February 2016

The know zone

  • It's a jungle out there...
    As I walk around school during the day I am struck by the differing groups of students that I meet and observe. Each group has its own social structure, feeding pattern and natural habitat. While there has been little scientific research into these groups I have tried to collate my observations. More
  • Lessons in life?
    A new report from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner recommends compulsory personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons in schools. What are your views – should PSHE be a compulsory component in the National Curriculum? Here ASCL members share their thoughts. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Great opportunities for leadership development
    ASCL Professional Development (PD) offers a range of support to provide you with the solutions you need. Our events, which are accessible to members and non-members alike, are packed full of practical ideas that you can take back to school or college and are led by expert education practitioners from ASCL’s team. More
  • The appliance of science
    British Science Week (11–20 March 2016) is the UK’s largest grassroots celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) that takes place each March. Every year, it brings together schools, colleges, professionals and communities to celebrate and explore STEM. More
  • Engaging with parents to raise pupil attainment
    Parents say work commitments are the most common barrier to getting more involved in their child’s school life* but parents who have insight into their child’s progress can help to support their development. With the busy lives that parents lead, schools need to find new ways of engaging parents with their child’s progress: More
  • Know your rights
    Academies have changed the landscape on employment and too often staff find themselves with fewer entitlements than expected, so study your contract before you sign, says Sara Ford. More
  • Broadening their horizons
    As the latest research shows, children learn the basics best when they are taught as part of a broad and balanced curriculum, rather than in splendid isolation, says Julie McCulloch. More
  • Braced for change
    Working in a MAT or stand-alone school? Operational or strategic role? Val Andrew looks at what the future holds for school business leaders and school business managers. More
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Leaders' Surgery


I don’t fully trust the information that my academy business manager has been giving me. Most recently, she has been saying we have been promised money from the local authority (LA) to see us through a temporary dip in student numbers caused by their re-organisation of school age ranges. It appears she does not have an audit trail of the ‘support’ offer. We are now in deep financial trouble. What do I do?


There are two separate issues. First, gather whatever paper trail there is concerning the LA offer and see if there is a formal matter to be raised with the LA. Even though you are an academy, the LA still has a duty to work with the area’s schools. Indeed, if they have reneged on a clear written deal then this should be taken up with the chief officer. 

However, if your suspicion that the ‘offer’ is woolly is right, then you must take urgent action to balance your budget, which may be painful and difficult. You will need to be very clear in the instructions given to your business manager over this and keep a record of your instructions; in the end, you are the accounting officer of the academy trust and you will have to carry the responsibility. 

Losing trust in the business manager is something that would have been best addressed when you first had niggling doubts, but now you need to make monitoring the academy’s business activity a top priority. An external audit may help you confirm poor practice leading to training, a ‘parting of the ways’ or that all is being done properly, which will allow trust to rebuild.

Assessment issues


My head of English has told me that my assistant head, who teaches in his department, has given far too much support on controlled assessment despite clear guidance and a previous warning. HR has suggested that this could be gross misconduct and advised suspension. The assistant head is a brilliant leader and critical to the team. How serious is this? 


It is potentially very serious. The assistant head has let students down very badly if the class has been told they have completed examination work when in fact they have not done it in the way required. This is a serious breach of trust. As such, the assistant head has fallen well short of the teacher standards and HR is right that suspension should be considered so that a proper investigation can take place. 

You should appoint an appropriate investigator. Assuming the investigation shows that the head of English is correct, then the students will have to do another controlled assessment according to the specification regulations. As no entries have yet been made or marks submitted, this is still an internal issue about the trust between the teacher and their students.


Contact the hotline

This surgery page focuses on issues raised by headteachers about those with whom they work closely. Should one of our non-head members ever find themselves in such situations they should call the ASCL hotline immediately on 0116 299 1122 for employment support.