Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Unlocking inspections

Car key

Debate at the last Council meeting, held on 7-8 June in Sheffield, centred around the role of Ofsted and whether it is time for inspection to become an MOT of self-evaluation.

Full Council: KS3 Curriculum

John Dunford reported that some unions are lobbying to have key stage 3 curriculum changes, due in 2008, postponed. ASCL's position has been that KS3 change is preferable in 2008 particularly since revised GCSEs have been delayed. Sue Kirkham reported that the QCA KS3 consultation has received a hugely positive response.

Council agreed that ASCL's position should remain the same, particularly as some members were already implementing changes and because it is up to schools how much to revise their practices.

Full Council: Ofsted debate

September 2008 will be the start of a new Ofsted inspection cycle. Therefore Council debate focused on changes members want to see in the next cycle.

There was wide-spread consensus that inspection should be an MOT of self-evaluation, not a high stakes, high profile test. If self-evaluation is at the heart of the improvement process, Ofsted should be only an external validation. Inspectors should pick one or two areas and test in depth to see if the school's and Ofsted's views match. If they do, nothing more is needed. Currently inspection seems to be a tick box exercise where inspectors try to do just as much in less time.

It was felt that the use of four grades is crude and undermines what the system is supposed to do. Too much attention is focused on the dividing line between good and satisfactory.

However, many agreed that a category such as 'special measures' is needed. Members who had been through it said it was what they needed to get staff on board and make radical changes. The criticism was that it is too public.

School and college members agreed it would help to have a joined up system for inspection, based on 14-19 consortia. Some members liked the college inspection model and advised taking the best (though not all) aspects of college self-review.

Welsh members felt it would not be feasible to come up with one proposal to fit both Wales and England, but that it should be possible to agree a set of principles that apply to both.

Ofsted needs to be better at communicating changes, for instance to quality indicators. They are moving the goal posts and not alerting schools. Much more transparency is needed. Scotland already has a good model for this.

SSAT redesignation in the inspection system is causing some problems; the SEF is in danger of being used for too many purposes. It was proposed that redesignation should be an automatic process as long as the data or Ofsted inspection do not raise concerns.

These views will form the basis of ASCL's talks with Ofsted over the next 12 months.

Committee Work

Assessment

Education Committee

As the first step toward updating ASCL's policy, the Education Committee held a debate on assessment. Views included:

  • Exams need clarity of purpose. Inevitably they get hijacked by other agencies and used for purposes they were never intended.

  • It is incorrect to assume that assessment is either exams or coursework. There are a number of 'in between' models. Higher education is light years ahead in this respect.

  • Summative and formative purposes must be more closely linked. Evaluative purposes should be handled separately.

  • Assessment for learning is important but it is difficult to get right. It needs a clear, limited definition or becomes too unwieldy.

  • Because of grade inflation at key stage 2, prior attainment is skewed. Key stages are so different that it's hard to have continuous progress.

  • Original intent of the AS system was to get students to try new subjects and to stay on past 16. This is not happening because universities are using AS scores as a predictor.

The debate will form the basis of a draft policy to go to the September committee meeting.

Progress measure

Education Committee

The committee heard that, following the consultation on Making Good Progress, officers had a meeting with the DfES to discuss ASCL's alternate proposal for progress measures (found in ASCL's consultation response - see www.ascl.org.uk under consultations).

ASCL's strong preference is for an improved progress measure. If the DfES is determined to go down this route, ASCL has proposed a more intelligent measure that tracks progress made by each student from key stage 2 to GCSE, rather than absolute attainment. The initial DfES response was positive and ASCL will continue to lobby for this.

CPD

Professional Committee

The committee held an initial debate on continuous professional development (CPD). It was agreed that ASCL's work in this area should involved the whole school workforce, that CPD should link with performance management, that leaders had both an entitlement and a responsibility to it, and that funding streams should remain within schools' and colleges' control. The committee will be doing more work in this area in 2007-08.

LSC consultation

Funding Committee

The DfES consultation on post-16 funding has closed and the committee was pleased to note that about 80 per cent of responses share ASCL's view that there should not be in-year reconciliation of budgets. Disappointingly the DfES appears still to disagree.

As part of the review, the LSC has announced its intention to visit all schools and colleges to carry out 'strategic commissioning discussions'. ASCL Funding Consultant Lindsey Wharmby is involved in training and preparing guidance for LSC representatives, so the committee is confident that the visits will be done properly. However, it is doubtful that the LSC has the capacity for individual visits. Therefore at their meeting in July, ASCL officers will encourage the LSC to carry out visits with 14-19 consortia rather than individual institutions.

14-19 Gateway

Education Committee

There were 145 successful applicants to the Gateway. Training is coming from a variety of providers so it is likely that the quality will be patchy. Many concerns remain, such as the involvement of the Sector Skills Councils.

While it will be a requirement to link with functional skills, there is still uncertainty as to how this will happen.

Schools and colleges don't know which students or how many will opt for diplomas and there is still a need for cost transparency. The danger is that the diplomas could increase the cost for some students out of all proportion as some courses will be much more expensive to run.

ASCL will be responding to the draft diploma regulations - please send comments to april.perrie@ascl.org.uk

Chartered assessor scheme

Education Committee

Some of the teaching unions are arguing that every teacher should get chartered assessor status when it comes into effect. The Education Committee agreed that ASCL's position remains as it has been - 'chartered assessor' should be a specialised role with in depth training and knowledge. ASCL will continue to promote this view with the Institute of Educational Assessors.

Support staff pay

Pay and Conditions Committee

The government's Support Staff Working Group published its report in May for the DfES, which agreed to create a separate negotiating body to consider support staff pay and conditions. ASCL had lobbied for this remit to come under the School Teachers' Review Body (STRB), but the committee agreed that this was a step in the right direction. ASCL will continue to lobby for senior support staff to be paid on the leadership spine.

Council was advised that it will be some time before the new body finalises its recommendations, so schools will still need to work within single status agreements for the time being.

STRB evidence

Pay and Conditions Committee

The committee started working on ASCL's submission to the STRB for October. The government has asked the STRB to consider leadership pay issues within the next round, in the context of the PWC report, so this will be ASCL's best opportunity to influence the national agenda.

There was a wide-ranging discussion on leadership covering: the qualities needed to be a leadership team member, distributed leadership versus distributed accountability, qualities needed to be a secondary head versus a primary head and the unique challenges of leading schools.

It was agreed to consider as a starting point the National Standards for Headteachers - but noted that these apply to the whole senior team - and the body of research in the PWC report on leadership qualities. A working group will draft a response for the September meeting.

ASCL and NAHT submitted evidence in May to the current STRB round. Among other things this called for higher differentials for the leadership team and exit packages for senior leaders.

ASCL wrote to the Secretary of State, along with the other social partnership unions, earlier in the year to request a review of the teacher pay award based on higher than average inflation. While he elected instead to refer the matter to the STRB's next round, the committee felt that this may, in fact, work in members' favour in the long-term.

Grading lessons

Pay and Conditions Committee

Some teaching unions are expressing opposition to lessons being graded as part of self-evaluation. The committee strongly agreed that, in the current Ofsted climate, heads and line managers need to be able to do this. ASCL will continue to defend schools' right to grade lessons.

School Improvement Partners

Public and Parliamentary

ASCL has received little negative feedback or reports of problems with SIPs. However concern was raised in the committee over development of a national database of SIP records which is being piloted in certain areas. The committee agreed that SIPs should challenge schools, but that a record of this should not be held nationally. John Dunford will raise this at the next DfES working group meeting.

ASCL is also pushing for proportionality, so that fewer days are spent at schools deemed successful and more days are made available for schools that need more help.

AGM

The Annual General Meeting was held on Thursday of Council. The 2006 accounts were approved without debate.

Several amendments to the constitution were approved, including changing the wording of the membership eligibility criteria, which now reads: "a person working in a secondary school or college who is a member of the senior leadership team or whose responsibilities cover the whole secondary school or college".

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