Leadership Focus (issue 88, November 2020)

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Issue 88 / November 2020 / £5



Improving schools

Everything equal

A review of the School Improvement Commission’s brand new report.

A look at NAHT’s work on leading the way in promoting equality.


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PAUL WHITEMAN: NAHT general secretary

Meeting the challenge chool leadership has never been more challenging than it is today. You are extraordinary professionals who have grasped the baton handed over by the government. In fact, it would be more accurate to say you picked up the baton that the government fumbled and dropped. In our main feature, we hear from some of our members about their remarkable work and creative thinking to allow all pupils to return to school safely post-lockdown. Also, for this issue, we look at our Diversity and Inclusion Group’s work on leading the way in promoting equality as well as our School Improvement Commission’s new report that aims to get underneath what needs to happen to help schools improve, to mention but a few of the features. Now, I won’t waste the few words I have here to summarise the long list of the government’s failings – you know them all too well. But I will say that I share your sense of frustration and anger that the government always takes too long to get its act together and shifts the blame for its failings onto the people doing the toughest work or living in the harshest of circumstances. Throughout the pandemic, our members, officials and staff have advised the government on the necessary steps to take to minimise the impact of covid-19 on education and make a recovery as effective as possible. Time and again, we have been thwarted by poor decision-making at the government’s level and a refusal to turn to us for advice. Very often, consultation is not a meaningful exercise. However, it is only the views that support the government’s proposals that get the time of day. This would not matter if the government’s proposals had


merit. And we have seen how quickly its plans fall apart when they meet reality. Consulting the front-line experts is a strength, not a weakness. But the government seldom sees it that way. We are entering a new phase of NAHT’s activity in this respect. While the normal channels of engagement that we have with the governments and education departments across the UK are essential, we will also make a case for change outside of these, with parents, other organisations and through the media. All too often, sensible diplomacy has failed to move the government’s thinking and action. All too often, it has only done the right thing when compelled to do so or embarrassed by how out of touch it is with public opinion. In school, a lack of leadership like that would see you out of a job. But accountability only seems to cut one way. In recent days, we have seen Ofsted’s decision to double down on its role as an enforcer, pressing on with its plan to use statutory powers of inspection to come into schools this term. Steadfastly, Ofsted insists that it’ll be back to regular inspection in January.

Above: Paul Whiteman

You are extraordinary professionals who have grasped the baton handed over by the government.

We have also seen the government enact a temporary continuity directive to make legal the expectations around remote education. When schools have accomplished so much – under such pressure, and with so little support – there’s absolutely no reason to believe emergency powers are required to compel schools to act. This extraordinary period has reminded everyone that education is a front-line service. It’s time for politicians to remind themselves of what parents and families already know: you and your schools are the heart of your communities. Without the support of the government, school leaders have turned to NAHT in ever greater numbers. Membership is up by 18% – 33,000 strong in schools, and 45,000 if you count the decades of experience among our Life members. This is no accident; our collective endeavour and mutual support attract school leaders. NAHT will continue to fight for you. To get you the right balance of support, recognition and timely advice so that you can operate free from unnecessary regulation and interference.



ASSOCIATION AND EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES NAHT and NAHT Edge 1 Heath Square, Boltro Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1BL www.naht.org.uk www.nahtedge.org.uk Tel: 0300 30 30 333 Editorial strategy board: Stuart Beck, James Bowen, Tim Bowen, Nick Brook, Mark Cornell, Iman Cornwall, Ruth Davies, Laura Doel, Guy Dudley, Steven George, David Gilmore (chair), Magnus Gorham, Steve Iredale, Helena Macormac, Judy Shaw, Paul Whiteman and Wasim Yunus. @nahtnews @nahtedge


EDITORIAL TEAM Editor: Nic Paton. Publisher: David Gale.


SALES DIRECTOR Ian Carter. Tel: 0207 183 1815 Leadership Focus is published on behalf of NAHT by Headlines Partnership Publishing, 51/52 Triangle Building, Wolverton Park Road, Milton Keynes, MK12 5FJ

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www.headlines.uk.com Tel: 01908 393303 Email: nic.paton@headlines.uk.com

Member of the Audit Bureau of Circulation: 39,682 (July 2018 to June 2019) ISSN: 1472-6181 Š Copyright 2020 NAHT All rights reserved: no part of this publication may be copied or reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publisher. While every care has been taken in the compilation of this publication, neither the publisher nor NAHT can accept responsibility for any inaccuracies or changes since compilation, or for consequential loss arising from such changes or inaccuracies, or for any other loss, direct or consequential, arising in connection with information in this publication. Acceptance of advertisements does not imply recommendation by the publisher.

The views herein are not necessarily those of the publisher, the editor or NAHT.





27 6

Working with the ‘new normal’ Leadership Focus journalist Nic Paton speaks to school leaders about their experiences of returning to work post-lockdown.

13 Improving schools A review of the School Improvement Commission’s brand new report.

18 Virtual democracy in action Find out how this year’s Annual Conference still went ahead despite covid-19.

20 Everything equal

We must be bold enough to look at ourselves and ask ‘what more can we do?’

The work of NAHT’s Diversity and Inclusion Group on leading the way in promoting equality.

24 Standing firm in the face of opposition Jac Bastian, head of education at Diversity Role Models, explains why we shouldn’t be afraid of opposition.

27 Ruth Davies A view from our NAHT president.

29 Technology and covid-19 NAHT regional organiser Natalie Pettifer on using technology to engage and grow our communities.

30 Northern Ireland policy update An update from Helena Macormac, NAHT(NI) director.

31 Wales policy update An update from Laura Doel, NAHT Cymru director.

34 Pensions: a remedy for age discrimination


A look at the government’s plans to remove age discrimination in public sector pensions following the ‘McCloud judgement’.

37 Legal view NAHT solicitor Simon Thomas outlines a legal case concerning indecent images of children.

38 Autism and employment Dr Rebecca Wood, senior lecturer in special education at the University of East London, looks at the impact of autism on school staff.


39 Support to succeed How to find a mentor and make it work for you.

39 Life starts here Discover the benefits of Life membership.


42 Courses and conferences Continuing to develop you during uncertainty.

46 The final word Susan Young looks at leadership that boosts pupils’ confidence.



Leadership Focus journalist Nic Paton speaks to school leaders about their experiences of returning to work post-lockdown. e had our first positive test on Monday in the year five class, two days into term.” For Tom Shrimpling, assistant head at Brooklands Primary School in Cheshire, the baptism of fire that was the start of the school year made all talk of schools navigating a post-pandemic ‘new normal’ this autumn feel anything but ordinary. Moreover – with covid-19 cases accelerating fast across the UK during September, classes, ‘bubbles’, teachers and families having to isolate and even whole schools being forced to close within days of reopening – Tom’s experience, sadly, was not unusual. Leadership Focus spoke to Tom and other NAHT members about their initial experiences as schools came back in early September, and you can read their stories later in this article. Of course, by this time in November, what is a fast-moving


situation may already look very different from how it was even just a few weeks ago. Nevertheless, some common themes did emerge, which, in all likelihood, will remain relevant during the months ahead and potentially for this whole school year. First, the children are great – resilient, adaptable and, by and large, keen to return to schooling and their friends (possibly even to their teachers) after being away for nigh-on seven months, even if a big catch-up job remains in terms of behaviour, learning and attainment. Second, just as they did in March when the UK was plunged into lockdown (and as Leadership Focus highlighted over the summer), senior leadership, teaching staff and support teams have all risen to the myriad and complex return-toschool challenges with creativity and dedication.

As NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman emphasises: “These are extraordinary times, and schools have done incredible things in how they’ve responded. Despite the narrative that has played out in some of the ill-informed media over the last few months, school leaders and teachers have been remarkable. They redesigned education to get all pupils back in from the start of September.


“Our message, therefore, is ‘you’ve done amazing things’. There has been no guide for this. We have all had to make this up as we go along. Every school has interpreted the systems of control they need to put in place according to their circumstances, and they have had to be creative. And that is just incredible.” Yet, alongside this, there are real fears about whether the intensity of the post-pandemic school day is sustainable, especially for senior leaders and given that many head teachers also worked through most, if not all, of the summer. The risks of burnout and heads leaving the profession as a result of these unprecedented times and pressures that schools face are genuine concerns, agrees Paul. “Members are tired, absolutely,” he says. “This narrative that ‘lazy’ teachers have been off for five months, firstly, just isn’t true. We have members who have not had a proper break since February. What break they would have had over the summer was short-lived rather than a proper recharge because they were preparing their schools for the return. With the government’s advice coming out so late and changing all the time, it meant they were working throughout the summer period. It was relentless.” Third, with the government’s ‘test and trace’ system struggling, there are growing worries about how schools will maintain bubbles and staffing levels, especially if staff or families have to isolate at home because they cannot get tested. Equally, with restrictions intensifying and local lockdowns looming (if not, at least in September, the prospect of a return to a wholesale national lockdown), there are deep concerns about what a stop-start school year will mean for learning

and attainment, especially for our most deprived and vulnerable children. And, looking forward, how in that context it will be remotely possible to have e an equitable exam season come the he summer. Finally, and linked nked to the worries of attainment nment and progress, there is the whole question of the role and remit of Ofsted during these unprecedented times. Ofsted’s announcement in September thatt it intended to restart tart school inspections from m the beginning of the new school year, ostensibly merely “to find out how they are managing the return to school” but also sending a letter home to parents, has caused significant disquiet among the profession. “The inspectorate’s avowed intention of coming into schools to have a professional conversation to capture learnings and good practice and disseminate that across the system is one that we would support,” says Paul. “But you’re not going to do that if you’re then publishing your view, or the inspectorate’s partial or one-sided view, of what has happened to that school. There is a very positive role that Ofsted can play – if it chooses to do so. And I don’t understand why it is not making that choice,” he adds. The situation is also fluid in Wales, as NAHT Cymru director Laura Doel points out. “Wales has been fortunate, in that Estyn promised no inspections this academic year due to the roll-out of the new curriculum,” she explains. “However, the Welsh Government has now commissioned Estyn to carry out a thematic report into how the local authorities and regional consortia are supporting schools during the pandemic. Despite the initial reassurance that this would not place additional pressure on schools, we have already seen that Estyn wants to meet school leaders and the senior leadership teams to discuss schools’ activities during the pandemic. “The fact Estyn is not willing to give school leaders a list of the things it wants to discuss before a meeting iss also making people more anxious. Iff this is genuinely about looking at support gaps, why is Estyn unwilling

to share the questions beforehand, and why does it also want to survey school staff, parents and governors? “It is unacceptable for the regulator to expect school leade leaders in effect to that feed them bite the hands th in terms of highlighting the lack of support they a are receiving from the local authorities and auth regional consortia. regi That creates an ‘us Tha and them’ culture that we are trying ste away from. to steer wan to work in We want collaborative a more col way to best support schools, sup learners. We their staff and their lear will continue to challenge the role and remit of Estyn during this time to ensure it fulfils its promise of an inspection-free year,” Laura adds. For Northern Ireland, much as in England, members have had to manage as best they can with patchy, vague and often last-minute guidance, emphasises Helena Macormac, NAHT(NI) director. “For example, we received the school restart document late in August, with no union involvement or consultation, and we had just four hours to review 75 pages. What came out wasn’t consulted on, and it was very contradictory. Multiple times it said ‘where possible’, so head teachers are, a lot of the time, left to make their own decisions,” she says. “There is a huge disparity between the advice around health, education and public health here, which we are trying to deal with. We’re getting a lot of calls from members in terms of burnout and stress,” Helena adds. Ultimately, as NAHT deputy general secretary Nick Brook emphasises, however much we may wish it were not the case, the times we’re in are most definitely not ‘normal’. It is, therefore, vital school leaders cut themselves a bit of slack and accept they can only do what they can do. “This autumn term is probably going to be one of the most challenging any of us have ever experienced in our entire careers, I suspect. “And yet, school leaders are doing it; the proof is there in the fact that schools successfully opened from September – so credit to you. We at NAHT want to be, and will be, there to support you in whatever decisions you have to make,” he adds.



“I’m sure I’m not the first, nor will I be the last head teacher who has looked at their pension and asked themselves ‘hmm, can I retire yet?’” SARAH LEE IS THE HEAD TEACHER OF HOGARTH ACADEMY PRIMARY SCHOOL IN NOTTINGHAM, WHICH HAS 210 CHILDREN ON ITS ROLL. “It has been manic, but in a good way. We were very well supported by our trust (L.E.A.D) at the end of June/July to get ready and prepare in terms of developing our recovery plan for what we would do for the first few days the children were in, and then moving forward. Our risk assessments were all done and approved too. So, when it came to the children coming through the door, it was very much ‘well, we have all the structures and systems ready; we just need the children now’. “The children have come back in fantastically; they have been fabulous. They enjoy being back in school. When you talk to them, they are just happy to be back with their friends and in a routine. Our children have been remarkably resilient and confident about coming back into school, and they are even enjoying the staggered breaks and lunchtimes. We have everybody back. No one has chosen to home-educate, which was a concern given parental anxieties, and attendance I know will be a conce ern for colleagues moving forward. I’m su ure the national average for attendanc ce will drop this year. “We’ve had the first few days of a recovery-style curriculum based heavily on personal, social, health e and economic (PSHE) work; we’ve then assessed our children to see where our starting points are. Lo and behold, we are very much working at spring/summer one. For example, our year three pupils are really at

summer year two level. We are providing a year three diet for them; they need those learning objectives, so we do a pre-assessment as to where they are, and then slowly filter the year two learning objectives out and build in the year three learning objectives over the week. Children are responding well to this. “There have been high levels of anxiety among staff, particularly in those first few days, about making sure they could keep their distance. And then we had the changing guidance around facemasks and shields, even though that was for secondary schools. We decided to get ahead of the game and ordered our own face shields for staff. We have said to staff they are welcome to wear face shields or facemasks within the class if they wish. Our staffroom is a little small, and so some staff do wear a face shield when in there to make sure they can keep their distance. “We’ve had staff who have gone for tests, and we have managed to cover that from within, though I know it is becoming a bigger ongoing issue.

e “The children hav come back in fantastically; they s. u have been fabulo They enjoy being back in school.”

Thankfully, all tests were negative, and so the staff are now back in the school. As leaders, we must ensure we are making staff feel comfortable, protected and safe, and so we have been reviewing our risk assessment every week at the staff meeting. “As professionals, we’re juggling and spinning so many plates on a normal week, and then you add the covid-19 plate and people’s anxiety into the mix. It’s a tiring and challenging time. As leaders, we are there with our ‘face’ on saying ‘it’s fine, stick to the risk assessment, do what we need to do to support ourselves and our children, and talk to me if you’re concerned’. And then you turn around, and a child sneezes or coughs on you! “We’re good at logistics, systems and structures. But that little plate keeps spinning about covid-19 and testing and ‘how is everybody?’, and then add in catch-up plans. This will cause burnout for some head teachers if they don’t take time for themselves too. I’m sure I’m not the first, nor will I be the last head teacher who has looked at their pension and asked themselves ‘hmm, can I retire yet?’. “I love my job, and I’m not ready to retire yet, but we have to acknowledge it’s challenging at the best of times. We are all in the same boat and need to support each other as leaders. “Staff members are giving 100%, absolutely, and as the leader, you need to recognise that and be seen to acknowledge that. Looking around the room at a staff meeting, in the hall, when it is socially distanced, and thinking ‘you know what, you all look shattered – let’s get done what’s needed and then get home’. “Yes, the children were tired at the start, but we are already beginning to see the green shoots. Looking in the books of year six pupils, in terms of productivity, they’re beginning to get through what they would normally get through in a 45-minute maths lesson. But if we then have a lockdown, we’ll lose that. As much as our teachers are highly committed and will ring families every day to checkin, there won’t be that relationship they have within the classroom and with their class teacher to apply themselves and work. The challenge would be keeping that pace and rigour through the lockdown for those children, particularly year six. Because we are still going to be held accountable for their progress and attainment: that’s our job! Pandemic or no pandemic.”


“We had our first positive test on Monday in the year five class, two days into term. So, we sent the whole school year home.” TOM SHRIMPLING IS THE ASSISTANT HEAD TEACHER AT BROOKLANDS PRIMARY SCHOOL IN SALE, CHESHIRE, WHICH HAS 720 PUPILS ON ITS ROLL. “One complication for us is that we are head teacher-less at the minute – our head teacher left in March for another job, which he got before the covid-19 crisis. In April, we got a new deputy head who is now our acting head. So, it has been quite a difficult time for her! It also means the four assistant heads have been given additional time out of class to put policies together. “The children are coping fantastically well; it feels like they’ve never been away. Our kids have come back very enthusiastic for school and to see all their friends. There was some apprehension around covid-19. We can see in some of the pupils the impact of the time off in terms of emotional well-being. We have noticed a few things like sloppiness around handwriting, but generally, the kids have settled back in well. Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) and well-being are very much at the heart of what we’re doing at the moment as part of our recovery curriculum. “We had our first positive test on Monday in the year five class, two days into term. So, we sent the whole of year five home. I feel sorry for the year five team. One was a new teacher, so she had only been in the school for two days when suddenly we sent the pupils home. “We had been planning, as the government asked, to have our home-learning policy up and running by the end of September. At the time when we sent the year five home, it was still a work in progress. So, that is something we’ve had to pull together very quickly over the last couple of days. “We’ve had some difficult emails and conversations with year five parents who, obviously, weren’t expecting it two days after their children had just returned. It is about us providing the best home-learning environment that we can, but it is also about managing expectations from parents who, naturally, want their children at school. An important part of this is that we have worked alongside parents, received feedback from them and adapted our home-learning practices accordingly. “We are now reviewing our bubble system as we speak – perhaps going from year bubbles back to singular class bubbles. But with a school as large as ours, trying to organise lunchtimes and break times with individual classes – and there are 21 classes across the school – is very difficult. We do appreciate that we had one covid-19 case in year five and it knocked 90 children out of the school. “Lots of us did not expect to be in this situation on day three! So, we’re now working towards a model where that only affects 30 children, not 90 – one that is more based around class bubbles. We’re finding this is working more successfully, and we will hopefully limit the number of children going home when a positive case occurs. But it is an ever-changing process.

“Potentially, there is a danger of burnout; things getting tougher and tougher in terms of the workload. If more bubbles start to go down, how is that going to look? The goalposts in terms of what is expected of us, what is expected from the home learning and the rhetoric in the government’s guidance are difficult things to manage. “On top of that, managing those children who are isolating at home, those awaiting tests at home as well as those who are still in class is a difficult situation for all teachers. The expectation is that, whether the children are in or out of school, their education is the same. This is a very difficult balance to find when you’re teaching full time yet also attending to the needs of individual/ groups of children who are self-isolating away from the class. “In the current climate and with the parental engagement we have to deal with daily, if Ofsted were to turn up in the next couple of weeks, I don’t see how it would be helpful. I think schools need to be allowed to find their way. It’s a process of constant review; things are moving, things are changing, and schools are doing their best. I don’t see how Ofsted plays a role in what is currently happening. “How NAHT has been challenging the government and Ofsted is really helpful for members. It is nice for us as members and senior leadership to feel there is a strong voice challenging some of the misconceptions. And for me, it is quite important that, as much as possible, the unions as a whole are relatively on the same page. The one thing this government would love to do is divide us as unions and create divisions. “Ultimately, it is ‘how can we ensure we have the most children at school at any one time?’. If that’s your thought process as a senior leadership team, then everything else is just logistics. If we work towards the goal of trying to keep as many children in the school as possible and following the correct guidelines as outlined by Public Health England and the government, then I think that has to be a common goal.”



“There is a real risk of burnout. The summer wasn’t a holiday this year.” JANIS FRENCH IS THE HEAD TEACHER OF PRIORY WOODS SCHOOL IN MIDDLESBROUGH, A SPECIAL SCHOOL WITH 192 STUDENTS ON ITS ROLL. “It has been frantic, absolutely frantic, but the children have been amazing; we’ve had very, very few cases of anxiety. They’ve just been desperate to get back, and they’ve been so thrilled to see each other after the best part of six months. “Our ambition, obviously, is to stay open for the children. At the same time, we want to keep everyone safe. I think what may happen if we see cases spiralling, is that parental anxiety will go through the roof, and they might not send them in. It would also worry me, as it happened during lockdown, that children might physically suffer


because they’re not getting access to the resources or therapies they would have in school. The risk is it will be very bitty if they’re in and out. This really won’t be great for their learning. “I do think there is a real risk of burnout. The summer wasn’t a holiday this year, absolutely it wasn’t. We were open all through Easter and May half-term. I took the two bank holidays over Easter off, but apart from that, February half-term was the last time I had a holiday before the end of the school year. Over the summer, I made a point of putting an out-ofoffice on my emails, and I didn’t look at emails for a fortnight. After that, I looked after my grandchildren for a couple of days some weeks, but every y was work. other day

“If children are in and out of school, that will impact their learning significantly.” ANTONY LOWE IS THE PHASE COORDINATOR AND CURRICULUM LEAD AT AN INNER-CITY PRIMARY SCHOOL IN BIRMINGHAM, WHICH HAS 442 PUPILS ON ITS ROLL. “We have managed to get most of the children back, and they have been really, really positive. Our experience is that the children are adapting to the measures we are putting in place overall very well. “Where the children are in terms of readiness to learn has been quite challenging. What I’ve found is routines and sustaining their learning over time, over a whole day, has been difficult for some pupils. Despite all we did over lockdown and the work many of our parents did with their children, some children might not have picked up a pencil or engaged in much school-set learning over that period. The regression with basic skills has been quite noticeable. “If I’m honest, I think we’re already exhausted. Naturally, as a teacher, you think ‘right, it’s the September term’, and you have your aspirations of what that looks like. You inherit a year group that has had six weeks off, and you expect them to be in a certain place. This year, I am finding it quite daunting in terms of the amount of learning that has not necessarily been lost but forgotten. It needs to be over-learnt and rekindled. “I have had many conversations with staff who have been saying ‘I’m trying to do this, and the children are just not ready’. There is naturally a level of staff members’ anxiety, but we have done what I think all teachers do – just roll up our sleeves and get on with it. We tend to put aside our worries and fears, and we just get on with it for the benefit of the children. “I think the next few weeks and months are really going to be quite tricky. One of the things we have to do is think about those lockdown scenarios. If we had a local lockdown and that affected the school, we do have procedures in place, and quite a lot of our parents accessed work online during lockdown. But, equally, we had families that found online learning difficult to access. We are trying

“I’ve cried already, and I know it has been the same for other colleagues. What we’re doing is dealing with all the covid-19 stuff, but the usual day job hasn’t gone. My school’s development plan feels like it is on the back of an envelope; it is not complete, whereas normally that would be absolutely in place and ready to share with the governors at the start of term. This week, I said I was going to close my door and finish it – but I just have not had the time because of all the other things I have been asked to do. “I’d like NAHT to be encouraging the government to be realistic about what we can achieve. We are working as hard as we possibly can, looking for solutions and ways to adapt, but our provision is different, and there are some limitations to our curriculum. This doesn’t mean we are not ambitious. I’d like to see the government recognise this. We have to accept this and that the outcomes at the end of the year may well also be different.”

“We all know learning happens when you have consistency over time; children like routines, and we can build on that.” to work through the lessons learnt from lockdown and how we can improve the provision, particularly for those who are digitally excluded. But there is no easy fix for this. “We all know learning happens when you have consistency over time; children like routines, and we can build on that. But if we have chop and change and if children are in and out of school, that will impact their learning significantly. “If the government is thinking about delaying GCSEs or A levels to June or July, it should follow suit with SATs. We always have SATs early in the second week of May, when you still have seven or eight weeks of the term left. SATs determine nothing other than school data. So, if they must go ahead, push them back. “The government should listen carefully to what we as a profession are finding. Maybe primary school teacher assessment is the way forward for this year rather than SATs? What I would most like to see is the government engaging with the profession; talking to us and listening to what we have to say about exams and assessment. “The thought of Ofsted coming in this term is not helpful. We don’t need Ofsted to tell us what we should be doing. As professionals, we know what we need to do. It is just added pressure that we don’t need at this time. “Throughout this, I think the messages that have come out from NAHT have been excellent. It has spoken clearly and challenged the government, but in a constructive way, which I think is important. I want to see NAHT continue to engage with the government – being that voice that brings lived experiences to the table. So, I hope NAHT keeps doing what it has been and can shape education policy in these difficult times.”


“It is much more tiring being in school now than before covid-19.” KAREN BOYNTON IS THE HEAD TEACHER OF HIGHCLIFFE ST MARK PRIMARY IN CHRISTCHURCH, DORSET, WHICH HAS 650 CHILDREN ON ITS ROLL. “We’ve had children back in normally for a week now, and today was our first day back properly including foundation; last week, they were coming in for visits. So, we’ve now got the vast majority of our 650 children in – although we haven’t done pickups yet for foundation children! “Mostly, it’s gone well. The children have been great. Perhaps 90% to 95% have come back really settled, and they have adjusted quickly. I have been warning staff there is a danger that, if we’re not careful, this might be a bit of a honeymoon period. I don’t want us to assume they’re all fine and then jump into learning. In fact, I think one of the reasons they’re fine is because we haven’t jumped straight into learning; we’ve been taking things very carefully. “There are lots of new routines, and the staff have been doing positive activities, lots of well-being and getting-to-know-you activities; a lot of reconnection with their class, team-building activities and outdoor learning. What we’ve put in place seems to be working well. “We had some issues with anxiety among the staff back in June. We decided to bring all the staff back then, bar those who were shielding, because we had a third of the school in. At the time, that was challenging, particularly for those who

hadn’t been in at all since March. But the staff have adapted to all the different ways of working brilliantly. “We’ve used NAHT’s guidance, which has been brilliant, local guidance and just any information we could get, and we stuck to it. I think that gave staff the confidence they could come in safely to school. We were on a rota system, two days on and two days off. We also worked out a maximum number of hours a week they were to work. I think that has helped and kept staff fit, healthy and well. There was also a sense of fairness that everybody was having the same contact time with children and support at home. “One thing we found very early on was it is much more tiring being in school now than before covid-19. You have to concentrate so much more on ‘oh, when did I last wash my hands?’, ‘oh, I’ve just touched something; I’ve got to go and wash my hands’, or ‘I’ve got to keep my 2m distance’. So, mentally, it is really draining. “My husband makes me pace myself! My governors are also brilliant – they’ve protected and looked after me, and my senior leadership team (SLT) members have shared the load, too, so it has been a real group effort. During lockdown, while my SLT did the two days on, two days off rota, I took the decision not to. I came in every day, but I went home in between. I would come in for two or three hours to make sure everything

was sorted. Then in the evenings, my husband and I did food parcel deliveries. But I still got home at a reasonable time. “The thing is – say you have a case or something happens – yes, my SLT members are brilliant and I can trust them with decisions, but they would want to run them past me. If I’m not there, that is another thing they’ve got to think about. I’ve tried wherever possible – well, I was made – to have at least one day off at the weekend. “Now we’re back, I’m going to try and have at least one afternoon every other week working from home. That’s the theory at least! We’re all going home earlier; we have told everybody that no one is to be in school after 5pm, at the very latest. We’re doing small staff meetings or Zoom meetings. And I’m trying to stick to just working one day of the weekend where I can. “Local lockdowns and closures are going to be disruptive. We’re already experiencing – and I know we’re not the only school – issues with staff, or their families, not being able to get tests. At the moment, I can still staff things, but I can see a point where I may run out of supply cover and cover. If it’s taking a good six days to get a test result back, then it’s going to be tricky. “My concern is more that we may have lots of children at home who don’t need to be at home, who can’t get tests. It is frustrating if we get to the point where – and at the moment it’s not, but I can see it happening – parents start blaming the schools. We have learning set up for the children, on our websites, and it’s all ready to go. We’re moving to an online learning platform, which the staff have all had training on. Now, we have to share that with parents and how it’s going to work. We’re also hoping to use that for normal homework. “I think NAHT has been brilliant throughout. I’ve been impressed – the emails from Paul Whiteman have been amazing. I hope he is managing to take a break or two too. He needs to be looked after, as well as him looking after all of us! “It’s been really supportive, really reassuring. Just in terms of saying to heads ‘you know your school, and you know what you’re doing; keep going and stick to your guns’ – that is powerful because you do self-doubt sometimes. I think the fact NAHT is pushing for the right things from the government is also great.”

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Improving schools Leadership Focus journalist Nic Paton takes a look at the School Improvement Commission’s report.

ack in June last year, the renowned educator and former schools commissioner for London Sir Tim Brighouse delivered the Priestley Lecture at the University of Birmingham. There, in a wide-ranging presentation on the future of the English schooling system, he made the following comments about school improvement: “If the teacher makes the weather, the school creates the climate. School improvement is how schools create an ever-better climate for the individual and groups of teachers to do their job in the most favourable circumstances.” Sir Tim’s words, to an extent, encapsulate the thinking that runs through NAHT’s latest report by its School Improvement Commission, Improving schools. Indeed, they are cited within the report both as an epigraph and within the afterword by NAHT deputy


general secretary and commission chair, Nick Brook. Improving schools, which is being released on 18 November 2020, is the second report by the commission, and it builds on its Improving school accountability report, which was published in October 2018 (see our Being accountable article in issue 82 of Leadership Focus). Clearly, a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then – not least, schools having to wrestle with an unprecedented six-month shutdown of the education system and, now, returning to the classroom amid a global pandemic. But behind the current (and we still have to hope short-term) reality of bubbles, masks, sanitiser and one-way systems, the need to reset and rearticulate some of the more toxic narratives around school improvement and high-stakes accountability has not gone away.

As Nick tells Leadership Focus: “In the first report, we set out the need to rebalance holding schools to account with helping them to improve. We articulated what we felt needed to be the long-term vision for what the future of school accountability and inspection should look like. “Within this second report, we set out to get underneath what needs to happen to help schools improve. We’ve said it should be the profession that steps forward and helps good schools to become great schools. So, what does that actually look like?” To that end, the report has set out 13 recommendations for schools and the government (see page 16 for more detail on these). Just as importantly, it has articulated a series of 10 core messages around what it believes school improvement should, and needs, to be.



These are as follows:

ty accountabili High-stakes r l tool fo is a powerfu liance to p driving com t d an ards, bu minimum st for creating a poor one . ithin a system excellence w her, andards furt To improve st ing ld o h rebalance we need to h it w count schools to ac to improve. em enabling th


Schools are only as good as the people that work in them. Ultimately, school improvement takes place on a teacher-by-teacher or classroom-by-classroom basis. Every pupil should be taught by an expert teacher, with strong pedagogical content knowledge and an understanding of how children learn, who belongs to a profession that continually builds its collective expertise.

Sustainable school improvement takes time, delivered more often through small incremental changes at the classroom level than through ‘big-ticket’ structural changes. Redefining school improvement, away from short-term fixes and a search for magic bullets, is important. A greater understanding of research, combined with teachers’ professional knowledge of what works in their particular context, is critical to success.

School improvemen t should be a collaborative, collecti ve endeavour, within and between schools, because collaboration enriche s teachers’ learning and spreads expertise so that all children can benefit. The current system too often encourages and inc entivises competition over co llaboration, and there is too often a sense that school improvemen t is a ‘zero-sum game’. We need to reexamine the incentives and struc tures within the system to redress th is imbalance.

First and foremost, the role of the school leader is to create the conditions in which teachers can flourish and pupils can succeed. Head teachers need the confidence to reassert their role as leaders of learning, ensuring positive cultures exist within schools and, critically, having the courage of their conviction when confronted with pressure for quick-wins or faced with shifting goalposts.

School improvement should be seen as a continuous journey, not a destination to be reached. All too often, a school is seen to have improved when it moves from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’, then finally ‘outstandin g’. Regardless of their starting poi nt, schools improve on previous best. We should redefine and celebrate the most successful schools as those that are the ‘best at getting better’.

ing, ds a self-improv Progress towar d de em that’s foun school-led syst n io rships, co-creat on deep partne ns has stalled. and local solutio l leaders are Many exceptiona sioned by the becoming disillu l ited, transactiona increasingly lim ip sh er lead nature of system l leaders of na tio na roles, such as be ). There needs to education (NLE le ro ange to the a fundamental ch l t in professiona of NLE, with trus . ral to this change judgement cent


Action is urgently required to enhance the quality of life in our d most marginalised and deprive . ntry areas of the cou t There is a wealth of evidence tha es issu demonstrates the impact of and beyond the control of schools nces how they can affect the life cha of of our young people. The work ng inni beg is s area the opportunity cy poli this and to show promise, tained should be extended, with a sus nsions. exte commitment beyond annual

Head teachers need the confidence to reassert their role as leaders of learning, ensuring positive cultures exist within schools.

t shift in significan a d e e n e W licy. re and po both cultu wing: llo ire the fo u q re ill w This stainable valuing su change in uick-fixes; ent over q ducate, improvem f how we e o s rm te change in leaders; d support develop an proved terms of im change in ontinuing h-quality c ig h to ss e acc ent for all l developm a n io ss fe pro how we change in d n a rs e h teac emselves that find th ls o o h sc support stances. ing circum in challeng

We do not need the government to mandate a shift in culture and approach – the power to change the climate resides with school leaders. But in the face of high-stakes accountability, this can take brave and courageous leadership, and this should not be the case. The government must make choosing the right path the easiest one to take.

So, given the challenging backdrop the report is being published against, what is the hope from here? How will this report be used, and what does NAHT hope to achieve through it? “This report was largely written before covid-19 hit,” concedes Nick. But he is adamant that, if anything, what we are seeing unfolding this year in terms of increased workload and expectation on all teachers (but especially school leaders) makes it more, not less, relevant and urgent. “It is too early yet to be talking about any good that may be able to come of this pandemic crisis. But one of the things I have noted is that when the chips were down, the government turned to local authorities to coordinate the local offer – that’s after 10 years of undermining local authorities and stripping them of their powers,” Nick points out. “This goes to show that place is important. What we need to get to, therefore, is a system where if you are part of a multi-academy trust, you have a loyalty and responsibility to the other schools in your trust. Clearly, that is who you may well turn to for support in the first instance, or your local authority if you’re a maintained school. But we cannot have a system that pits schools in competition with one another locally. “Equally, I actually see this report as a potential opportunity for the government. This report hasn’t been written to be toxic to the government. We want the government to adopt it, and we argue parts of it could be helpful within the upcoming comprehensive spending review,” Nick emphasises. “I think there is a massive opportunity for us here to work with this government, which is, after all, keen to maintain and support its new ‘red wall’ constituencies, on fundamentally addressing the issues that have stopped young people

achieving what they can in some of the most desperately poor parts of this country. “What we’re trying to get across in this is if the government is serious about wanting to do good in some of the poorest communities that it now represents at constituency-level, then it is going to have to look way beyond the school gate and address issues of poverty, unemployment, crime and anti-social behaviour, drug use, alcohol dependency, and the fact you have children entering school each day dealing with trauma. And this was all before covid-19 hit. “I want to use this report to start a conversation with the government that acknowledges the fact that if we want to unlock the potential of communities and ‘level up’, schools are part of the answer, not part of the problem – but also acknowledging that the government has an important role to play in making the conditions as bright as possible to enable the young people to succeed,” Nick explains. And what, finally, should NAHT members on the ground be taking away or hoping for from this? “What we’re trying to do with this report is to recognise that while we do need the government to act, the power to change the climate – the climate that sets the day-to-day weather, as Sir Tim said – resides in school leaders,” says Nick. “If we want leaders to be able to create the sort of environments in which teachers can thrive, we need to support, develop and trust them too. Just as teachers need the right conditions in which to thrive, so too do school leaders. “In responding to the current crisis, the country has seen the value of our public services and the value of our teachers and leaders. It’s high time that the government puts them front and centre and invests in them,” Nick adds.

The Improving schools report will be available for you to read on our website (www.naht.org.uk) from 18 November 2020.



Key recommendations

The Improving schools report makes 13 recommendations for schools and the government. These are as follows: 16

Every school should prioritise staff members’ development and designate a senior leader as its professional development lead who is responsible for overseeing, coordinating and championing high-quality teacher professional development.

All professional development leads should have access to external support networks, research and case studies, to provide opportunities for them to develop their understanding of, and expertise in, effective continuing professional development (CPD).

In consultation with the profession and key stakeholders, the government should develop a fully-funded support package to provide structured support for all new head teachers and heads of school.

The government should extend its commitment to funded support for new and recently qualified teachers to all teachers and leaders by 2025, as part of a new CPD entitlement for all.

The government should create a new bursary fund to facilitate and incentivise participation in national professional qualifications from a much wider group of middle and senior leaders, nationally.

All schools should consider the role that school-to-school peer review and families of schools’ data could take to help provide a regular external view of their strengths and areas for development.


Membership of the commission The government should invest in place-based collaborative partnerships, bringing multiacademy trusts (MATs), local authorities (LAs) and maintained schools together to develop more coherent place-based improvement approaches.

CHAIR: Nick Brook (NAHT deputy general secretary) Further research should be conducted to provide insight into the impact of local partnerships on school improvement and the characteristics of effective partnership working.

THE COMMISSION MEMBERS: Dame Alison Peacock (Chartered College of Teaching) Carole Willis (NFER) Chris Kirkham-Knowles (Scalby Learning Trust) Emma Knights (National Governance Association) Gary Wilkie (Learning in Harmony Trust) James Bowen (NAHT) Judy Shaw (NAHT past president)

The Department for Education (DfE) should create a compelling proposition to encourage the most successful leaders to become national leaders of education, emphasising the importance of moral purpose and professional agency, so that they can flexibly use their expertise to provide appropriate support to those schools in need of help.

The DfE should make a longterm commitment to the opportunity areas programme, to give schools the confidence to be bolder and plan beyond the short-term; and explore the potential for extending the programme to other areas.

The DfE’s proposals for the future of teaching school hubs should be developed further to create a national network of high-quality teacher development providers that are quality assured in a transparent way.

Julie McCulloch (ASCL) Kate Chhatwal (Challenge Partners) Matt Davis (Education Development Trust) Natalie Perera (Education Policy Institute) Richard Gill (Teaching Schools Council) Rob Williams (NAHT) Stephen Fraser (Education Endowment Foundation)

The government should produce an enhanced package of support and incentives for leaders working in the most deprived communities, to include fully-funded professional development and high-quality coaching and mentoring; and explore further options to provide confidence and security to staff accepting ‘higher risk’ posts.

The government should take forward the recommendation of NAHT’s 2018 Accountability Commission’s report, Improving school accountability, and focus Ofsted on providing stronger diagnostic insight for schools that are struggling.

Stephen Tierney (Headteachers’ Roundtable) Steve Munby (Munby Education) Professor Toby Greany (University of Nottingham) Tom Rees (Ambition Institute) Melanie Renowden (Ambition Institute) Tom Richmond (EDSK)



Virtual democracy in action Leadership Focus journalist Nic Paton finds out how this year’s Annual Conference still went ahead despite covid-19. ne consensus that emerged from the experience of lockdown back in the spring was no matter how hard you worked at producing great virtual or remote learning for pupils – and many head teachers threw almost everything but the kitchen sink at it – it just wasn’t a straight-up replacement for the face-to-face classroom learning experience. That’s why, of course, even with the UK wrestling with an intensely challenging autumn and winter due to covid-19, shutting schools down nationally is pretty much (and rightly so) a last resort for the government. Yet, at the same time, remote and virtual learning, meeting and conferencing have rapidly become everyday norms for many of us in our working lives. It is very clear that when managing a highly infectious virus, the risk/ benefit equation of gathering large numbers of people physically together in a single space indoors doesn’t add up, unless (like in the classroom setting) it is deemed absolutely vital. This was very much the dilemma that faced NAHT last month when it came to rescheduling its already delayed annual general meeting (AGM) and Annual Conference, which if it were a normal year, would have been held in Cardiff in May.



As Magnus Gorham, NAHT director of democracy and governance, explains, the result was NAHT breaking new ground by developing and delivering the very first virtual AGM and Annual Conference in its 123-year history. “The annual event serves as our decision-making forum, and so, it is the primary way that a trade union and democratic organisation such as NAHT sets its policy agenda, democratically through the members,” he tells Leadership Focus. “The problem with not being able to hold it as usual in May was that we’ve been in a bit of a policy vacuum since then. Without the AGM, we couldn’t officially sign off last year’s policy year, and we couldn’t establish this year’s policy year. But, like everyone, given the uncharted water we knew we were in and the clear risks, still, around holding face-to-face events, we knew we had to be pragmatic.” Once NAHT decided that the only viable solution would be a remote conference, the first question was, at a practical level, could the ‘experience’ be replicated virtually? “The virtual conference wasn’t intended to replace all that we would have done in May,” explains Magnus. “What we said was

because it would be virtual, it would be pretty impossible to replicate what we would have done face to face exactly. What we did, therefore, was hone the debate around seven core policy areas.”

The need for a broad and inclusive curriculum The agendas for Northern Ireland and Wales


Reducing high-stakes accountability measures

Assessment Recruitment and retention Support and safeguarding


while juggling that with peoplle in the studio. And then there wa as the challenge of everyone’s intern net connections – something thatt we, of course, did not have any control over. “The who ole experience was ng to replicate as much about tryin as we posssibly could of our Annual Conference e, while acknowled dging n the constraints of a that, within virtual form mat, we were not going to be able to do everything. da “It was about trying to find balance be etween allowing th he branches and regions to have their voice and shape policy properly, with it not being so open tha at the e don’t whole day falls flat or people feel they’v ve had their opporttunity to speak. But then also balan ncing he feasibility of do oing it that with th virtually,” highlights Magnus. SO, GIVEN ALL THAT, WERE THERE ANY POSITIVES LEARNT FROM THE EXPERIENCE?

“We wanted the conference to endorse the actions the national executive had taken, and we invited our branches and regions to add to those policy areas with anything that had come up as a result of covid-19. For example, issues around assessment and inspection in the new education reality,” continues Magnus. “While we have been very pleased with the experiment of a virtual conference, and that should get us to next May, the aim is for us to, hopefully, go back to having a face-to-face conference. So we can go back to doing things as we would have done them had lockdown not occurred,” he adds. At a practical level, there were challenges around simply making the day work smoothly on a remote/virtual basis. “We wanted people to be on the stream for virtually the whole day. So, there was a combination of prerecorded videos and some ‘live’ speeches. Another issue was voting. We employed the company that used to do the voting electronically at our Annual Conference in the past, who were able to put in a process to enable voting to be done remotely. So that was a challenge we overcame,” says Magnus. “A further logistical issue was ensuring that people could be piped in and out remotely at the right time

ys, it is a simp ple er “In some way thing to organise because you don’t have hotel bookings and all the periphery that happens in terms of dinners and things like that to sort. But then you don’t get the networking either, which is a drawback,” says Magnus. “The other big possible advantage you get with a virtual conference, if you can make it work, is the ability to bring a lot more people together, even if not all of them have voting rights. So, potentially, you can extend engagement with the conference to a wider audience.

“When you have a conference at a venue, people have to give up days to come and observe. And although our AGM technically is open to all our members to come as visitors, most of those who do are voting delegates. What we found with this platform was it gave people the option to sign up, dip in and out, and see the conversations that were going on as a non-voting delegate. “A virtual or remote conference does give at least the potential or possibility of bringing more people on board, particularly people who haven’t had the experience of Annual Conference before or who may be interested in getting involved in NAHT and want to see what it is all about. And then, hopefully, we can grow the activism in the union as a result. After all, Annual Conference is a showpiece for members,” says Magnus. So, while the intention is very much to go back to a physical event next year, there is a recognition that, from the adversity of this year, there may be positives learnt for the future in terms of democratic engagement. As Magnus emphasises: “I would anticipate the ambition will be that we go back to a face-to-face Annual Conference as soon as we safely can. But, certainly, the covid-19 situation has changed the way we can engage with members, and we have learnt from that. “We have found we can engage with many more members, and we have engaged with many more members, on this basis, than we have ever done before. It has also enabled us to engage with other professions – for example, we’ve had members of the medical profession advising in the early days on how to open schools safely. “Like for so many people around the country, this whole period has changed how we’ve been able – and had – to engage with members; arguably, it has been really beneficial in that respect. “We’re not obviously going to lose the face-to-face branch or region meetings – and we hope we’ll be able to gather together physically once again in May next year. But, I do think there is a momentum there that we can learn from and build on from the experience of this year in terms of engagement with members, and vice versa,” says Magnus.


Catch up on all the events at Annual Conference 2020: www.naht.org.uk/annual-conference-2020


Everything equal Leadership Focus journalist Nic Paton looks at the work of NAHT’s Diversity and Inclusion Group on leading the way in promoting equality.


t’s said to be lonely at the top. That’s especially true if you’re the only person who looks like you around the table or in the staffroom as you progress through your career – whether that’s because of your gender or how you identify, your colour, disability, creed or sexuality. NAHT is dedicated to promoting equality for all its members to achieve equal and fair treatment



at work, in the sector, and to accomplish equal representation and engagement in its structures and democratic processes. NAHT’s Diversity and Inclusion Group (DIG), formerly NAHT’s Equalities Committee, leads this work. “DIG is a sub-committee of the national executive,” explains Natalie Arnett, NAHT policy officer. “It essentially acts as a champion and conduit between members and the national executive. It works to ensure that the association is effectively supporting individual members on diversity and inclusion (D&I) issues. It ensures NAHT advises on and supports members in promoting D&I within their schools; it guides our campaigns on equality issues within the profession, and it reviews, champions and promotes D&I within NAHT,” she says. However, for all its advocacy and campaigning, NAHT as an organisation is only too aware of the fact that its membership is reflective of school leadership, which, itself, is not as diverse or representative as it should be.

“We recognise there is a lot more we need to do to support members across all the protected characteristics. If we want to be able to serve our members best and offer them great services, we need to know who our members are. If you don’t know who you’re supporting, it is tough to do that effectively,” says Natalie. To that end, over the coming months, NAHT will be undertaking equality monitoring of its members – voluntary of course – to gather and track data around members who have protected characteristics. Members will be able to complete and share demographic information about themselves and whether they identify with any of the protected characteristics. “One of the things DIG made a recommendation on at the start of the year was that it is very hard to support all our members effectively if we do not know who all our members are. So, we are hoping to begin a data collection exercise around this towards the end of this term,” Natalie explains.


ADAM ROBBINS, DIG CHAIR Of course, it is arguable that from Black Lives Matter through to the #MeToo movement, D&I as an issue is in the spotlight as never before. But we shouldn’t see the namechange to DIG and current emphasis NAHT is putting on D&I as kneejerk responses or reactions to the

upswelling of activism, emphasises DIG chair Adam Robbins. “DIG, even if by another name, has been around for a very long time. We’ve always been here. So, yes, it is an issue in the news and on the agenda now, but this is not a reaction to that,” says Adam, who is also the head of school at Roding Primary School in Dagenham, east London. “DIG feeds directly into the national executive, so we have that direct line to drive the agenda. We are the guardians and champions of the equalities agenda as a whole, ensuring that

it runs through all the councils, co ommittees and national executive. We are the gatekeepers of all th hings equality and diversity. “Nevertheless, there is, of course, an n opportunity right now to be giving equality issues a higher profile. DIG is there for NAHT membership – so use us. We want more members involved, we want more members’ feedback, and we want members to tap into DIG. We are not a committee that’s buried away on the website,” Adam highlights. “It is a balance. We want to ra aise the profile and tap into the wider agenda and momentum that th hese issues are bringing, but at th he same time, we want to make su ure it’s not seen as jumping on th he bandwagon or just reacting to th hat. We’ve been doing lots of this work for a long time,” he adds. Alongside DIG, NAHT has been working to develop NAHT Le eaders for Race Equality, a new (c currently virtual) leadership ne etworking group for black, Asian an nd ethnic minority members (ssee the panel on page 22 for more detail on this). “People can get involved as much or as little as they want. We are open to suggestions and ideas that we can pursue and investigate.



“We recognise NAHT’s national executive is not fully representative at the moment, and that is something we want to address. We want to ensure we are hearing, and engaged with, all of the members we represent. So, we want to encourage more members to become involved in the work of the union and broaden our representation, and get input from all different sectors and characteristics,” emphasises Adam. And, while the covid-19 pandemic has made all senior leaders further time-poor, the fact that the virus does appear disproportionately to affect people of black, Asian or minority ethnic (BAME) heritage, even if the precise reasons why are not yet clear, makes it all the more important to be talking about and promoting D&I at this time. “It is clear this pandemic has specific implications for various communities, with people from BAME backgrounds, in particular, appearing to be adversely affected,” says Adam. “What became clear from the first meetings of the NAHT Leaders for Race Equality network, which took

place in July and September, is that members felt there was a gap and they haven’t been supported. They did not feel we were making enough noise about them and for them; they did not have a voice. That has been raised to us, and we must act on it. So, my message to members is ‘we’re here: use us and get involved. NAHT is everyone’s union’,” he adds. This need for NAHT to be forefronting and championing D&I, in its own backyard, in individual schools and more widely across the profession, is very much echoed by NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman. “We’re a couple of years into a modernisation process within NAHT, which focuses on our role of being advocates for all our members, and making sure we hear all voices and all interests become part of our mainstream narrative,” he tells Leadership Focus. “DIG is working to make sure that every group we represent, whether they are a group that has a protected characteristic under the law or not, is heard. Unions have always had that ambition at their heart.



“We’re here: use us and get involved. NAHT is everyone’s union.” NAHT LEADERS FOR RACE EQUALITY

NAHT Leaders for Race Equality, a networking group for black, Asian and ethnic minority members with protected characteristics, was established back in the summer. Currently, it has approximately 30-35 members, who are meeting virtually, once or twice a term, supplemented by communication

through a WhatsApp group. The members very much lead the group, and NAHT facilitates it. The group provides a space for NAHT black, Asian and ethnic minority members to come together to discuss the experiences and issues facing these school leaders, both within the profession and NAHT itself. The knowledge and experience from the network aim to inform

“I accept that we haven’t always been as good at that as we should be. What I’m not interested in, therefore, is an equality statement or a committee that gives an impression we’re doing things to tick a box. DIG’s job is to mainstream our debates around equality issues. “For example, ensuring every policy decision we come up with is informed by DIG, so it has a diversity angle as we develop those policies. It is about mainstreaming equality into all of our work. “We’ve been on an equality journey for a very long time – after all, the Equal Pay Act is more than 50 years old, and we still haven’t achieved equality in terms of equal pay, despite NAHT pushing hard for this over the years. “But there are moments – such as now with Black Lives Matter and #MeToo – when energy and appetite emerge within society to make change happen. And we need to grab that with both hands,” adds Paul. Within this wider agenda, NAHT will also continue to focus on championing regional D&I issues such as, for example, the promotion and protection of the Welsh language, highlights NAHT Cymru director Laura Doel. “NAHT Cymru has committed to its members across Wales to promote the Welsh language. So that will mean things like making sure all our literature is bilingual, that when we carry out our live broadcasts, we have a simultaneous translation and that we have staff who speak Welsh and can represent members in the Welsh language. “That is something, as director, I am pushing for to ensure the diversity of Wales includes the diversity of all its regions and the nations; that as a union, we represent everyone,” she says.

and deepen NAHT’s expertise and understanding as well as strengthen our representation for black, Asian and ethnic minority members. The network is open to all black, Asian and ethnic minority NAHT members, across all roles, phases and sectors, including those who may have retired from the profession. If you’re interested in joining the group, email organising@naht.org.uk.


“It is about having that space where it feels safe to say things.” CATHERINE BICKERSTETH IS THE ACTING HEAD TEACHER AT A PRIMARY SCHOOL IN NORTH ESSEX AND HAS RECENTLY JOINED THE NAHT LEADERS FOR RACE EQUALITY GROUP. “I was attracted to the group firstly because I have just taken on a new leadership role. Secondly, with all my years of being a teacher with my heritage – I am half Jamaican, half white British and grew up in England, in London – I feel it is time, if I can, to help make a difference. If I can help

to break down barriers and get more people into teaching from diverse backgrounds mentored into leadership roles, I should do something. “Maybe it is partly to do with lockdown, but I have had – like many people – a lot of time to reflect on things. And I just thought, I’ve worked in schools where, yes there have been a lot of mixed backgrounds, ethnically speaking, even some with women in leadership. But I have not had many leaders at all,

“It is so refreshing to realise difficulties, confusions or conflicts are shared.” LORNA LEGG IS THE HEAD TEACHER OF OFFWELL CHURCH OF ENGLAND PRIMARY SCHOOL IN HONITON, DEVON, WHICH HAS 85 CHILDREN ON ITS ROLL. SHE IS ALSO A MEMBER OF THE GROUP. “I rejoined NAHT relatively recently and became part of this group because I’m half Jamaican. This will be my third year

as a head teacher, although I’ve been in teaching for about 22 years. “We’re all, obviously, in similar positions in our careers, but it is so refreshing to realise that the difficulties, confusions or conflicts we all face are shared; that’s made it feel really supportive. It has been almost cathartic for people to be able to share in

certainly no senior leadership team, who were of mixed heritage or other ethnic backgrounds that were not white British. “So, I am interested in working out ‘how can you attract more people from diverse backgrounds to fill these roles and step up?’. On a personal level, too, because I am taking on a new leadership role, I felt it would be helpful to have some kind of support network. “Leadership can be quite a lonely place. Because of the lockdown situation, people can’t travel and go to various meetings, and so, being able to connect virtually has already proved to be valuable. I’ve already had some useful advice on how people are dealing with school openings, for example, so it is not all about diversity and inclusion either. “Having a forum where you can talk to colleagues and share – whether it is to shout, ask for support or say ‘help!’ – is nice. Sometimes you want to sound off, ask something, say ‘is this just me?’ or talk about something that has happened to you. “It is about having that space where it feels safe to say things without thinking someone won’t understand, because there is probably someone there who will. That, for me, is the key thing. It can encourage people to speak up,” Catherine adds.

that way. It is a very welcoming group – very open, even just down to being able to catch up if you’ve had a bad day. “Black Lives Matter raised a lot of awareness about the structural or systemic ways in which racism occurs. It has been a frequently shared experience; to feel you are failing again and again at interviews, but if you realise somebody else, who you can identify with, has also experienced that and succeeded eventually, that can be encouraging. That is one side: the inspiration side. “The other side, for me, is sometimes sharing those incidents and experiences can help people who may not realise the impact of their bias or prejudice. We plan to share this more widely, with the support of NAHT; it might help people to see some of the behaviours, actions or language they use is detrimental. We can’t undo hundreds of years of racist stereotyping overnight, but with greater awareness and the will to challenge bias, there is hope that our society can become equal and, ultimately, benefit from greater diversity.”



The challenge of standing firm on rights-respecting behaviours and policy in the face of opposition JAC BASTIAN, head of education at Diversity Role Models, explains how we mustn’t let the fear of opposition dampen our desire to create the world we want to see. was undertaking. We can all too he inspiring movements often project our assumptions that have forced equality onto parents and carers, onto the agenda this based on stereotypical summer have given us lots to assumptions and reductive think about as school leaders. A media coverage of religious recent study found that up to 52% minorities. Research by of 13-year-old pupils had heard Jonathan Glazzard and Samuel racist comments at school. Through Stones showed that 94% of our work, we know 71% of year five parents and carers supported and six pupils have heard someone teaching about LGBT+ identities. say “that’s so gay” at school, and Our fiercest opponents can often 73% of secondary students think be our assumptions. their school isn’t a comfortable That said, I’ve also supported environment to come out as LGBT+. schools that have faced challenges Research indicates that from their parents/carers – and having clear rights-respecting these challenges are certainly not policies, values and behavioural confined to particular religious expectations and a diverse and communities. In my experience, empowering curriculum can dialogue is the key to overcoming create schools where students feel these challenges. When I sat supported and valued, whatever down with parents who had their background or identity. This petitioned against me running a can have a transformative impact lesson for their children, I learned on behaviour, attendance and that their biggest issues were attainment. However, knowing feelings of being ignored and not what we need to do is the easy being listened to by leadership. part. Bringing the whole school Parents and carers who community with us and attend our workshops overcoming opposition value being heard, allowed often present the bigger to ask questions and challenges. Opposition encouraged to share their can seem to come concerns without fear from all angles, from of parents and of judgement. misrepresentative media Although this stories to parental carers supported is a daunting objections and protest. teaching about prospect, leaders should True leadership, however, LGBT+ identities feel comfortable sharing is about doing what is materials, having open right, not what is easy. conversations and sharing Sometimes our greatest the value of a rightsopponents are our fears respecting ethos with and biases. I’ve run the wider community. workshops on LGBT+ In an era of inclusion for parents/ of year five and misinformation and carers from a wide range six pupils have sensationalist headlines, of backgrounds and heard someone rooting this work in the communities who were, say “that’s so gay” shared values of your to the surprise of school at school school is vital. By working leaders, fully supportive with the whole school of the work their school



94% 71%

52% of 13-year-old pupils had heard racist comments at school

community to understand what your values mean in practice, you can create a shared understanding and purpose to your policies and practices. This work isn’t about undermining parents’ role as educators, sexualising young people, or devaluing certain family structures or cultures. It’s about ensuring the safety, respect and dignity of every member of the school community. There will always be those who disagree with the decisions you make. But if your work is rooted in your school’s values and supported by statutory and regulatory requirements, then you will be in a strong position to stand your ground in the face of opposition. As leaders who share a vision for a school system where every child is valued, it’s vital that we don’t shy away from our duty in promoting a rights-respecting ethos. We mustn’t let the fear of opposition dampen our desire to create the world we want to see. Through dialogue, mutual respect and building shared values that the whole community can get behind, we can overcome any of the challenges we face along the way.







We’re here for you throughout your career Our membership categories reflect and support your journey as a school leader. hether you’re a middle leader looking to excel in your current role or progress in your career, a senior leader thinking of getting back into the classroom or moving abroad, or a school leader coming to the end of a long, successful career and planning to retire, we’ve got you covered with NAHT Edge, NAHT, NAHT Life or Professional Associate membership. You can easily step from one membership category to another.


And if you’re thinking of moving to part-time working or taking adoption, maternity or paternity leave soon, let us know so that you can make use of discounted membership. With NAHT, you can also enjoy numerous member-only benefits, claim tax rebate from HMRC and so much more.

Call 0300 30 30 333 (select option two) or email membersupport@naht.org.uk, and we’ll find the right membership category for you.





















































RUTH DAVIES NAHT president 2020/21

What more can we do? ’m writing this a few days after NAHT’s Annual Conference. Covid-19 restrictions prevented us from meeting in person, but the online event allowed the union’s democracy to proceed (see page 18), and you gave us a strong mandate for our work over the next 12 months. I’m happy to report that many of the motions authorise the continuation of work already under way. This shows NAHT is already campaigning and organising around the areas that matter most to you. Crucially, it demonstrates consensus, a sense of oneness and common ownership of objectives: all critical components for successful campaigning. I see a pretty even split along three themes:


1 2 3

Where the government’s policy is not moving quickly enough Where it is moving unchecked and in the wrong direction Where you feel short-changed for the vital work that you do.

Taking these themes in order, I am pleased NAHT is pushing for more clarity and support for schools to deliver inclusive relationships education as well as for important issues such as climate change. We know there is appetite among young people to engage with these issues, even if the adults around them oppose such topics. This year’s presidential charity, Diversity Role Models, works with schools to empower young people and give them reliable information about the world we live in (see page 24). Like many of you, I am impatient for change here.

Every young person needs to know how it feels to be valued and of equal worth. It can feel out of reach for young people, sometimes. As Paul, our general secretary, said in his Annual Conference speech, the George Floyd tragedy and the energy of the Black Lives Matter movement are reminders that our best intentions are not always enough. We must be bold enough to look at ourselves and ask ‘what more can we do?’. This includes our union membership, union structures and schools’ leadership teams. Within and across these partnerships, we must listen to one another. We urgently need change, but we can only achieve lasting change through openness and (full) candid participation. NAHT is taking this work forward (see page 20). Our Diversity and Inclusion Group leads this work, and we have recently formed NAHT Leaders for Race Equality, a networking group for black, Asian and ethnic minority members with protected characteristics. Plus, we will shortly appoint an equalities officer. In schools, the discrepancies in the 2020 relationships and sex education (RSE) policy, FAQs and the Equality Act have been problematic. The act has nine protected characteristics, yet the RSE policy only explicitly references two. These grey areas have led to aggressive, unprecedented protests and harassment. We will accelerate our work with the Department for Education to protect our members and school communities from further distress. The motions also instruct us to continue our work on reducing highstakes accountability, opposing any

Above: Ruth Davies

expansion of statutory testing and continuing to challenge the purpose and use of existing tests. We will campaign for the cancellation of statutory tests in primary schools in 2021. We will push for a clear set of plans for schools and colleges to follow for exams. We are calling for a ‘value-for-money’ review of Wales’s regional consortia and for the Northern Ireland government to work productively with school leaders to develop effective provision for special educational needs pupils. With your mandate, we will return to our campaign to improve school funding. The government is exacerbating the crisis by expecting schools in England to bear the costs of covid-19. In addition, the teachers’ pay rise is forcing school leaders to make redundancies to fund these increases. Enough is enough. Investment in education isn’t a burden on the Treasury. But the pandemic means school leaders have a heavier burden of responsibility on their shoulders. Use all of the support available to you from NAHT, your local connections and whatever sources you feel are relevant. Your efforts so far have been truly phenomenal. My efforts this year will be to focus on listening to you, being your champion and bearing down on the issues that matter, to free you to do your role.




The CPD and professional empowerment tool for teachers and school leaders Set career objectives, develop your skills and confidence, and look after your well-being with the NAHT Discovery Education Pathway’s online programme. Get access to NAHT Discovery Education Pathway now. Visit www.discoveryeducation.co.uk/NAHT AUTHORS INCLUDE:



Using technology to bring us together during covid-19 NATALIE PETTIFER, regional organiser, explains how embracing digital technology in the wake of a pandemic has helped to reach, engage and grow our communities. ovid-19 has changed the way people across the world work, and the organising team here at NAHT is no different. With the announcement of lockdown, came cancellations of conferences and training courses, which meant a rethink of how we could continue to campaign effectively and facilitate communication with our officials and wider membership.


Time for a rethink

Born out of disaster and necessity came a successful programme of broadcasts and virtual meetings via Crowdcast, Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Our very first broadcast was a national, covid-19 specific update, with NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman and NAHT president Ruth Davies. A series of covid-19 updates quickly followed, featuring guest panellists such as medical experts and representatives of different sectors within NAHT and other organisations. Polls and surveys featured in many of these events, with results feeding into policy and our discussions with the government. For some of our broadcasts to members in Wales and Northern Ireland, we were even joined by their education ministers, directly answering members’ questions. As the sessions unfolded, issues of specific interest came to light. Subsequently, we built events around these into our programme, including special educational needs and disabilities, maintained nursery schools, school business leaders, and black, Asian and ethnic minority leadership (some of which we’re revisiting this term). The desire to build on our strategic objectives of ‘growth, community and voice’ is being

met through this online activity. One example is the new NAHT Leaders for Race Equality network group (see page 20 to learn more about this group). While our members have not been able to meet in person within their branches and regions, we have worked alongside our officials to deliver virtual meetings. By the end of the summer term, every region had met virtually as well as 67 of our branches (including some that had been dormant), with an increase of 275% on attendance at such meetings.

Building on success

As we move out of lockdown and adjust to an ever-changing landscape of what is deemed safe, we do not doubt that virtual meetings as a way of working are

More than 70 branch meetings held virtually, including AGMs


followers on Crowdcast

Get in touch with us at organising@naht.org.uk to find out more about anything mentioned here or share topics you’d like to see covered in future broadcasts.


regional meetings held virtually




replays of the broadcasts

Abov ve: Your organising team

here to stay – by the time you read this, you may quite possibly have already taken part in a virtual annual general meeting (AGM). Even as branches and regions begin to meet in person, use of this technology in parallel will enable continuing wider reach. So, we plan to train more of our officials to use the technology effectively themselves. This term, we are including monthly officials’ briefings as part of our continually expanding programme of online broadcasting while also developing the online delivery of our national training programme for officials. If you are not one of the 16,000 viewers who have already joined one of our interactive broadcasts, do keep an eye on your inbox for information about future events.





viewers so far


Meeting attendance up

30 new NAHT officials





Northern Ireland HELENA MACORMAC, NAHT(NI) director, provides an update on our work to support members and represent their interests in Northern Ireland. NAHT(NI) welcomes staff and pupils back to school

2020 has been an exceptional year; firstly, I would like to pay tribute to the incredible work undertaken by school leaders to ensure schools in Northern Ireland could open in late August. Despite the constraints of the ‘new normal’, schools have remained welcoming, safe and enriching environments for all children and young people. While there will be challenging times ahead as the full impact of lockdown on pupils’ progress and well-being is assessed and future localised lockdowns loom, the ingenuity, creativity and determination of our leaders in putting our learners first are second to none.


NAHT(NI) continues to challenge the government over contradictions and concerns with restart guidance With the new term under way, issues of restart continue to dominate the work of the NAHT(NI) team. Lack of

union consultation on the government’s guidance, contradictory information from the Department of Health and Department of Education, and uncertainty of resourcing remain key concerns. The education minister stated his intention to have all schools back in the new term months in advance of the start date, yet the government only published updated restart guidance within a few days of the new term. Amidst the flawed process, NAHT(NI) has advocated relentlessly to communicate the challenges members face to the government. We contend that the responsibility for the practical interpretation of the guidance should not rest solely with the principal. We have met with the Department of Education to assert that school leaders must have full assurances that they won’t be left to arbitrate on matters of health and safety and the specific vulnerabilities of individual staff. The

employers must take reasonable care for the safety of all employees. Furthermore, parental responsibility and practical expectations must be clearly defined and communicated; it is unacceptable that the new term has started yet significant questions remain unaddressed.

NAHT(NI) calls for the exam fiasco of 2020 not to be repeated

In early September, NAHT(NI) presented to the Education Committee, calling for the 2021 assessment system to have appropriate mitigations to meet the challenges of localised lockdowns and ensure no pupil is disadvantaged. We raised concern that a consultation on proposed changes to 2021’s GCSE, AS and A level qualifications had come too late. The term has commenced, and teaching is under way. If we are to implement changes, schools need to know now so that they can adapt their planning. Furthermore, the proposals put forward by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) take very little account of adapting the content of exams and assessments to disruption to teaching and learning, which is inevitable as we see further localised lockdowns. NAHT(NI) made several concrete recommendations to the committee, including a specification order for subjects so that if lockdowns are required, pupils will not lose out because all pupils will be at a relative point. We also called for a full investigation into the exam fiasco of 2020 and for parents and pupils to receive clear communications about how the CCEA will calculate grades, especially if it involves using mathematical formulae or algorithms.

The ingenuity, creativity and determination of our leaders in putting our learners first are second to none.




LAURA DOEL, NAHT Cymru director, provides an update on the work being done in Wales to protect, support and empower NAHT members. Curriculum and assessment bill (Wales) 2020

Just before the summer recess, education minister Kirsty Williams introduced the bill to the Senedd to undergo scrutiny. It marked the start of an eight-month legislative process that concludes in April 2021. At present, Kirsty Williams intends to keep to the original schedule for the bill:

DEC 2020

It appears before the Senedd with recommendations to government. Members of the Senedd agree on the general principles of the bill.

FEB 2021

Amendments can be made to the bill at this stage, with the committee members then voting on these.

MAR 2021

Additional amendments can again be made, with members of the Senedd voting on these before finally passing the bill.

APRIL 2021

The bill is then ready for royal assent. This is when the Queen formally agrees to make the bill into an Act of Senedd Cymru (law).

NAHT is currently formulating its response to the principles of the bill and will give evidence to the Children, Young

People and Education Committee. While we agree with the principles of the bill, we continue to challenge the government to ensure the funding, training and guidance on relationships and sexuality education, the ‘what matters’ code and the arrangements for assessment are in place to deliver the new curriculum.

Relationships and sexuality education code

NAHT Cymru will take a seat on the Relationships and Sexuality Education Working Group, a newly created structure that was announced by the Welsh Government earlier this year. The group will bring together key stakeholders (including representatives from the NSPCC, the Children’s Commissioner for Wales office, Welsh Women’s Aid and Stonewall Cymru) to discuss the key aims and help shape the code.

Framework guidance on embedding a whole-school approach to mental health

In 2018, the National Assembly’s Children, Young People and Education Committee published Mind over matter, a report that identified a step-change needed in emotional and mental health support for children and young people.

The report made a number of recommendations, including several relating to the provision of support in education settings and on the development of a whole-school (as part of a wider whole-system) approach to meeting the mental health and emotional well-being needs of children and young people. In particular, the report highlighted the needs of the ‘missing middle’ (children and young people with poor mental health, but who have no diagnosable mental illness). Since then, the Welsh Government has been developing framework guidance to address this issue, and the guidance is currently out for consultation. NAHT Cymru recognises that schools have a crucial role to play in the delivery of such an approach; however, we have concerns about the level of responsibility placed on school leaders to lead it. School staff possess certain skills to support and help identify children with mental health concerns, but they are not experts in the field. We believe the guidance does not put enough emphasis on shared responsibility. And although there is a consideration for mental health support for school staff to be provided by head teachers, there is no training for school governors to support head teachers.






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Pensions: a remedy

for age discrimination

KATE ATKINSON, NAHT interim head of advice, looks at the government’s plans to remove age discrimination in public sector pensions following the ‘McCloud judgement’ and who foots the bill. he government has been grappling with a multi-billion-pound pensions issue: how to fix the problem created when the Court of Appeal ruled (in the McCloud case) that the changes made to public service pensions in 2014/15 were age discriminatory. The pension reforms constituted unlawful age discrimination. This was because younger people moved to the reform schemes, which operated on a career average basis (the Reformed Schemes), and older people remained in the final salary sections of the pension scheme (the Legacy Schemes), sometimes permanently or for a ‘transitional’ period. These reforms impact all public service pension schemes, and so the government agreed to look at ‘remedying’ the discrimination across the public sector. This includes the Teachers’ Pension Scheme (England



and Wales) and the Northern Ireland Teachers’ Pension Scheme (together, we refer to them as the Teachers’ Pension Schemes), and the Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS). NAHT sat on the Department for Education’s Technical Committee that fed into the design of the proposed ‘remedy’. When the government published its consultation, we were pleased to see it had considered the majority of the issues we raised at the Technical Committee. We were also pleased to see that, in general, the consultation was of high quality and the proposed approach would help to remedy the discrimination identified. We have responded to the consultations, and you can find our full responses on our website. Here, we set out some of the major areas of interest.

Reform Consultation Impact


The consultations

The proposed remedy for the Teachers’ Pension Schemes acknowledges that a person’s circumstances will dictate whether they are likely to be better off in the Reformed Scheme rather than the Legacy Scheme. This means that it wouldn’t be fair to move everyone back into the Legacy Scheme, so members will be able to choose between these two schemes in respect of their service during the period between 1 April 2015 and 31 March 2022 (the ‘remedy’ period). After 31 March 2022, all members will be placed in the Reformed Scheme for future service benefits. We support the idea of ‘members’ choice’ because this allows individuals to assess their circumstances and select the best option for them.


The main question posed in the consultation concerning the Teachers’ Pension Schemes is when the member’s choice will be exercisable as either of the following: • An immediate choice exercise • A deferred choice underpin (DCU). Under the immediate choice, you would decide which benefits to take shortly after the point of implementation (2022). Under the DCU, you would defer your decision until the moment you take your pension benefits. The immediate choice entails a more substantial correction exercise in the short-term. It would also mean that you would have to decide based on forecasts and assumptions about your future circumstances. The DCU would reduce your reliance on forecasts and assumptions, but it would also leave you with uncertainty about your benefits up until the point of retirement. It could also be more challenging to design and run. NAHT believes that, despite having some drawbacks, the DCU option is best. This option means you can make your decision at the end of your career when you have more certainty about how your pay has progressed and the age you’d like to retire. This should allow you to make a better choice.

You may need financial advice to make such a decision, especially one with such long-lasting impact, which raises the questions of ‘who would pay for such advice given the number of teachers involved, and is there capacity in the market to provide it?’. We’ve asked the government to consider paying for this and consider the availability of financial advisers when deciding between an immediate choice exercise or DCU. We’ve also asked the government to ensure the provision of high-quality and easily understood communications to members to help them understand their options; we believe this will be key. The approach suggested for LGPS is different. This is because the LGPS transitional protection arrangements put in place in 2014 were different; they came through a statutory underpin. All members joined the Reform Scheme on 1 April 2014, but members with statutory underpin protection (those within 10 years of retirement as of 1 April 2012) were guaranteed at least the level of pension they would have received under the Legacy Scheme. The proposal in the consultation is that the requirement for a member to have been within 10 years of their normal pension age on 1 April 2012 for the underpin to apply will be removed. All members who were active members on 31 March 2012 and have accrued benefits since 1 April 2014 will be eligible. The underpin will apply to service between 1 April 2014 and 31 March 2022, ending when active membership ends or on death in service. From 1 April 2022, underpin protection will end. All active LGPS members will then accrue benefits in the Reform Scheme without the final salary underpin. This approach will not require you to choose because the underpin automatically operates in a way that ensures you get the ‘better’ pension at the point of retirement.

The pitfalls

The consultations contain lots of technical detail. The overriding points NAHT made are that members must not suffer a detriment due to a mistake

made by the government when redesigning the public service pension schemes in 2014/15 and all decisions should flow from this ‘no detriment’ principle. We have made it clear in our responses to the consultations that the government shouldn’t use the resulting cost of the remedy as an argument for the need to manage scheme costs in the longterm. In addition, the government shouldn’t count it as a ‘members’ cost’. It would be deplorable if the government burdened members, many of whom will not even be in the scope of the remedy, with these costs due to an error of its making. In line with the above position, we don’t believe employers should pay for the cost either unless there is sufficient funding to support any increases in the employer contribution rate. We can’t expect schools to absorb any additional costs.

CONCLUDING THOUGHTS These consultations were an important milestone in addressing the discrimination identtified d. The questtion off wh hetther the prop posed chang ges will imp prove a member's benefits is likely to depend on their personal circumstances. For example, modest earners in the LGPS who wish to retire after the age of 65 may be better off under the Reform Scheme whereas head teachers who want to retire beffore th he age off 60 may be better offf in th he Legacy Scheme. With members of the Teachers’ Pension Sch hemes beiing ask ked d to mak ke a ch hoiice, it allso raises the questions of how the government will communicate with them and whether members will understand the decision they need to make; members will likely need independent financial advice. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the questtion off wh ho pays for the remed dy isn’’t yett clear,, and the outcome of the consultations will be key to understanding the way the governmentt willl ad ddress this. NAHT’s sttrong view is that this cost should be met in full by the government. When the government responds to the consultations, our priority will be to understand its intentions about who bears the cost of the remedy.

We will continue to update our website on our key areas of focus. You can access this via: www.naht.org.uk/pensions-three-areas.



Unfair dismissal, misconduct and reputational damage nfair dismissal law requires that the employee should know what the allegations are and have an opportunity to answer them. That was an issue in the case of K v L considered by the Employment Appeal Tribunal (EAT) this year. The employee, a teacher, was charged with possessing indecent images of children. He accepted that images were on his computer, to which he said several other persons had access. He denied knowledge of how the photos got there. The prosecution didn’t proceed, and the prosecutor provided a heavily redacted summary of the evidence (which was of little evidential value) to the employer. The employer invited the employee to a disciplinary hearing on the grounds of ‘being involved in a police investigation into illegal material of indecent child images’. He was dismissed.


The dismissal letter included the following: • “I am unable ... to exclude the possibility of you having been responsible for the indecent images of children, which you have admitted to having been found on a computer within your home. • “It would present an unacceptable risk to children for you to return. • “If in the future ... it was shown that you had committed an offence involving indecent images of children, it would cause the council serious reputational damage if we continued to employ you. • “This [has] resulted in an irretrievable breakdown of trust and confidence between yourself and the council.”

NAHT solicitor SIMON THOMAS outlines a recent legal case concerning indecent images of children.

The employee brought a claim for unfair dismissal to the Employment Tribunal (ET). The ET agreed that the reason for dismissal was ‘different in nature’ from the disciplinary complaint, but that the investigatory report mentioned possible reputational damage, and this ‘reflected’ the ground for dismissal. Reputational loss was also mentioned ‘in passing’ at the disciplinary meeting. So, the employer had not acted unreasonably, and the dismissal was fair. The EAT said: “I am unwilling to accept ... that an employee can be dismissed on the basis of a matter that is absent from the complaint but is referred to in an investigatory report. While the investigatory report may be used to interpret the letter of complaint, it cannot be used to supply a wholly separate basis for dismissal.” A further ground for appeal concerned the standard of proof. There are two standards of proof in UK law: the criminal standard ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ and the civil standard ‘balance of probabilities’. In disciplinary proceedings, it is the balance of probabilities.

The employer admitted “there was insufficient material upon which to conclude that the claimant was responsible [for downloading the indecent images]”, and the employer “could not conclude the claimant was guilty of gross misconduct”. The ET said “it could not be said to be unreasonable for the head of service to conclude that they could not exclude the possibility of the claimant having been responsible for the images”. The EAT disagreed. The employer stated the alleged conduct (downloading the indecent images) had not been proved to the requisite standard of proof. The EAT went on to consider the question of dismissal and reputational damage. Risk of reputational damage could be a ground for dismissal, and the following points emerged: • The alleged conduct on which reputational damage is based may be disputed • It may not be established that the employee is a risk to children • An employer is entitled to rely on ‘police intelligence’ • The material provided by the prosecutor was insufficient for the employer to conclude there was a risk of reputational damage • The risk of future reputational damage was insufficient after the decision not to prosecute had been taken. The EAT judge also endorsed the comments of a judge in an earlier case that the breakdown of trust and confidence “is not a convenient label to stick on any situation, in which the employer feels let down by an employee or which the employer can use as a valid reason for dismissal whenever a conduct reason is not available or appropriate”.



Autism and employment:

facilitating the inclusion of autistic school staff DR REBECCA WOOD, senior lecturer in special education at the University of East London, shares insight from her initial findings on the impact of autism on school staff. o, you’re a head teacher, sitting in your office, with a staff member complaining about Hassan, aged 12, who has a diagnosis of autism. Despite the best efforts of this teacher to help him and provide additional support, Hassan keeps shouting out in class and running out of the room when he feels like it. “We shouldn’t be taking these sorts of kids,” this teacher says, “they set a bad example, and they’re better off in a special school.” For many senior leaders, this scenario might sound familiar or even relatively banal. But if you’re an autistic head teacher, which my research indicates is entirely possible, then your response might be quite complex. For starters, given the noise, crowds and general busyness few schools can avoid, you may well understand how these can impact on autistic pupils, making it difficult for them to concentrate and causing distress, overload and, by extension, certain reactions perceived as extreme. You are mightily relieved that you now have an office of your own because back in the days when you were a subject teacher, moving from one hot, stuffy classroom to another during your working day was exhausting, stressful and sensory hell. What you’re unlikely to do is tell your colleagues, or anyone else associated with the school, that you are autistic. Because although Hassan’s teacher’s comments were not the worst things you have heard during your many years in the education profession, prejudiced, ill-informed remarks about autism have made you distinctly wary of sharing your diagnosis. In fact, you



do your best to hide any autistic traits, an intensely tiring, anxietyinducing process that leaves you feeling utterly drained. My recent data drawn from an online pilot survey for autistic school staff in the UK suggests that this imagined situation could easily be true. Participants carried out a range of roles, comprising head teachers, teachers, teaching assistants, special educational needs coordinators, deputy head teachers and associated professionals, for example. Many experienced multiple difficulties in the school workplace, such as a fear of revealing diagnosis and sensory overload. These and other issues meant that autistic school staff might reduce their working hours, step back from senior roles or even drop out of the profession altogether. Fortunately, the few success stories demonstrated that when autistic school staff are supported

and facilitated in their work, they benefit schools significantly through autism-specific skills, such as attention to detail, a high degree of focus and an understanding of the value of the school routine. And for those who felt able to be ‘out’ and were accepted as autistic professionals, they could facilitate the inclusion of autistic pupils, like Hassan, and those with other special educational needs or disabilities. They also provided a role model for them and their parents. Ultimately, this research suggests that many of the problems that impact on autistic pupils also affect autistic staff. We need to do more to encourage autistic people into the education profession. Schools can only be truly inclusive if they support and value diversity within the whole community, both adults and children.

MORE INFORMATION You can read an initial summary report of Rebecca’s pilot survey of Autistic school staff who work or have worked in an education role in schools in the UK here: https://repository.uel.ac.uk/item/87w2v. The next phase of this study, funded by the John and Lorna Wing Foundation, started last month. Rebecca presents at national and international conferences and has had several peer-reviewed journal publications, as well as articles in magazines and for online media. Her book, Inclusive education for autistic children, which has received fivestar reviews, is published by Jessica Kingsley and available to buy on Amazon. A sample chapter can be downloaded for free here: www.jkp.com/jkpblog/2020/05/free-download-autism-and-communication.


How to find a mentor and make it work for you his term has the potential to be one of the most challenging of any school leader’s career. Now, more than ever, it is vital that you have the support you need. A mentor can guide, support and empower your professional growth. So, we’ve developed a mentoring platform (https://mentoring.naht.org.uk) to help you connect with seasoned school leaders.


Tell us about you and how you’d prefer to communicate with a mentor (eg phone, online, email, etc.)

Life starts here As you move on from working life, stay a part of NAHT with Life membership.


Define your goals – select the expertise and skills you’d like help with.


L Find the right mentor for you – look for someone with the skills, strengths, experiences or career trajectory you wish to emulate and explain what you need from them as a mentor.

Create a clear roadmap to achieve your goals – review your goals together and evaluate how your mentor plans to guide you along the way to achieve key milestones.






WE’RE STILL HERE TO PROTECT AND SUPPORT YOU This unique membership category helps you to stay connected with the profession. It also provides you with retrospective cover, so you can enjoy your retirement safe in the knowledge that we’ll support you in the event of a historical challenge or litigation. IT’S MORE THAN A SECURITY BLANKET You’ll continue to have access to our highly skilled advice team for support and guidance concerning your pension. You’ll still be able to enjoy all your member benefits, such as our value-added services and savings platform.

Get the most out of your mentor – decide on how often you’d like to meet and for how long. Take the advice they give you and listen to their leadership lessons.

There’s always more to learn – there’s nothing to stop you from finding another mentor to help you with your other goals.

To register and create your mentee profile, visit https://mentoring.naht.org.uk. Want to know more? Email mentoring@naht.org.uk.

And there’s also the option for part-time classroom teaching cover. Join Life membership to access all this and more, for less. For the first 12 months, you’ll pay your current membership at a full-time rate. After that, it’s about £40 per annum. EVERYONE IS WELCOME Life membership is open to all retiring NAHT and NAHT Edge members. So, whether you plan to retire early or at the normal pension age, call 0300 30 30 333 and select option two to transfer to Life membership.


Dedicated, personalised financial advice for school leaders

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FOR YOUR SCHOOL: FlashAcademy® EAL Whole school well-being support and staff absence cover

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Find out more about these partners and many more by visiting


Did you know middle leaders can join NAHT Edge? Go to

naht.org.uk/join-edge for more information



AND BE REWARDED We will give you a £20 John Lewis voucher for every member you refer to NAHT or NAHT Edge

When you refer a member to us, it helps to strengthen our voice, meaning we can exert real influence on government policy. We’ve got you all covered We exist to defend and promote the rights of all school leaders. Sign up today, and align your SLT by encouraging them to join too. We’ll reward you with a £20 John Lewis voucher for each new member.

Tell your friend or colleague to visit www.naht.org.uk/magazineMGM for more information


Continuing to develop you during uncertainty n a rapidly changing and uncertain environment, it’s important that you continue to develop so that you have the right knowledge and skills to thrive. The pandemic might have changed the world and how we


live, but we’re committed to giving school leaders a positive learning experience, whether that be in person or online. That’s why we’re providing opportunities for you to attend free webinars that give you a flavour of our full-blown online

courses, updating our topics to reflect changes in practice in the ‘new world’ and offering courses and some of our conferences virtually. So, you still get access to experts, best practice and other handy resources, but online and at an even better price.

Refresh your mind with our spring term programme 42

We’re here to help school leaders adapt to changes in legislation and play an active role in national debate. Below, we look at two pressing topics for school leaders.


2020 marks 250 years since Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth. The internet is alive with debate as to whether Beethoven’s Flemish and German ancestry included North African roots. In short, “was Beethoven black?”. A summary of the discussion: “probably not, but no one can say for sure.” On Twitter, Dr Kira Thurman said: “Instead of asking the question ‘was Beethoven black?’,

ask ‘why don’t I know anything about George Bridgetower?’” And, if like me, you didn’t know anything about George, there’s more on him at the end of this piece. It’s been impossible this summer not to be affected by the debate around the Black Lives Matter campaign and the wider diversity agenda. But how should schools and school leaders best respond? And how can NAHT help you to ensure that it happens?


Back at the end of June, the annual School Diversity Week took place. There were fabulous training events put on by Diversity Role Models (learn more about our charity partner for 2020/21 on page 24) on issues such as intersectionality. I don’t know if you were fortunate enough to catch these, but they explained quite complicated messages around diversity and acceptance in straightforward and compelling ways. This matters in schools because young people learn how the modern world is geared to accept and welcome diversity both through societal norms and through underpinning equality legislation. A couple of years ago, research by the University of Bristol and London School of Economics, looking at 4,000 year 10 pupils in England, examined how diversity positively reinforces and promotes acceptance and tolerance. The research found that students in ethnically diverse secondary schools are much more positive about youngsters

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from backgrounds different from their own. Teenagers in secondary schools with a greater mix of ethnicities showed more warmth towards peers from other ethnic groups than pupils in less mixed schools. While pupils have greater warmth for those from their group, they feel more positive towards another group if they encounter more pupils from that group in their school, reducing the gap. As the proportion of pupils of a different ethnicity at their school increased, so did the warmth of feeling towards that group. The report concluded: “Towns and cities with ethnically segregated schools have much lower levels of mutual regard among teenagers from different ethnic groups. The value of researching and implementing policies to encourage integration and contact is, therefore, clear.” Even small moves towards more diverse schools produce positive changes. This research echoed the Department for Education’s earlier findings that pupils in ethnically mixed schools in Oldham had more positive views of children of different backgrounds than those who attended more segregated schools. Of course, there’s much more

TAILORED TRAINING Let us take the pain out of organising your team’s training. We have a wide range of experts ready to tailor our existing courses or create entirely new programmes around your needs. Visit www.naht.org.uk/cpd/tailored-training/ for more information. still to be done, even among school leadership. It’s up to all of us to continue to promote acceptance of diversity and so allow us all to realise our true potential. So, NAHT will be holding a webinar on 23 March 2021 with Diana Osagie on promoting diversity for school leaders. It will be based around Diana’s work and successful presentations on Ethnic and gender diversity around your leadership table is your strategic advantage and Black lives matter – yes I agree; now help me plan a way forward for my school. And George Bridgetower? George (1791-1860) was a virtuoso violinist, the son of an African-Caribbean servant and a Polish mother who lived most of his life in England. He studied under Haydn and was a friend of Beethoven. Beethoven dedicated a violin sonata to him. It was so challenging to play that, unlike George, many gave up.


Philippa Ollerhead, education improvement adviser, explains how our Ofsted update – reducing the stress and workload with Ofsted inspections – course on 26 November 2020 is a great way to give you confidence for the potential return of routine inspection. Several years ago, when I moved from headship to become an education improvement adviser, I met an experienced head teacher who changed my way of thinking towards Ofsted inspections. To him, the Ofsted process was just another two days when he would demonstrate to visitors how good his school was and the excellent job his teachers were doing to give their pupils the best start in life.



From this perspective, our popular Ofsted update course was created for school leaders and governors. The course dedicates one section to prepare you for the actual inspection. It then moves on to focus on supporting your school to maximise its school improvement strategies so that all staff members feel confident and ‘Ofsted-ready’. The course is fast-paced, practical and meaningful. It focuses on reducing stress and ensuring you are working on meaningful data collection, which enhances practice rather than overwhelming you and your staff with unnecessary paperwork. We focus on how you are supporting learners to ‘catch up’, and we update you on the support being offered by the government to facilitate this. During the day, you’ll have ample opportunity to personalise the course and ask the questions relevant to your setting. We’ll have an open dialogue and a relaxed day, discussing the latest updates from Ofsted, how to prepare for the phone call and how to communicate the curriculum effectively without lots of extra work. I’ll then take you through each aspect of the framework and discuss how to present evidence succinctly for each area and embed school improvement strategies into the day-to-day quality cycle. By the end of the day, you’ll leave feeling positive, with strategies to take back to school that will reduce workload and streamline school improvement. And there are plenty of useful resources to take away to support the reduction in paperwork and prepare your staff and governors for ‘deep dives’ and conversations with inspectors.

For more details on these two courses and a full list of all our other courses this spring, visit www.naht.org.uk/cpd.


benefits of online learning

John F. Kennedy famously – and quite possibly incorrectly - said in 1959 that the Chinese word for ‘crisis’ has two elements. One is representing ‘danger’. The other, ‘opportunity’. The pandemic has certainly provided both danger and opportunity in equal measure to those of us involved in providing continuing professional development (CPD). Our online events have quickly taken off and proven popular with school leaders. We’ve been offering one a week since May on a variety of themes affecting school leaders, from coping with crisis, the recovery curriculum and handling the media. We’ve found virtual events are just as effective as the ‘traditional’ method, even more so sometimes. So, here are the top 10 benefits of online vs face-to-face learning.


Flexibility – learn when you like, as often as you like


More choice – you no longer need to worry about the location of the course

Scalable – no more sold-out sessions, with greater numbers able to join you at online events



Comfort – learn at home sitting in your favourite armchair

More engagement – ask questions live, submit them in writing or discuss them in the chat


Cost-effective – save money with the removal of additional expenses (eg travel, accommodation)


Great access – watch the replay after the session and share it with your colleagues


More reliable – in our current world, it’s good to know the chance of your virtual event getting cancelled is pretty slim


Save time – no more early starts and lengthy travel to conference halls that keep you out of the classroom


Easier to make connections – sessions are fast-paced, and you can easily see people’s information, so there are no more awkward conversations over coffee and stale croissants with Dave from accounts while sitting on the conference floor.



Free webinars to watch again We’ve had tremendous feedback on our free webinars since the start of lockdown. Below, we highlight some of the sessions. PHILIPPA OLLERHEAD kicking us off in fine style by presenting clear messages to school leaders on crisis management and crisis recovery at the very beginning of the pandemic.

PROFESSOR BARRY CARPENTER giving a runthrough on the recovery curriculum and how schools and pupils are flourishing despite the shadow of covid-19.

PAUL CRITTTENDEN setting out the great benefits of NAHT’s Wellness and Protect offer available to all school leaders.

STEVEN GEORGE, NAHT’s head of press and media, presenting how school leaders have risen above and beyond the challenges created by lockdown to benefit their pupils, parents and local communities.

DIANA OSAGIE lifting everyone’s spirits with her presentation on how school leaders are demonstrating courageous leadership and taking the challenges of the new term in their stride.

If you are not one of the thousands of school leaders who have already joined one of our free webinars, you can watch them on our YouTube channel (it’s called NAHT – Campaigning to improve schools for everyone). Keep an eye out for emails from us to hear more about our exciting free webinars as we release them. Alternatively, follow us on Eventbrite (http://nahtevents.eventbrite.co).

Looking behind, beneath and beyond the behaviour Because of lockdown, our special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) conference was put ‘on ice’. But with special schools appearing to have been all but forgotten by the government throughout the pandemic, with barely a shred of guidance to help them, we knew it was time to put their issues front and centre. We’ve now set a date (3 December 2020) for our dedicated conference for SEND practitioners from across the UK to take place online. Speakers include Professor Adam Boddison, NASEN chief executive and Marijke Miles, chair of NAHT’s SEND council.

Conference dates for your diary Annual Conference ) 30 April to 2 May 2021 (Telford New and Aspiring Heads’ Conference ne)) 18 May 2021 (London and onli School Business Leaders’ Conference 8 July 2021 (Manchester and online)

PS: a you qs a memb excl ualify fo er, on al usive disc r an l o and cNAHT cou unt o that’s nferenc rses e o early n top of as – bird o n ffer. y

Ambitious learning; creative leadership NAHT Cymru’s National Conference (5 March 2021 at the Mercure Hotel, Cardiff) will explore the opportunities created by the new curriculum for schools in Wales from September 2022. Our keynotes and seminars will examine the skills and behaviours school leaders will need to implement the changes successfully and celebrate the best of Welsh education. If circumstances prevent us from running a face-to-face conference, we’ll move this event online to ensure our Welsh members have the chance to gain early insight into the curriculum changes.

For more information on all our courses and conferences, visit www.naht.org.uk/cpd.

Conferences available to book now 3 December 2020 Leading on SEND Across All Schools Conference 2020 (online) 5 March 2021 NAHT Cymru’s National Conference (Cardiff) 18 March 2021 School Leaders’ Summit (online)


SUSAN YOUNG: education columnist

Leadership that boosts pupils’ confidence est Park Church of England Primary is a big school with big ideas. And like every other school, it has had to find ways of making its ideas work in a pandemic. Pre-covid-19, head teacher Caitriona Bull taught four afternoons a week. “This pays massive dividends: they go on and pass their SATs, but much more importantly they go into year seven knowing ‘I can do this. I can ask questions, and somebody will help me’. That’s very important, but most heads look horrified when I say I teach four afternoons a week and I have 810 children.” Class bubbles have paused those lessons, but they have adapted rather than abandoned just about every other aspect of the Worthing school’s style and ethos. Caitriona moved to West Park from a 43-pupil primary school six years ago. “I have this notion that it’s a small school, by which I mean every child is known. A member of staff will know if there’s something wrong so that we can follow it up quickly. The children promise that if they have a problem, they’ll ask for help, and my promise is that whoever they ask will stop and help them,” she says. Maths is a priority. “We start doing Numicon workshops in reception because a lot of parents haven’t used apparatus since they were at school, and there is this national acceptance that you can say to your child ‘Don’t worry; I am rubbish at maths’. They’re not allowed to say that as soon as they accept a place here,” she says. Parents were also encouraged into school to see what the children were doing; now, that’s all online.



The realisation that younger children could see what older ones were doing in maths, but not how they could get there, or how their work mattered, led to huge boards, updated every six weeks, with snapshots of what every year group is doing in all key subjects. “Children do go and look at the maths board to see what’s next and remember what they couldn’t do in the past.” There are pupil leaders in every class, including mathmagicians, digi-gurus, reading buddies and play leaders. “They can talk about what they do, and it does boost the other children. Some children don’t like getting support from an adult, but they don’t mind from a peer. “It’s important that children have leadership opportunities from the beginning. I am really an early years teacher: they are the most inquisitive and best problem-solvers you’ll ever meet. If reception children need something to help them in their

Above: Susan Young.

I know we will get through this next phase of change because of the level of care and dedication of every member of staff, the support of our families and the resilience of our pupils.

learning, they’ll find it - they’re like Stig of the Dump, creating and problem-solving, and it’s really important we harness and celebrate that. “We want them to expect adults to help them and answer their questions when they leave us. The feedback from secondary schools is that this is the case.” The mathmagicians, who might have shown aptitude in a particular area of maths or are doing well but without the confidence to share, support other children, set challenges and more with maths leads. All these systems survive covid-19 restrictions, but with tweaks. Mathmagicians work only within their classes, and the challenges and central boards are there to enjoy without touching. Caitriona says: “We noticed our children could adapt to all the new procedures if we were calm and confident, we welcomed them with a smile and we made sure there was a time in the day to breathe, play and have fun. “We slowed the pace of learning a little, and this had a positive impact on mental health. And as soon as the children were happy, their parents were confident too. Our school felt like a very happy and protected bubble. “We are a big community, but I know we will get through this next phase of change because of the level of care and dedication of every member of staff, the support of our families and the resilience of our pupils.”

Our easy to use classroom monitoring system helps identify teaching & learning needs of pupils Educater is an educational software solution for schools and early years settings providing bespoke tools for assessment and tracking, school reports, early years tracking, communication, analytics, SEND process management and SEF. Our modular based platform has been exclusively designed to dramatically reduce data management burden and teacher workload. We can provide you with a tool to meet your every need, whether this is through one of our standard templates or via our bespoke service – we are here to help you.

Our Modules:


Tiny Tracker

School Reports

Assessment can be used to track pupil data effortlessly, giving clear accessible insights into pupil attainment and progress. This will enable you to understand the needs of your school and identify any Gaps In Learning. We recognise the range of assessment requirements from tracking objectives in the curriculum to the growing emphasis on teacher judgement.

Tiny Tracker is an EYFS tracker and learning journal that allows observers to share evidence with parents so that they can see for themselves how their children ourish at the start of their learning journey. Early years settings can identify and track how young children are progressing and evidence their journey through their Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS).

School Reports is a web-based module created to make report writing more personalised and less time consuming. School Reports connects with the rest of the Educater platform to bring information on progress to the forefront of school report writing.


Parent Passport


SEFOnline is an online Self Evaluation Form that will support your school in preparation for Ofsted inspection visits and shaping School Improvement Plans. Designed by school leaders and inspectors, SEFOnline provides you with an accurate indication of where your school is and aligns with the new Ofsted Inspection Framework.

Parent Passport (included with Tiny Tracker) is an easy to use online parent portal that allows schools and early years settings to communicate directly with parents. With Parent Passport, schools and early years settings can share child observations, daily care diaries, announcements and regular updates on learning with parents.

Analytics allows you to examine pupil data at various levels and drill down to individual pupils. Data sets include phonics, KS1 and 2, ELG, and aggregated MAT data. The Analytics module is perfect come results day to discover how well you have done. It uses your data and provides a comparison based on national data.

Get in touch for more information

e: info@educater.co.uk

| www.educater.co.uk

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