March 2014

The know zone

  • Do the right thing
    Four recommendations in the recent report on whistleblowing by charity Public Concern at Work are particularly significant for schools and colleges, says Richard Bird. More
  • Save and prosper
    In tough times, ‘resourceful resourcing’ comes into its own. Val Andrew offers business managers a guide. More
  • Fresh look for inspections
    Suzanne O’Farrell examines the implications of changes to Ofsted’s subsidiary guidance and handbook and looks ahead to the new framework scheduled for September. More
  • Post-16 committee
    The focus in this Leader is on ASCL Council’s Post-16 Committee, which has a wide-ranging remit that includes all aspects of post-16 education in schools and colleges. More
  • Great aspirations
    Kathryn Podmore is Principal of Birkenhead Sixth Form College, an active member of several education bodies and chair of ASCL Council’s Post-16 committee. More
  • Ensuring complete representation
    From time to time ASCL Council co-opts members from groups that are under-represented to ensure that the views of all types of members are taken into consideration when debating policy. More
  • ASCL PD events
    Whole School Leadership of Teaching and Learning, Student Voice Beyond Student Councils, and Strategic Behavioural Management that Works More
  • Analyse this...
    What systems, processes and people do you need to help your staff develop their skills and their careers? Sue Bull and Vicky Bishop explain. More
  • Virtually University
    Virtually University (VU) links schools and colleges with universities via videoconferencing to help inform and inspire students with their HE choices More
  • Adding value
    Walk your way to improved health More
  • Poisoned chalice?
    Schools Minister David Laws recently announced a new programme to encourage ‘outstanding’ heads and school leaders to move into schools in challenging circumstances. Would you be willing to take on the challenge? Here, ASCL members share their views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Take Care?
    No matter the intention, what you call it or how you present it to students, Personal, Social, Citizenship and Health Education (PSCH More
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Leaders' surgery

The antidote to common leadership conundrums…

Some enquiries to the ASCL hotline seem to have an obvious answer. This issue we look at three recent calls where things were not as they first seemed.

Core times?

Q I am a curriculum deputy. We offer triple science, as we are required to for students who get Level 6 at Key Stage 3, but we teach part of it outside the school day. A parent is objecting – where do we stand? 

A The required curriculum must be offered within the school day. There is an entitlement that students can complete the National Curriculum (NC) within these times, and if a required part of the curriculum was offered in twilight then this could be seen as discriminatory. Schools do have the flexibility to alter their school day after appropriate consultation with parents, staff and other stakeholders that could include additional required school time, and there is nothing to say that schools cannot have different ‘opening’ times for different days of the week. Extra-curricular activities clearly fall outside these core times as has been traditional for games and interest groups.

However, beware where ‘extra classes’ or ‘coaching’ are extra-curricular, because if a required curriculum topic was only covered in these times it would be in breach of regulation. So in response to the enquiry, it seems the parent is right – but there is a false assumption in the question: There was never a legal requirement for schools to offer triple science to students getting Level 6. It was trumpeted loudly as the (previous) government planned to make it a requirement, but this was never enacted and therefore the school is offering this as an ‘extra’ over the required curriculum. The same is actually true for two hours of PE a week – this was never put into regulation. It is also worth noting, parts of the old National Curriculum are currently suspended.

Data protection

Q I am a headteacher of an academy. I have a Year 11 student who lives with his father, and his mother has made contact with the school to get his exam results so far and other information. The student is adamant that he does not want his mum to have this information. I have to let her have the reports, don’t I? 

A In a maintained school, there is provision in the Education (Pupil Information) (England) Regulations 2005 to give parents reports and access to their child’s educational records. So in this case, unless there were court orders preventing such things, the mother would seem to be entitled to the information regardless of the wishes of the young person. However, this regulation applies only to maintained schools and independent special schools; the regulations do not apply to academies or mainstream independent schools. So in the academy there is no requirement to release the information. Indeed, if we dig a little deeper, you may be breaking the law if you did release this information. The reason is that the Data Protection Act 1998 makes clear that school and personal information about ‘Gillick competent’ students (usually aged 12+) belongs to the student themselves. Although the academy’s ’fair processing’ note may allow the school to share a student’s information with a parent, if the student withdraws his or her permission for that sharing of his or her own data, then the school must not share the information. So, in law, can a student in an academy or independent school prevent the damning end-of-term report going home? – Yes, they can. This is a complex topic, and there is great advice on the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO’s) website ( We always advise schools to take their own legal advice on these matters and to follow that advice strictly.

Freedom of Information requests

Q I am a bursar and I have received a Freedom of Information (FOI) request about how the Pupil Premium has been spent on (a) their named child and (b) all the children from a forces background.

A A Freedom of Information (FOI) request is about putting already existing data into the public domain, but in a way that does not break the Data Protection Act 1998. The fact that it is the parent requesting the information is irrelevant – a request must be treated as if it comes from any member of the public. There is a duty to protect personal information under the Data Protection Act. Therefore, the information, even if it existed, would have to be so heavily ‘depersonalised’ (redacted) as to make the information meaningless. There is almost certainly no requirement to release the information.

However, the request for a summary of how the Pupil Premium has been spent across a group of students would be a legitimate request, and should be answered according to the Act, remembering that there is no requirement for a public body to generate new data or information, merely to release to the public that which already exists. Again, there is good information on the ICO website ( with FAQs and a helpline (0303 123 1113) if answers cannot be found there.

Independent schools please note: FOI does not apply to you as you are not a public body, but an academy is a public body so it does apply.