February 2013

The know zone

  • Warning signs
    The case of a BNP councillor who took his claim against unfair dismissal to the European Court of Human Rights is a warning to schools and colleges, says Richard Bird. More
  • Toil and trouble
    Changes to local and national funding formulae could be a recipe for a whole cauldron of bother, says Sam Ellis. More
  • Lead vocals
    Quotes from Judy Garland, Kongzi, Ezra Pound, Felix Cohen and Thomas Fuller More
  • Home ground
    After 20 years away, Mark Stanyer returned to the school where he began his teaching career and is now principal of Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy in Stoke-on-Trent. More
  • Nourishing minds
    The Food for Life Partnership (FFLP) is revolutionising school meals by reconnecting young people with farms and inspiring them to grow food and cook. More
  • Keeping pedagogy on track
    Despite being in the midst of one of the most challenging periods in education Brian Lightman explains why he believes there are strong grounds for optimism in 2013. More
  • Adding value
    In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor announced two changes that will hit high earners, people seeking to boost their pension provision, and public sector workers who benefit from generous employer contributions. More
  • Quantitative easing
    Do you believe changes announced to the teachers’ pay structure will be beneficial or detrimental? Here, leaders share their views. More
  • Plantastic voyage
    Nothing solves a problem quite like a carefully constructed, conscientiously costed action plan. Just make sure that everyone has the correctly coloured stationery. More
  • Leaders' Surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Financial times...
    With changes to pensions announced in the Autumn Statement and proposals to change teachers’ pay published only days before ASCL Council met in December, it was no surprise that pay and conditions were high on the agenda. More
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Financial times...

With changes to pensions announced in the Autumn Statement and proposals to change teachers’ pay published only days before ASCL Council met in December, it was no surprise that pay and conditions were high on the agenda.

Honorary members

First, the good news. ASCL Council was pleased to bestow honorary membership on Keith Dennis, formerly ASCL’s inspection specialist and prior to that a head in the West Midlands; and Lindsey Wharmby, formerly ASCL’s funding specialist and prior to that a head in Yorkshire. Both were recognised and thanked for their many years of outstanding service and support to ASCL members.

Future of assessment
Education Committee
The committee, led by Chair Andy Yarrow, reviewed ASCL’s Future of Assessment policy. The committee agreed a number of principles to be reflected in the revised policy, including:

  • parity between academic and vocational qualifications; parallel, varied routes to cater for all young people
  • fit for purpose assessment, with a balance of internal and external
  • a coherent national qualifications framework
  • separation of individual assessment from institutional accountability measures
  • curriculum continuity and progression through key stages
  • balance of knowledge, understanding and skills in curriculum

Curriculum and Assessment Specialist Sue Kirkham will work on revising the policy, which is used as the basis for discussion with ministers and officials.


Education Committee
BIS’s proposed changes to apprenticeships were discussed. It was agreed that ASCL should be proactive in promoting high-quality apprenticeships and in encouraging schools and colleges to take on apprentices.

Funding reform

Funding Committee
Following the committee’s discussion about proposals for funding reform (changes in local authority formulas in April 2013 and national changes promised at a later date), Chair David Grigg reported on the committee’s concerns about the potential impact on individual schools of funding shifts in the next two to three years, especially for schools in rural areas. The committee has serious concerns about the government’s focus on simplicity and transparency instead of funding to meet need. ASCL will continue to attempt to shift policy through ongoing meetings with the EFA and the DfE.

ASCL funding policy

Funding Committee
The committee is reviewing and revising ASCL’s funding policy. While many of the aims and principles have not changed over the last decade – especially in relation to an activity-led national funding formula – there are specific points that need updating to reflect the current situation.


Professional Committee
The committee expressed concern that changes to accountability including the Ofsted framework and changes to teachers’ pay are putting greater pressure on governors. Schools will need to invest more in training. Concerns were expressed over Ofsted’s plans for a new data dashboard for governors. ASCL officers are attending a meeting at Ofsted to review an early version.

Industrial action

Public and Parliamentary Committee
Chair Peter Campling led a committee discussion on the impact of the teacher union industrial action in some local areas. As a result, Council approved the following position statement:

ASCL remains most concerned about the nature of the teacher union industrial action. Whilst its strength and impact is inconsistent and often highly localised, where it is having an effect, school and college leaders are left extremely vulnerable. This action is having a detrimental impact on a number of state schools and very little impact on its intended targets, the secretaries of state in England and Wales. ASCL will do all things possible, with both unions and the government, to bring about a speedy resolution to this damaging dispute.

Brian Lightman said he has made these points to the secretary of state, and he will continue to do so.

Working families

Public and Parliamentary Committee
The committee discussed a report that highlighted the serious issue of children from working families on very low wages who, through a quirk in the regulations, are not eligible for free school meals. Council approved the following resolution and asked Brian Lightman to write to Schools Minister David Laws. Brian agreed.

The ineligibility of low income families for free school meal (FSM) classification and support due to receipt of working tax credits is unsupportable. All students from families with total incomes, including benefits, below £16,190 must be classified as FSM without delay and receive the pupil premium and school meal funding that FSM attracts. Low income families who work must receive equal treatment to those who do not.


Pay and Conditions Committee
Pensions Specialist David Binnie highlighted changes in the Autumn Statement that will affect some members’ pensions. The threshold for pension accrual taxes has been lowered as of the tax year 2014-15, so that the annual allowance (the tax on the annual growth in one’s pension fund) is reduced to £40,000 and the lifetime allowance (the total value of one’s pension fund at retirement) to £1.25 million. David strongly urged ASCL members who may be affected to seek financial advice.

Teachers’ pay changes

Pay and Conditions Committee
The committee discussed the School Teachers’ Review Body (STRB) report, and feedback from Chair David Trace formed the introduction to the Council plenary debate. The committee welcomed the retention of a broad national framework, including an upper pay scale; more discretion in the use of allowances for recruitment and retention; fixed-term responsibility allowances of up to £2,500 a year for time-limited projects; and reinforcement of the responsibility of heads to manage staff and resources.

There were some reservations about differentiated progression to reward excellence and performance improvement, pay progression linked to annual appraisal, local flexibility for schools to create posts paying above the upper pay scale, and a simplified School Teachers’ Pay and Conditions Document (STPCD).

Serious concerns were raised about the abolition of mandatory pay points with retention at present of points for reference only in the main scale, and the replacement of the threshold test with simple criteria based on the Teachers’ Standards.


Plenary session
In the plenary debate, Council broadly agreed with the points above. Concerns were raised about:

  • pay inequalities emerging between schools
  • affordability and funding – era of shrinking budgets is the wrong time to restructure pay
  • importance of having a robust, detailed, water-tight pay policy
  • workload implications for heads and senior leaders – performance management will need careful moderation
  • middle leader accountability – will require additional training
  • governor accountability – will require additional training
  • failure to address head-on issue of underperforming staff on UPS 3
  • potential industrial action by teacher unions

These points will form the basis of ASCL’s ongoing discussions with officials and guidance to members as the detail emerges.


Professional Committee
The committee had an update from Inspections Specialist Jan Webber of member feedback on the new framework. Chair Peter Kent told Council that this included concerns about the quality of inspectors, the impact of the label ‘requires improvement’ and short notice of inspections. The following position statement was proposed, which Council approved:

ASCL believes that inspection should be focused on validating schools’ and colleges’ own self-evaluation. It should involve a professional dialogue between leaders and appropriately qualified inspectors, rather than being something ‘done to’ schools and colleges by Ofsted.


Plenary session
In response to the HMCI annual report, feedback from Professional Committee and discussion with Sir Michael Wilshaw at the forum session the previous evening, Council members discussed what recommendations ASCL would make to improve the inspection process. They agreed that inspection would be improved by:

  • better opportunity for in-depth discussion with heads and senior leaders before and during inspection
  • greater clarity over use of self-evaluation
  • more school leaders involved in inspection – making it part of professional continuing professional development (CPD)
  • school leaders playing a part in quality-assuring inspection

It was also stated that Ofsted should move towards a school improvement focus, giving advice about how schools can improve and sharing best practice, but only once trust is restored in the quality and consistency of HMIs. Ofsted needs to be held accountable and should also be evaluated. Having service heads as inspectors is welcome, but heads find it difficult to commit to the 30-day requirement.

In regards to the HMCI’s criticism of the FE sector, it was noted that funding has reduced significantly. While the number of colleges rated ‘inadequate’ has increased, so has the number rated ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’.

It was proposed that, instead of traditional inspection, a desk exercise be done on a school and a grade given. If the school agrees with the grade, that is recorded as the inspection grade. If the school disagrees, a full inspection takes place.

CBI report

Plenary session
General Secretary Brian Lightman outlined the key issues in the helpful Confederation of British Industry (CBI) report First Steps – A new approach for our schools, also indicating the positive nature of the CBI director general’s speech at its annual conference. He felt that working relationships with the CBI have never been better and welcomed comments on the report that he can feed back to the CBI’s education steering group of which he is a member.

● The next Council meeting will be 28 February – 1 March in Warwick.

financial times