Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Engagement: a fitting agenda

Jigsaw pieces

ASCL's 2007-08 public policy agenda dominated much of the work and discussion at September Council held in Grantham.

All of ASCL's Council committees spent some time in September on ASCL's public policy agenda (PPA) which sets out the priority areas in which ASCL aims to influence government policy change. This is done through lobbying, negotiation and working with other organisations. The PPA is divided into four main areas, under which there are multiple strands:

Topic Strand Desired outcome
Intelligent accountability Inspection A new inspection framework in line with the principles of intelligent accountability
  Assessment An assessment system that is fit for purpose and promotes good learning
Leadership Leadership A more suitable system, well distributed
Leadership Pay and conditions Improved pay and conditions for school and college leaders
Leadership CPD A coherent approach to CPD for the entire school and college workforce
Partnership Partnership Government policies to promote partnership working between institutions
Partnership 14-19 A coherent and manageable qualifications system, including A level and GCSE
Funding Funding A fairer funding system and a national funding entitlement for students

The PPA is reviewed and updated every year. At the September meeting, committees agreed the key messages under each strand to send to ministers and decision makers. Progress in each area will be reported on at future meetings.

Progress measures

Full council

ASCL is watching closely the pilot of the progress measures in ten local authorities. ASCL has made the argument to the DCSF that the goal of getting all students to progress through two levels will create more perverse incentives, such as teaching to the test and focusing on borderline students. There are more intelligent ways to show progress.

In principle ASCL supports the aspirations set out in Making Good Progress but the progress measures being piloted will do more harm than good, not least because they introduce a new accountability measure without abolishing any of the existing ones.

School councils

Full council

ASCL won a sizeable victory when the government agreed not to make school councils mandatory in England - a policy which had been strongly considered. Ministers accepted ASCL's arguments that 95 per cent of schools already have councils, and making them mandatory would not increase the quality, but turn it into a tick box exercise.

In return, ASCL has agreed to help promote the advantages of effective student councils and increased student participation in leadership issues.

CPD

Professional Committee

Improving access to continuing professional development (CPD) will be a priority for the committee this year. Following an initial discussion in June, the committee agreed the key lobbying points that ASCL will make with ministers:

  • All staff should have proper entitlement to CPD throughout their career

  • Each staff member has a responsibility to develop his/her career

  • Performance management must be an integral part of CPD l CPD should develop leadership skills as well as teaching and learning

  • CPD must be properly funded; funding and strategic leadership must remain at school/college level

Agreed next steps are to update the CPD matrix for support staff on the website, to rewrite ASCL's CPD policy, explore an ASCL conference and publication on CPD good practice and to explore ASCL's links with the TDA in order to influence decisions.

Assessment

Education Committee

A draft policy paper on assessment was tabled. After lively discussion, the areas of agreement include:

  • Assessment for learning is a crucial component

  • Summative assessment needs to be linked with formative; evaluative should be separate

  • Schools need to be held accountable but not via national league tables l Exams are squeezing out other valuable life experiences (work experience, field trips)

  • Far too much money is spent on the exam system; there is a huge waste of resources and school facilities (eg sports halls) are disrupted

The paper will be finalised at the November meeting.

2010 funding formula review

Funding Committee

ASCL Funding Consultant Lindsey Wharmby told the committee that the review of the funding formula in 2010 is likely to be the best chance yet that ASCL has of convincing government to move to an activity-led formula. The worry is the DCSF's emphasis on school funding within the wider context of children's services funding. ASCL will campaign to make sure that schools do not lose the advantages gained in ring-fenced funding.

At present, the DCSF is formally asking for views on the terms of reference for the funding review. ASCL will be putting further evidence to ministers and civil servants. Short summaries of developments will be made available for members who wish to comment through schools forums and other bodies.

Post-16 and 14-19 funding

Funding Committee

The committee agreed the main points of ASCL's policy on the future of post-16 funding, and 14-19 curriculum funding. These points have been given to the DCSF.

  • There needs to be a national formula for all post-16 funding so that funding is related to the student following the course and not the institution. A coherent formula across all providers such as the one developed by the LSC for 2008-09 has much to recommend it.

  • Local authorities should not be able to amend any of the funding for post-16 students in schools, colleges or other independent providers.

  • For colleges there should be robust systems to ensure appropriate cash flow from the LA.

With regard to the future of 14-19 curriculum planning, the committee agreed that:

  • Planning for the full 14-19 entitlement for all students should be at an appropriate local level, but cannot be based simply on local authorities. Many FE colleges take students from several LAs.

  • There are considerable advantages in extending the 16-19 funding formula to the 14-16 age range. It would make the planning and funding of the 14-19 curriculum much easier. The proposed LSC formula could be adapted for 14-16 year olds to give much needed coherence to the system and to facilitate collaboration.

School balances

Funding Committee

The committee heard that the government has put forward a frustratingly crude proposal for dealing with school budget balances - 5 per cent claw back of anything that was in the budget on 31 March 2007, regardless of whether it was money already committed. ASCL and NAHT are joining together to fight this and are making representations to the relevant ministers and civil servants.

ASCL agrees that schools should not carry over large unallocated balances but has been arguing, along with many others, for a more sophisticated approach to calculating the amount. The ASCL guidance paper on school reserves and balances will be reissued so that members are aware of the arguments for not carrying over large balances.

'Rarely cover'

Pay and Conditions Committee

The committee is looking for good examples of schools that have achieved very low cover for teachers, in preparation for the provision of 'rarely cover' for teachers which will come into effect in England and Wales in September 2009.

Considerable progress has already been made since the national workforce agreement in 2003 and the national average is now 19 hours; in some schools it is much lower.

While the introduction of guaranteed PPA time has been the biggest gain for primary teachers, it is the reduction in cover and invigilation that will prove most beneficial for secondary teachers, and the teaching unions in the social partnership have been pushing for some time for a fixed time limit on hours of cover.

ASCL was instrumental in the social partnership discussions that finally agreed an implementation date for 'rarely cover' in 2009 in order that schools have two years to prepare.

The committee has started work on a paper looking into the true cost for secondary schools of 'rarely cover' as it is likely to be much different than in primary schools.

Performance management

Pay and Conditions Committee

Several issues of clarification came up around performance management. Regarding pupil progress objectives for teachers, this is it not mandatory but line managers are certainly allowed to include one if appropriate. In addition, the government performance management guidelines make it very clear that drop-in observations are allowed and do not count toward the total limit.

Regarding lesson grading, the other teaching unions in the social partnership are expressing strong opposition to schools grading teachers' lessons. The committee strongly agreed that, in the current Ofsted climate, heads and line managers need to be able to do this.

ASCL will support members where there is opposition to lesson grading.

ASCL is having regular meetings with the other unions on this issue and will continue to back schools' right to grade lessons.

School improvement partners

Public and Parliamentary Committee

The committee has concerns about the implementation of the 'single conversation' with SIPs and is monitoring feedback and passing this on to the DCSF. Some schools are having many conversations about the same thing with different people; there are huge inconsistencies between LAs.

More worrying, there have been suggestions from the DCSF of the creation of a central MIS database for school improvement partner reports. This is being piloted in ten areas.

ASCL is determined to see this off and will continue to argue against it. Along with the Implementation Review Unit (IRU), ASCL is campaigning with ministers to get rid of the school profile. It is an unnecessary piece of bureaucracy.

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