Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Taking a balanced view


ASCL members' views on a balanced scorecard for schools was the big agenda item at the last Council meeting, held 20-21 November in Bracknell.

Balanced scorecard

Full Council debate

Following an initial debate in September in which Council gave its support for a balanced scorecard (or school report card) approach, and the DCSF announcement in October signalling its intent to pursue the concept, Council at this meeting debated the possible measures that could make up the scorecard.

It was proposed that the scorecard should contain the following the overall measures: attainment (such as average total points score in best eight GCSE subjects), basic attainment (such as proportion gaining level 2 in functional skills), progress (of all students, not just a proportion), wellbeing (these must be intelligent measures, not simply those easiest to quantify) and some more varied indicators to present a rounded picture of performance.

The majority of Council members agreed that distilling the scorecard into a single grade as an outcome was too simplistic. The preference was to have a grade for each element. It was stressed that ASCL's position on the post-16 Framework for Excellence (FfE) is that a single grade is too crude a measure.

There also was concern that, with the FfE, school sixth forms would be held to account on two different scorecard measures. This would not be acceptable and therefore Council was in favour of one report card that covered all pre-16 provision and an adapted version of the FfE for post-16.

Council also remained strongly opposed to the secretary of state's stated intention of keeping league tables alongside the report card. Members made it clear that they would only support the report card as a replacement for league tables. The government, through the way it produces exam statistics, should no longer make it easy for the press to publish league tables of exam results.

Finally, Council members felt strongly that, in order for the scorecard to be effectively implemented and widely supported, the government must consult on its design as broadly as possible with school leaders, teachers, and other parties including parents and students. The consultation process should be led by an independent chair who would make recommendations to the government.

John Dunford will continue to make these points to DCSF officials and ministers as the discussions on the scorecard progress.


Education Committee

In response to the recent DCSF announcement that personal, social, health education (PSHE) is to be made compulsory, Education Committee debated the points in the consultation document on how this is to be put into effect, although it registered its opposition in principle to the notion of compulsion.

While the vast majority of secondary schools already offer PSHE, the committee stressed that there are dozens of different ways to organise this and what works for one school will be different for another. Schools must be allowed to retain this flexibility. The overwhelming reaction was for a broad national framework with local flexibility. There would be a sad irony, the committee noted, in freeing up the Key Stage 3 curriculum so that the government could impose a one-size-fits-all model of PSHE.

Martin Ward will stress these points in ASCL's response to the consultation, which will be available on the website.

Professional standards for teachers

Professional Committee

A discussion was held about the issues emerging since the implementation of the professional standards for teachers. There remains considerable concern about progression on the upper pay spine. In addition, the following points were made.

There is a training issue for middle leaders now that they have the responsibility for making recommendations about pay. ASCL training courses on this topic were well attended.

Performance management targets for teachers on the upper pay spine need to be set so that these teachers can demonstrate that they continue to meet the required standards.

Concern was expressed about the different requirements placed upon those who have already attained UPS3 and those who aspire to that grade. In Wales the performance management framework is different although pay and conditions are the same.

There was a question over whether independent schools should be encouraged to use the standards. It is important for teachers to be able to move easily between the two sectors and, if the standards were not adopted by the independent sector, this might inhibit such movement.

The professional standards could be an effective driver for improving standards of teaching and learning.

Exclusion appeals panels

Public and Parliamentary Committee

As independent exclusion appeals panels have been a subject of debate among political parties recently, the committee discussed a paper outlining ASCL's position and proposed the following policy statement, which was agreed by full Council:

In order to ensure a better balance between the rights and needs of school communities in difficult circumstances and the rights of the individual, ASCL believes that:

  • independent appeals panels should continue to exist

  • arguments about process should not be sustained if it is likely that the outcome would have been the same had the process been properly followed

  • claims of innocence should not be accepted if it has been (or can be) demonstrated on the balance of probabilities that the pupil has committed the offence alleged

  • the panel should lose the power to substitute its judgement for that of the school unless that judgement was shown to be unreasonable (that is, outside the range of actions of reasonable school leaders and governing bodies)


Public and Parliamentary Committee

ASCL Policy Director Malcolm Trobe presented a discussion paper outlining concerns raised by members in a number of local authorities (LAs) about Building Schools for the Future (BSF) schemes. In several areas, the LAs seem to be using BSF to try to regain control over schools by limiting what can and cannot be done. In some cases members feel they are being threatened and bullied, either by the LA or Partnership for Schools (PfS), into signing up for contracts they are not comfortable with on very short timescales.

A common frustration is with local authorities requiring schools to sign up to centrally managed IT services, where all IT is controlled through a helpdesk facility with little or no flexibility for schools to develop their own learning platforms, software or materials.

Related to this is affordability, with schools being quoted between 100 and 160 per student per year for IT. Some schools have indicated that they cannot afford this; others say it is well below current expenditure and will result in a lower level of provision than at present.

Geographically messages are inconsistent and variable - for instance some LAs are saying that schools can't opt out of ICT arrangements and some indicating that there is flexibility. This inconsistency makes it difficult for the association advise members accurately.

ASCL officers were scheduled to meet the chief executive of PfS at the end of November and would ask for clarity on the issues. It was agreed that the ASCL paper would be revised and handed to ministers. ASCL is keen to hear of examples of good practice and where BSF has worked well.

Rarely cover

Pay and Conditions Committee

There was a lengthy discussion about the issues arising from moving to 'rarely cover'. It is a major concern that many schools still have very high rates of cover and could be in significant difficulty when rarely cover comes into effect in September 2009.

ASCL Pay and Conditions Specialist Stephen Szemerenyi reported that the social partnership had not reached agreement on a definition of rarely cover and it was likely that it would be up to ministers to make this decision.

Members expressed concern about how trips and other beneficial activities, which teachers want to provide and external agencies encourage, can continue. These will need to be built into the calendar far in advance, but it was made clear that many schools will have less flexibility to take advantage of last minute offers of trips or visits.

The issue of voluntary arrangements arose, where staff agree to cover for others in their department, for instance to allow school trips to take place. Stephen said that voluntary arrangements were not illegal - teachers could not be forced not to cover - but that schools that relied on these arrangements for cover would be in a precarious position and open to challenge from the teacher unions.

  • The next Council meeting is 5-6 February in Warwick. To find out who the Council representatives are for your area, go to www.ascl.org.uk/council

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