December 2018

The know zone

  • A shared approach
    Ofsted's promise of a new inspection framework for September 2019 seems to have got everyone talking about the curriculum. Here, ASCL specialists Stephen Rollett and Suzanne O'Farrell share their tips on how leaders can embed curriculum thinking throughout their schools. More
  • Fair play for all
    Teachers teaching the same subjects to sixth formers in schools and colleges get paid different salaries. Kevin Gilmartin examines why and asks, "Is this really fair?" More
  • Avoid the trap
    Managing Director of Lighthouse Financial Advice Ltd Lee Barnard says that there are steps you can take now to avoid getting caught in paying a hefty inheritance tax bill. More
  • Close encounters of the student kind
    Where's the most surprising place that you've bumped into a former student? Here, ASCL members share their stories... 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
  • Let it snow!
    As you spend time over-indulging with your loved ones, spare a thought at this festive time of year for those still hard at work... like the finance and maintenance teams keeping our schools ticking over during the holiday period. More
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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

Transition advice

Q: I知 a deputy headteacher in an academy in a large multi-academy trust (MAT). I知 in the process of transitioning from male to female and although I知 not yet ready to appear as female in public, I知 preparing to take that step in the future. How best can I manage this in my work place, with colleagues, governors and trustees, and students and parents? 

A: Gender reassignment is a protected characteristic under the Equality Act 2010. It is therefore unlawful for an employer to: 

  • treat employees less favourably because of absences from work because of gender reassignment 
  • treat employees less favourably because of their gender reassignment 
  • apply a provision, criterion or practice that disadvantages transgender employees without objective justification 
  • subject an employee to harassment related to gender reassignment 
  • victimise an employee because they have or intend to make a discrimination complaint 

This can be a sensitive situation and will be unique to its own circumstances. The following approach is suggested. It is important that your employer is aware of developments. The first step is to have a conversation with a trusted senior leadership team (SLT) colleague, preferably the head, but if that feels too difficult, with someone who might accompany you to a meeting with the head to explain. 

It is possible that the school will be new at dealing with this. Stonewall has a very helpful booklet, The Truth about Trans, which might be useful to share initially with your employer, and later with others ( 

Stonewall also offers advice on supporting trans staff in the workplace (, which includes Creating a Transitioning Policy at Work, which could be helpful across the MAT, and engaging all staff in trans inclusion. The Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) also offers guidance on legal considerations for employers: and the Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES) has guidance specifically for schools: 

Try to be as open as possible with your head and governors about your next steps, and in particular to plan carefully for the moment when you are ready to let everyone know that you now identify as female. It is important that you and the head agree how this will be communicated to all members of the school community. If at any moment difficulties arise, please contact our Hotline so that we can assist.

Ill health

Q I知 a head who has been diagnosed with a debilitating and potentially life-shortening condition. At the moment I知 coping well in the workplace, but I think I知 going to need some adjustments in the near future, and in the next year or so may have to retire on grounds of ill health. 

A You may be protected by the Equality Act 2010 if your condition amounts to a disability ( There are certain conditions, such as cancer, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and multiple sclerosis (MS), which are automatically deemed to be disabilities. If your condition is not automatically deemed to be a disability, you will need to demonstrate that your condition is a substantial, long-term physical or mental impairment that has an adverse impact on your ability to carry out day-to-day activities (in order to attract disability discrimination protection). If your condition amounts to a disability, your employer will be required to make reasonable adjustments to assist you. 

Your employer can only be liable for direct disability discrimination, discrimination arising from disability or failure to make reasonable adjustments if they know or ought to have known about your disability. It is therefore important for you to inform your employer of your condition once it begins affecting your employment, so arrangements can be made to assist and to ensure that you are protected against disability discrimination. You may be required to undertake a medical assessment and/or provide medical evidence to your employer. 

The Access to Work scheme ( may also be able to help if you need special equipment, adaptations or support worker services to help you do things like answer the phone or go to meetings, or help getting to and from work. 

If your condition continues to deteriorate, you may need to cease work and may wish to consider accessing your pension on the grounds of early ill-health retirement. It is important to recognise that this will not be considered by Teachers Pensions while you are still in work, because if you are, you will be deemed to be fit to work. Ill-health early retirement is clearly a significant step and you need to be advised in light of your personal circumstances accordingly. Please contact our Hotline for further advice.

Contacting the Hotline

ASCL members who are concerned about leadership issues should call 0116 299 1122 or email