Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Statuary guidance for Schools causing concern

More than a year since the consultation was announced, the statutory Guidance on Schools Causing Concern has been issued to local authorities (LAs). It sets out the terms on which LAs may intervene in schools that are deemed to be under-performing.

Members in maintained schools will need to be acquainted with document, which may be found at www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/sie/si/SCC/news/2007guide

ASCL campaigned heavily within the DfES to shift the emphasis to support rather than pressure and, due to this, the tone of the document has improved considerably since the first draft, with a much stronger link to the role of the school improvement partner.

However, the final guidance still focuses far too much on pressure and, frustratingly, some of the most offensive elements were set in primary legislation through the last education act so there was no possibility for negotiation. It seems the government still has not learned what is appropriate for primary and secondary legislation.

John Dunford told the media: "The guidance is punitive rather than supportive and will do little to improve standards in schools.

"The criteria for school under-performance are too broad and ambiguous, for instance, high staff turnover, which may be caused by a new head addressing the problems of a school; and declining school popularity, which may be caused by local falling rolls.

"At a time when schools in challenging areas are struggling to recruit senior leaders, guidance like this will make potential candidates less likely to apply for posts in these schools.

"The idea that schools should be able to appeal to Ofsted against a local authority warning notice is like asking those who do not like the frying pan to jump into the fire."

ASCL has asked branch secretaries to raise with the local authority the manner in which it intends to put this guidance into action and should ensure that all members are informed of this by the LA.

Concerns with the way the local authorities are interpreting the guidance should be reported to John Dunford through janet.jones@ascl.org.uk, so that he can take them up directly with ministers and the DfES.

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