February 2015

Features

  • Essential support
    Member support is a cornerstone of ASCLís work. Richard Tanton explains the different services and functions provided. More
  • Staying the course
    Itís not just students who need to be able to withstand challenges and learn to persist. Senior leaders and staff, too, would benefit from gaining a better understanding of how to build the personal resilience that will help them succeed, say Les Duggan and Mark Solomons. More
  • Over to us
    Government has handed schools control of the Pupil Premium with the overarching goal of helping to boost social mobility. John Dunford sets out a ten-point plan to help heads identify where to spend the money to gain maximum impact. More
  • Better together?
    Raising attainment for all? Becky Francis introduces a project to identify best practice in grouping students and invites schools to take part. More
  • Bridging the gap
    A fresh approach to transition, including an introduction to university for Year 6s, is helping one secondary to prepare primary pupils for life at Ďbig schoolí. Dorothy Lepkowska reports. More
  • Mapping the future
    ASCL is expanding its presence in the English regions to help meet the changing needs of leaders. Brian Lightman explains the thinking behind the move. More
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Member support is a cornerstone of ASCLís work. Richard Tanton explains the different services and functions provided.

Essential support

According to our research, one of the key reasons that leaders join ASCL is to tap into the individual support and advice offered through the Member Support Directorate. Alongside its reputation for being able to help in challenging situations, people fi nd it reassuring and encouraging knowing that their professional association has the necessary expertise and knowledge to provide the support that they need in a range of situations.

The directorate is staffed by experienced colleagues with many years of senior school and college leadership. Leading and managing the work falls to Deputy Director Lesley Cooper, Hotline Leader David Snashall and myself as director.

The Hotline service

The Hotline is live from 9am to 5pm every day of the year (yes, that does include Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Yearís Day and we do receive calls) and it is usually the first port of call for any member. When it began, its primary function was as a port of call when a member considered that their employment was potentially at risk, and that remains a significant aspect to the service. But members should phone the Hotline if they have other concerns around the issues that they face in an ever-changing and ever-challenging landscape.

In the last 18 months, Hotline has had its busiest ever period. From 1 September to 31 December 2014, we received 2,656 calls to our Hotline. On average we take about 30-40 calls a day on issues such as Ofsted inspections, curriculum developments, pensions, a possible restructuring, a funding concern, how to implement the new recommendations on pay and conditions and any number of other issues. Most questions can be answered on the spot or, if more technical, later that day. In 5 to 6 per cent of cases, the memberís call is referred on to one of ASCLís specialists who use their expertise to provide the necessary detailed answer.

Regional and field officers

Over the last academic year, directorate staff have referred more than 1,100 calls to ASCL regional officers, whose experience of leading schools, together with their knowledge of the regional landscape, are huge assets in analysing a memberís specific situation and in considering the options available at any particular time. A referral is made in total confidence.

Casework can be astonishingly complex and a typical individual case handled by a regional officer can last anything from three to 48 months. Regional officers and field officers will nearly always seek to meet with a member, at either their workplace or other venue, to explore the individual situation and any relevant paperwork. From there, depending on the nature of the case, there may be dialogue with employers, heads of HR, the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) or CEOs of academy chains, as well as discussion with ASCLís legal team (see below) or with me, if appropriate.

There is no typical day for a regional or field officer. They may travel up to 12,000 miles a year, handling up to 35 cases at a time, and are quite frequently working in situations that are in the public domain, and therefore very media-sensitive. The officers possess a depth of skill and knowledge to represent an individual ASCL member in an individual set of circumstances while also looking to scope as many possible options for that person.

Collaborations

The directorate has close working relationships with other areas of ASCL. We meet and discuss custom and practice with Leora Cruddas, ASCL Director of Policy, and have close working ties with our specialists. Whether it is through individual casework, meetings at Council or looking to establish a network of connections with the leading academy chains and, more recently, multi-academy trusts, that cross-fertilisation of practice and knowledge invariably improves the service to our members.

The recent work on embedding a sense of regional identity for ASCL is an example of that cross-fertilisation in action. Regional pilots in the North East and East of England for 2014-15 have been led by the regional officers, working with coordinators Alison Edwards and Joe Pajak. The regional programmes showed that a bespoke series of events, based on regional input and need, are an excellent way to establish a sense of ASCL regionalisation. T Three more regions will be included for 2015 in the North West, South West and East Midlands, to be joined by the other regions in 2016, and this work has meant working closely with both ASCL Professional Development and ASCL Communications. The regional conferences in the summer term, organised by the Member Support Directorate, will epitomise not only these close working links but also regional identity. Dates for the conferences will be published shortly and speakers include ASCLís President Peter Kent, as well as regional school commissioners and regional Ofsted directors.

Legal team

Many of you may have phoned the Hotline on occasion and have met your regional or field officer at an ASCL event; many will also have had contact with ASCLís Legal Specialist Richard Bird at one of his training courses or have read one of Richardís articles in Leader. Itís less likely that you will have met Tim Glover, ASCLís Senior Solicitor, who heads a team of employment law solicitors, which includes Sarah Linden and Aman Patel. Their expertise is a significant feature of member support and it is a reflection of the increased casework and importance of the legal teamís work that we will be employing a fourth solicitor from March 2015.

As a member, you may need to seek advice from our solicitors at some point, for example, to consider a potential employment tribunal claim or to ask their opinion about a discussion you are having with an employer. Our solicitors work closely with regional and field officers to ensure that members receive comprehensive, bespoke advice on a confidential basis. Meanwhile, our bespoke training programmes ensure that all member support staff receive regular and appropriate employment law updates. It means that their sound working knowledge is further enhanced by the experience, knowledge and pragmatism of our solicitors.

Thanks in large part to the work of regional and field officers in negotiating settlements we manage to keep the number of tribunal claims issued to a minimum. In 2013-14, the legal department advised on 239 settlement agreements negotiated by regional and field officers (excluding those agreements negotiated by the solicitors on their own cases). Where claims to a tribunal are made, proceedings are often protracted and the average length of a claim is 430 days. We have had great success in representing our members before tribunal claims and particularly so in the last two years, which is a tribute to both regional and legal colleagues.

Over the last 18 months we have been increasingly asked to advise on safeguarding matters and this has been reflected in a higher number of referrals to the National College for Teaching and Leadership (NCTL) and the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS). Where this is unfortunately the case, our solicitors will represent the individual member and will seek external legal advice if and when appropriate to that specific case. I hope this whistle-stop guide to our work in member support has given you an insight into the service we offer to our members and the quality of the team available to you as an ASCL member.


There is no typical day for a regional or field officer. They may travel up to 12,000 miles a year, handling up to 35 cases at a time, and are quite frequently working in situations that are in the public domain, and therefore very media-sensitive.


ASCL Support

If you need any help or advice from ASCL, please contact the Hotline on 0116 2991122 or email hotline@ascl.org.uk


Richard Tanton is ASCL Member Support Director

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