September 2016

The know zone

  • Leading curriculum change
    When we reflect on how quickly our world is evolving, it is no truism to say that what we design into our curriculum really matters says Suzanne O’Farrell. More
  • Carrots, sticks and Shanghai maths
    Julie McCulloch looks at the government’s latest initiative to introduce the South Asian ‘mastery’ approach to teaching maths in primary schools. More
  • Preventing hate
    Schools and colleges across Britain are seeing a rise in the levels of racism among pupils. Anna Cole looks at why and explains what leaders can do to combat hate. More
  • Exploring the evidence
    In the first of a regular research insights page, Matt Walker, from the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), introduces how research evidence can help to improve schools and colleges, and influence policy. More
  • A vital network of support
    Focus on… Macmillan Cancer Support More
  • Adding value
    Centralisation – the key to achieving financial health and efficiency? More
  • Prevent duty
    Since July 2015, all schools and colleges have been subject to the Prevent duty. How has your institution dealt with this requirement and have there been any challenges? Here ASCL members have their say. More
  • Leader's 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
  • Daily grind?
    Sam Ellis offers some tips for the out-of-town traveller in search of a bed for the night and decent food – although perhaps not an espresso. More
Bookmark and Share

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.

Leaders' surgery


Q I am a deputy head in an academy. One of our vulnerable Year 10 girls has confided to a member of staff that her boyfriend, a Year 11 boy, persuaded her to send him a topless picture. We have spoken to our police community support officer (PCSO) who has said the issue needs to be formally reported and she can’t help us with looking at the phone. What should we do?

A The natural instinct here may be to get hold of the boy’s phone to see if there is such an image, however you must not do so. In the event you view the image, you could potentially be committing the criminal offence of viewing indecent images of children. This could lead you to lose your job and you could be referred for disciplinary action before your professional regulator. As at least one of the students is under 16 years of age, you must report the incident immediately to the school’s designated safeguarding lead/ officer. In turn, they should report the incident to both the police and the appropriate local authority agency (MASH or Referral and Assessment Team within Children's Social Care) as soon as possible. Wherever you make contact with any external agency such as the police or an agency within the local authority, you should ensure that you keep an appropriate record of your conversation and their advice. Where the police believe that an offence may have been committed, they will seize the relevant phone(s) and send it to a special team to assess the images – the officers are indemnified over viewing such images and receive considerable supervision and support. The police will ‘categorise’ the image, and then take whatever action they and the Crown Prosecution Service consider necessary. You should be advised by the police and/or the appropriate local authority agency regarding when you should commence any disciplinary investigation under your school’s behaviour and discipline policy. If exclusion is likely, there is advice in the current DfE exclusion guidance about overlapping police and school offences. Examination pressures

Examination pressures

Q I am a recently appointed headteacher. Last week, it was reported to me by a student that a member of teaching staff may have given help in an examination. I have cleared my diary to investigate this today, but this morning an investigator turned up from the examination board saying they were dealing with a complaint made to them. I explained I knew about this and was going to investigate, but they seemed dismissive. Have I done something wrong?

A Yes. Headteachers (and Acting Heads) are also the ‘Head of Centre’ for examinations. This is not delegable. As Head of Centre, there are a significant number of regulations and procedures that you are required to follow – see the documents produced by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) (http:// ). All new heads should read carefully the duties that being a Head of Centre puts on them. In respect of malpractice, the regulations state that the Head of Centre must “notify the appropriate awarding body at the earliest opportunity of all suspicions or actual incidents of malpractice”. The document explains that the normal response to a report of a potential malpractice issue is to ask the Head of Centre to carry out an investigation on behalf of the awarding body (this would be delegable to another senior member of staff). It will then be up to the awarding body to take relevant action in respect of the examination. By not ‘self-reporting’ the issue, the awarding body will start from the point of view that you, as the Head of Centre, are part of the malpractice issue. The awarding body will carry out its own investigation. This could lead to recommendations from the awarding body’s investigation for disciplinary action to be taken against you by your school, and could (in very severe cases) lead to the school losing its right to carry out public examinations. Having not reported when you should have, and by the board hearing from a different source about the issue, your best course of action is to explain that you made a mistake and that you are new to the role of headteacher.

ASCL members are reminded that if they have not been trained to carry out school-based investigations, they should get training as soon as possible or, at the very least, be familiar with the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (Acas) guide to carrying out investigations in the workplace (see In addition, contact ASCL PD and see how they can help on 0116 2921122 or email

Contact the hotline

ASCL members concerned about leadership issues should call the Hotline on 0116 299 1122 or email