schools in these areas often find it difficult to recruit staff and are hit particularly badly by the ongoing nationwide teacher recruitment crisis. It is absolutely essential that we improve incentives to attract more high-quality teachers and the next generation of leaders into these schools.” Malcolm also said: “It is also critical that we back up schools in these areas with coordinated plans to address social issues, such as unstable and low-wage employment and more support for families who are in desperate need.”

In addition, read this blog http://tinyurl.com/hxmrynd by Stephen Rollett, ASCL Inspections and Accountability Specialist.

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Supporting children with medical needs

Section 100 of the Children and Families Act 2014 placed a new legal duty on all state-funded schools to put in place arrangements to allow pupils with medical needs to be fully supported within schools to enable them to participate in school activities. Expand

Section 100 of the Children and Families Act 2014 placed a new legal duty on all state-funded schools to put in place arrangements to allow pupils with medical needs to be fully supported within schools to enable them to participate in school activities. The legal duty was supported by statutory guidance, which provided greater detail on the duty and set out a requirement to put in place a policy to support children and young people with medical needs and for that policy to be understood and implemented by staff. Part of the policy would have been the need for a further document – individual healthcare plan – that sets out the details of the medical condition and the support required to deal with the condition. Preparation of the plan is a joint effort between schools, parents and medical professionals but schools had the responsibility to ensure that the plan was finalised and implemented.

Browne Jacobson has recently been advising on disability discrimination cases arising from an alleged failure to follow school policy or statutory guidance. In one case, the SEN and Disability Tribunal determined that the medical condition amounted to a disability and that the failure to agree the healthcare plan or implement it, was treatment that placed the child at a disadvantage and that could not be justified. The tribunal set out that the expectations in the school’s policy, as well as national guidance, were not satisfied in these circumstances and that the school had failed to take reasonable steps, including working with other relevant stakeholders such as parents and medical professionals, to put arrangements in place without unreasonable delay. Where schools are faced with complex issues, there is a need to keep discussions moving towards an agreed position that will allow the child to return to school as soon as possible.

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Staying safe on social media

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging are all part of our everyday lives. Expand

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and blogging are all part of our everyday lives. While the ability to communicate and share information instantly across the world has many benefits, there are, of course, issues associated with these powerful tools that can impact on the management of your employees.

Social media is an all-encompassing term that covers any type of interactive online media that allows parties to communicate instantly with one another or to share data in a public forum.

Increasingly, schools and colleges are using social media as tools to educate their students and to promote their presence in the wider community. It follows that social media has a place in schools and colleges and each will need to determine its own attitudes, parameters and frameworks for its use.

Setting your expectations

While you cannot prevent your employees from accessing and using social media sites, you can set your expectations around usage, content and likely consequences of any online behaviour or conduct that you find unacceptable. Areas for you to consider when setting these expectations may include:

  • contact and communication with students and former students
  • maintaining professional boundaries at all times
  • safeguarding children and young people online
  • employees’ personal responsibility for postings on social media sites
  • posting content that the school or college determines to be unsuitable, including offensive material and defamatory comments
  • not damaging the reputation of the school or college
  • extending the standards of conduct at work to an online environment, for example, cyber bullying or harassment, discrimination, confidentiality, inappropriate images and jokes

Making clear the consequences

You should make it clear to employees what the consequences of not meeting your expectations will be. Usually you will refer to your disciplinary procedure and will follow your usual process for managing allegations against staff.

Should you receive a complaint about material that an employee has posted online, you should always try to obtain a printed copy of the material. Employees should be clear that conduct online should be to the same standards as conduct within the school or college.

Once material has been posted on a website, it has the potential to remain, be forwarded on, be saved, changed and reposted for many years to come. If an employee is in any doubt about suitability of material to be posted online then they should be clear that they should not post it.

For further information, see the ASCL Guidance Paper on Social Networking, Social Media and Email: Protecting your professional reputation www.ascl.org.uk/social-media-guidance

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Exam appeals

Ofqual has published statistics on GCSE and A level exam appeals ( Expand

Ofqual has published statistics on GCSE and A level exam appeals (http://tinyurl.com/zd3kpwo). Commenting on the figures, Leora Cruddas, ASCL’s Director of Policy, said: “It is not surprising that there has been a reduction in the number of grades challenged and changed because Ofqual has changed the rules on exam appeals, which makes it harder for an appeal to be successful. However, even under the new rules, 67,900 exam grades were not right the first time round and this is obviously far too many. These exams are vital to the life chances of young people and the marking system has to be improved. We are pleased that Ofqual has recently opened a discussion on the consistency of marking.”

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New ASCL guidance papers on multi-academy trusts

ASCL in partnership with Browne Jacobson and the National Governors’ Association has published a new guidance paper for senior leaders, trustees and governors of schools and single academy trusts in England that want to form a new multi-academy trust ( Expand

ASCL in partnership with Browne Jacobson and the National Governors’ Association has published a new guidance paper for senior leaders, trustees and governors of schools and single academy trusts in England that want to form a new multi-academy trust (MAT). Staying in Control of your School’s Destiny: forming a multi-academy trust explores how to choose the right partners, things to think about when scoping your new MAT, and how to undertake due diligence on your potential partners.

This new paper is the final one of a suite of guidance papers on Staying in Control of your School’s Destiny. Those still considering the best future for their school are advised to first read the linked paper Staying in Control of your School’s Destiny: considering forming or joining a group of schools. This paper is designed to help all those involved in school leadership and governance to understand better the current policy landscape, to consider their options and to make the best long-term decision for their school. Those who want to join an existing multi-academy trust are advised to read another linked paper, Staying in Control of your School’s Destiny: joining a multi-academy trust.

See all the guidance papers online at www.ascl.org.uk/guidance

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New guidance on PE and sport

ASCL in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust has been looking at how emerging and established multi-academy trusts ( Expand

ASCL in partnership with the Youth Sport Trust has been looking at how emerging and established multi-academy trusts (MATs) can take a strategic approach to PE and sport across their academies. Together, we have published a new guide, PE and Sport: A competitive advantage for multi-academy trusts, which looks at how MATs can use PE and sport to improve pupils’ wellbeing, leadership and achievement. It looks at how PE and sport can develop the MAT brand, create a sense of belonging and identity and contribute to the development of character and employability. 

See the guide at http://tinyurl.com/zanml27

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Notes on guidance

Leader contains general guidance on the law that has been supplied by our partners Browne Jacobson LLP. Expand

Leader contains general guidance on the law that has been supplied by our partners Browne Jacobson LLP. If you have a specific legal issue relating to your role as an employer, we recommend that you seek advice from a qualified legal professional. Members can also call the ASCL Hotline on 0116 299 1122 with respect to legal issues relating specifically to their own employment.

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Updated Legal and Member Support Policy

An updated version of ASCL’s Legal and Member Support Policy is now available ( Expand

An updated version of ASCL’s Legal and Member Support Policy is now available (see www.ascl.org.uk/legalpolicy). The policy explains how ASCL offers legal support to its members. Many people progress through their professional careers without ever needing to access such advice but it is very important for members to know what support will be available should they require it. ASCL has a dedicated team of member support staff, including experienced hotline advisers, regional and field officers and specialist in-house solicitors who support ASCL members with issues arising in connection with their employment.

It is always best if members ring for advice sooner rather than later. Many situations benefit from a discussion early on and prompt action can often help to prevent future difficulties arising.

If you need support, please call the ASCL Hotline on 0116 299 1122.

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Do we have your correct details?

To make sure you don’t miss out on the latest information, please take a minute to tell us of any change in job title, school/college address, home address and email. Expand

To make sure you don’t miss out on the latest information, please take a minute to tell us of any change in job title, school/college address, home address and email. You can do this online; simply log on to www.ascl.org.uk using your password and then click on ‘edit your details’ (in the gold ‘my account’ box on the left-hand side) and update your details. If you have moved to a new school/college or have a new position, please email membership@ascl.org.uk

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Absence management

Almost every day we hear more news about budget cuts and the need to work smarter in testing financial times. Expand

Almost every day we hear more news about budget cuts and the need to work smarter in testing financial times. According to the CIPD 2016 Annual Survey on Absence Management (http://tinyurl.com/zp5zeay), the cost of sickness absence to employers is £522 per employee, per annum. In times when schools and colleges can ill afford even a minor additional cost, it is important that absences are managed effectively to ensure that this area does not become an unnecessary burden on already limited finances. Stress was identified as the top reason for long-term absence and the second most common reason for short-term absence.

An average of 6.3 days per employee is lost to absence each year. In the education sector that rises to 7.4 days per employee. Depending on your staffing levels, for example if you have 27 members of support staff or more on a 39-week contract (195 days), this could mean your absence cost is in excess of the equivalent of a full-time member of staff. As a result, it has never been more important to ensure that this is tackled effectively and appropriately.

Schools and colleges should ensure that robust policies and procedures are in place that identify the following:

Consideration of how certain illnesses may need to be handled differently such as, stress and mental health issues. It may be that a separate policy is needed on each to identify and tackle concerns before someone is absent.

The introduction of health and safety audits specifically focused on stress. l How short- and long-term absence will be dealt with – often long-term sickness absence is forgotten until an issue arises, in which case there is no clear reference point.

Triggers in place to identify when absence will be reviewed.

Who will have responsibility for absence management and at what level? The survey highlights the importance of line manager involvement and provision of information to those managing absence has been identified as a key contributor to reducing all kinds of absence.

Any wellbeing benefits that are available, whether it be employee assistance programmes to increase employee health or the ability to make a referral to the Occupational Health Service at any point.

In summary, it is important to not only have clear mechanisms in place to deal with absence once it occurs but also, to ensure that preventative measures are considered and, when absence does occur, minimise the impact through appropriate management.

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Performance tables for primary schools

The 2016 primary school performance tables were published just before Christmas. Expand

The 2016 primary school performance tables were published just before Christmas. Commenting on their publication, Julie McCulloch, ASCL’s Primary and Governance Specialist, said: “Congratulations to schools on their results in these tests which have been achieved in some very difficult circumstances. The goalposts have shifted this year and these results have to be viewed in that context. The tests are based on a new, much harder curriculum, which the children had followed for only two years, and the expected standard has been significantly raised. In addition, the government’s introduction of these tests has been chaotic. Against this background, schools, teachers and pupils have performed miracles and deserve great credit.”

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Segregation in mixed-sex faith schools is not discriminatory

A high court judge has ruled that segregation in mixed-sex faith schools is not discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010. Expand

A high court judge has ruled that segregation in mixed-sex faith schools is not discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010. The principal issue in The Interim Executive Board of X School v Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills (2016), was whether a mixed school unlawfully discriminated against its male and/or female pupils by making “parallel arrangements” for their education in the same building or by applying a regime of “complete segregation” for all lessons, breaks, school clubs and trips. The segregation arrangements had given Ofsted cause for concern and contributed to the decision to place the school in special measures.

In examining this point, Mr Justice Jay identified “less favourable” treatment as the turning point for this case. The court agreed with the school’s submissions that the practice of segregation is not in itself discriminatory. This was because both male and female pupils were treated in the same way and both sexes were denied the same opportunities to interact, socialise and learn with or from the opposite sex.

Despite this finding, the court decided that although Ofsted had been wrong to place such a heavy emphasis in its report on the gender segregation in the school, there were other legitimate factors and concerns that meant that Ofsted had been entitled to place the school in special measures. As such, the court decided not to quash the report. This case is therefore also another example of the difficulties schools face in overturning decisions made by Ofsted’s inspectors.

It is worth noting that this judgment applies to a specific set of facts of a particular type of school, namely a mixed-sex faith school. It is improbable that the judgment will have any wider application to other schools.

However, in terms of Ofsted inspections, Sir Michael Wilshaw has given his clear view on segregation without an identifiable educational purpose, stating that it is not in the “best educational interests” of children. A new Chief Inspector has taken over from Sir Michael and we shall have to see whether the practice of segregation will then undergo any further scrutiny from Ofsted.

Both parties have been given leave by the court to appeal the judgment.

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LEADING READING