September 2013

The know zone

  • Checks and balances
    Inadequacies have emerged in the procedure for issuing enhanced criminal records certificates. It should give schools pause for thought, says Richard Bird. More
  • ‘Fair’ but not ‘fit’
    In a complex world, schools should be funded according to their present and future needs, not by the requirement to appear ‘simple and transparent’, says Sam Ellis. More
  • Inspectors under scrutiny
    Amid criticism of inconsistency in Ofsted judgements, Jan Webber examines the claims that some inspectors are not fit for purpose and suggests what could be done to restore confidence in the system. More
  • Fighting for better pay and conditions
    ASCL exists to reflect and promote the views of its members, which is why ASCL Council is so important. ASCL Council is made up of 148 elected representatives and is the association’s policymaking body, meeting four times a year. Council members represent ASCL at meetings with government officials and other organisations. It is from Council that national officers, including the president, are elected. In each edition of Leader this year, we will spotlight the work of a particular committee of Council. This month, it is the turn of the Pay and Conditions Committee. More
  • How is ASCL policy made?
    Council, ASCL’s policy-making body, meets four times a year and each of the 148 elected Council members serves on one of its main committees: Education, Pay and Conditions, Funding, Professional, and Public and Parliamentary, where future policy is discussed in detail. More
  • Could you be an ASCL Council member?
    Council membership is often described as the best in-service training that members can have. More
  • ASCL PD events
    "Curriculum Planning: Balancing the Vision Against the Funding" and "Conversion to a Multi-Academy Trust – the Options" More
  • Are you new to SLT?
    If so, then you will doubtless have richly earned your promotion and hardly be new to the concept of effective leadership. More
  • Presenting with impact
    What makes a great presentation? We all know when we have heard one. More
  • Stimulating physics
    The Stimulating Physics Network (SPN) is managed by the Institute of Physics (IOP), in partnership with the national network of Science Learning Centres. More
  • Adding value
    Understanding performance More
  • Direct action?
    ASCL members in some areas of the country are raising issues with recruitment on to the School Direct programme for teacher training, although in other areas it seems to be successful. Here members share their experience of how School Direct is working in their schools. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Best supporting ‘actor’
    There is bound to be uncertainty when a school leader moves on... not least for the replacement who is given the strange title of ‘acting head’. But what does the job actually entail? More
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The antidote to common leadership conundrums…

Leader's surgery

Many calls made recently by members to the ASCL hotline have concerned various aspects of allegations that have been made against them, or where they have been involved in an investigation or where they have been a witness to a fact. The questions asked below are typical of requests made to the hotline and the answers given are generic. ASCL’s hotline officers (0116 299 1122) can talk through the specific circumstance in which a member finds himself or herself.

Staff grievance raises issues

Q I am a deputy head and my head has told me that a member of staff has raised a grievance against me. She has organised an investigation by the other deputy – what should I do?

A The head is doing the right thing. Any allegation should be looked into by someone independent of decision making (that is, the head). The investigation process means that everyone involved knows what is happening, and a clear process is followed. Although such matters are stressful, the purpose of the investigation is to find out the facts. In choosing the other deputy to do this, the head has shown sound judgement that someone of sufficient seniority is finding the evidence and making a recommendation. Our advice is to co-operate fully, but to restrict your comments to what you know first-hand. Do not include what you have heard said of or what you personally think about the complainant. As the subject of allegations, it is prudent to take a ‘friend’ to accompany you to an investigation meeting to keep notes, and to ensure that you do not get too emotional. The vast majority of investigations show that there is no case to answer and the school leader has merely been doing their job properly.

Investigating anonymous complaints

Q I am a head and I have received an anonymous complaint about the behaviour of a member of staff on a school trip. What should I do?

A If the matter is a safeguarding issue then regardless of the anonymous nature of the complaint it should be referred to the Local Authority Designated Officer (LADO). The member of staff should not normally be suspended at this point. If it does not refer to a safeguarding matter, then it will depend on what your complaints policy states. Most good complaints policies include a statement that anonymous allegations will not be investigated. 

If your policy does not state this then the matter should be looked into, and your policy should be changed as soon as possible.

Questions regarding allegations

Q I am an assistant head and there have been allegations made by a parent against the head, and the chair of governors has appointed an external investigator from a consultancy firm. Do I have to talk to the investigator?

A Simply, “Yes!” Your employer (the governing body) is making a reasonable and lawful request of you to co-operate with their investigator and the basic employment relationship requires you to co-operate with such requests. However, you must remember that you can only comment on anything you know ‘first-hand’, and it is normal for the investigator to allow you to be accompanied by a work colleague. The person accompanying you cannot speak for you and they are not your representative; most members do not take someone with them in a situation such as this.

Find out more...

ASCL Professional Development runs courses and offers a consultancy on carrying out a school-based investigation. Many schools now ensure that their whole senior leadership team (SLT) is trained for such an event. Upcoming courses include:

Legal Issues: Employment/ Managing Staff (Thursday 7 November 2013, London; Thursday 14 November 2013, Sheffield)

Law Academy Leaders Should Know (Thursday 12 December 2013, London; Wednesday 30 April 2014, Birmingham)

Practical, Legal and HR Guidance for You and Your Institution (Thursday 13 March 2014, London; Tuesday 3 June 2014, Manchester)

For more details, visit: