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LEADERSHIP F O C U S NAHT commission on assessment p26 The magazine for members of the NAHT January/February 2014 • £5

Issue #62

The secret work of the NAHT p34 Take learning outdoors p38

Initiative overload Stress levels could soar this autumn, but the NAHT can ease the burden

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belated Happy New Year everyone, though by the time you read BERNADETTE HUNTER this, the memories of tinsel and turkey will be fading – and perhaps the New Year’s resolutions will have been forgotten. I wonder how many of you made a resolution to look after yourselves better this year? As a profession, we are always so busy looking after other people that we often neglect our own of change we have seen in recent times. The government health and wellbeing. Yet we can’t support our schools and is introducing an onslaught of initiatives from September, communities properly if we are overtired and unwell. School including a new curriculum and assessment, new SEND regleaders often fail to identify the signs of pressure in their ulations, performance pay and free meals for infants. lives, which can lead to stress. In this edition, we share the NAHT can provide you with the advice and help you need story of one head’s battle with stress (page 30) in the hope to survive the pressures ahead. We are working hard on your this will help to highlight some of the triggers and give you behalf to try to make sense of all this and to provide posisome suggestions for managing it. tive and constructive models and support. You can read about Even if you don’t feel you need this for yourself, I would ask the progress of one of these, the Commission on Assessment, you to try to involve those colleagues who are at risk of stress on page 26. You will also find the third NAHT/Family Action because of isolation and tell them about the support and leaflet enclosed in this issue. Its focus is on how parents can help they can get from NAHT. It’s important, because Januhelp with learning at home and at school, and we hope you ary heralds the start of another challenging and significant will find it useful for parents. year for school leaders, with probably the greatest amount



Member of the Audit Bureau of Circulation: 27,712 (July 2012-June 2013)

ASSOCIATION AND EDITORIAL ENQUIRIES NAHT 1 Heath Square, Boltro Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1BL Tel: 0300 30 30 333 Editorial board: Clare Cochrane, Heather Forse, Lesley Gannon, Nicky Gillhespy, Magnus Gorham, Chris Harrison, Russell Hobby, Bernadette Hunter, Steve Iredale, Gail Larkin, Caroline Morley, Stephen Watkins and Paul Whiteman. @nahtnews @LFmagNAHT

EDITORIAL TEAM Managing editor: Steve Smethurst Assistant editor: Carly Chynoweth Designer: Adrian Taylor Senior picture editor: Claire Echavarry Production manager: Jane Easterman Cover illustration: Giles Mead Columnist illustrations: Lyndon Hayes Printed by: Wyndeham Heron

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ISSN: 1472–6181 © Copyright 2014 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 electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publishers. 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 publishers. The views herein are not necessarily those of the publisher, the editor or NAHT.


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Keep the magic alive Olympic sprinter Darren Campbell addresses the 2013 NAHT Education Conference in London.


Schools face ‘autumn overload’ of government initiatives September will see school leaders dealing with challenges including the new national curriculum, universal free school meals for infants and new models of assessment.



NAHT leaders head to Rwanda Three members of the NAHT’s national executive are to visit Rwanda to work with 18 of the country’s head teachers on a leadership development initiative. Free school meals cuts fear Free school meals must not be paid for by cuts to other parts of the education budget, says NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby.

10 New links to learning The latest leaflet from the NAHT’s charity partner Family Action targets parents who need help to get their child ready to learn. 11 More support for SBMs The NAHT is determined to make sure that it meets the needs of school business managers. 12 Wilshaw under fire Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary, says Ofsted “is part of the problem, not the solution”, after it criticises variability in schools. 13 Legal update The Freedom of Information Act 2000, reform of anti-social behaviour powers and withdrawals of job offers. 33 Key dates for the year Your guide to what’s happening when.





22 The ‘life blood’ of the NAHT A report from the annual conference of the NAHT’s branch and regional officials, which covered TUC affiliation and boosting membership.

15 Partners CS healthcare on the prevention of cervical cancer and The Education Broker with news of a seminar that offers advice on managing absence.

26 A challenging assignment Tony Draper and Mick Walker discuss the remit of the NAHT Commission on Assessment.

17 Rona Tutt’s column If you were devising an education system, would you look to give it an ameoba-like quality? The past president argues that it’s exactly what we have.

30 A job with strings attached James Hilton reflects on the pressures of headship that led to a deterioration in his mental and physical health. And how he started on the road to recovery. 34 The secret work of the NAHT Susan Young on the small team that works behind the scenes to ensure that head teachers’ voices are heard. 38 From little acorns… Experiential learning is being reinvented at Boston West Primary in Lincolnshire, with mud pies and bushcraft on the curriculum. Carly Chynoweth finds out more. 42 It’s good to talk Sonia Blandford, chief executive of Achievement for All 3As, reports on how structured conversations are improving children’s attainment and parental engagement.

19 Russell Hobby’s column System overload is coming and the general secretary fails to see any way in which 20,000 different assessment systems can be a good thing. 20 Best of the blogs The latest insights from the NAHT website’s bloggers, Warwick Mansell, Susan Young and Rona Tutt. 49 What’s new? The latest books and resources for school leaders, plus information about forthcoming events. 50 Susan Young’s column Susan speaks to head teacher Gary Wallis-Clarke about making learning memorable with Viking axe-throwing, fish-gutting and shield-making.

46 Joined-up thinking Professor Tony Booth makes the case for values-led school improvement with the Index for inclusion.


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Olympic gold medallist Darren Campbell (pictured above with NAHT vicepresident Gail Larkin) was a guest speaker at both of the NAHT’s education conferences, first in Bradford and more recently in London. His effect on the assembled school leaders at both events was electrifying and his tale of growing up on a council estate, backed by a formidable mother and overcoming all manner of adversity, was inspirational. “Talk of a successful person and you talk of adversity – I’ve been there,” he said. “The secret of success is dealing

with rubbish. People try to take away your love and passion and you have to keep the love and passion for what you do. Never lose sight of why you do it in the first place and the magic will always be there.” Thanking him, NAHT national president Bernadette Hunter said: “Thank you for reminding us that changing people’s lives is the greatest gift we have and we should never give up on a child. “And thank you for calling us heroes. You’ve inspired us to make sure the magic is in our schools every day.” Conference report: page 9.


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UK ‘stagnates’ in Pisa tests 

Shanghai tops, Wales drops



UK students are falling behind overseas peers according to the latest Pisa tests, which measure 15-year-olds in maths, science and English. See page 10 for more.


The UK’s peak was 21st place for science, with 23rd for reading and 26th for maths. In the previous rankings it was 16th, 25th and 28th respectively.

Schools face ‘autumn overload’ of government initiatives


SMART STAT The percentage of schools that regularly monitor the contents of pupils’ packed lunches, according to research from The Key

Schools will be hit by an overload of new initiatives this autumn, the NAHT has warned. September will see school leaders dealing with challenges including the new national curriculum, universal free school meals for infants, new models of assessment, a new SEND code of practice and the consequences of performance-related pay progression (see page 33 for more details). In November, general secretary Russell Hobby wrote to secretary of state for education Michael Gove explaining that primary schools will face a “crunch period” when they will be implementing numerous initiatives simultaneously. “I cannot stress strongly enough the risks in the system,” Mr Hobby wrote in the letter, which came after a meeting with Mr Gove in October. “Our desire is to ensure that schools can deal effectively with this programme of reform, and we welcomed your invitation for ideas to support this.” Consultation with NAHT members indicated that the most useful help would be more release time to analyse the curriculum and develop the new programmes of study required. This would not delay implementation, but would require additional funding, Mr Hobby said. However, the association’s suggestions have not been accepted. NAHT president Bernadette Hunter (pictured) told LF: “We are disappointed that the government has not recognised the pressures that school leaders will be facing, despite our best endeavours to highlight these. “The NAHT is working hard to develop an action plan of support for our members and we will continue to lobby the government about the ‘perfect storm’ that lies ahead. The strategies we suggested to manage the onslaught of change have been refused, so our only alternative now is to ask the government which of their myriad new developments they are prepared to see fail, as it is impossible to do it all at once without adequate resources and time.”


Register now for Inspiring Leadership 2014 NAHT has joined forces with ASCL and CfBT Education Trust to run the ‘Inspiring Leadership’ conference at the ICC in Birmingham on 11-13 June 2014. Confirmed speakers include Professor Andy Hargreaves, co-author of Professional Capital and Sustainable Leadership; Dr Yong Zhao, a globalisation specialist who was recently named one of the 10 most influential people in information technology; and Dr Avis Glaze, a former classroom teacher and head who has played a pivotal role in improving achievement in Ontario’s schools. More speakers will be named as the programme is finalised. NAHT president Bernadette Hunter said: “We are very pleased to be a partner in this new conference, which will offer an exciting programme of keynote speakers, masterclasses, seminars and workshops. It will be in the spirit of the previous popular conferences, but with some significant changes that will add greater value for all participants.” Formerly the National College’s ‘Seizing Success’ conference, it “gives a powerful message that the profession is taking ownership by leading an important programme of inspiration and development,” Ms Hunter added. For more details and to register see See also Russell Hobby, page 19.


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Wales fared the worst of the home nations. It was in 41st place for reading, 43rd for maths and joint 36th in the tests for science.

Heads in high-risk jobs need support Many head teachers deliberately seek roles in the most challenging schools despite the associated risks, according to an NAHT survey. The poll found that 80 per cent of the school leaders questioned would work in a ‘requires improvement’ school in order to make a difference. However, 68 per cent of those prepared to take on the challenge said that the high risks associated with this would need to be offset by significant incentives. Lesley Gannon, NAHT’s head of research and policy development (pictured), said: “There has to be recognition that these are people with families and lives to support, and that taking on a challenging school is a very high-risk thing to do. People who do it need the right support.” This could include pay that reflects the difficulty involved, or job security that acknowledges that making improvements takes time. “It’s not about being greedy but about recognising the size and challenge of the job.” The government and the profession must also do more to rebuild trust said NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby. “If we are to encourage more people to take on these vital roles both sides need to do more,” he said. “Heads need to focus more on the opportunities and the government needs to make these jobs more sustainable.”



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RELIGIOUS EDUCATION The RE Council for England and Wales has published its review of RE. It contains a new national curriculum framework, which Michael Gove has commended for use. See: and


NAHT in Rwanda Three members of NAHT’s executive committee are to visit Rwanda this month to work with 18 of the country’s head teachers on a leadership development initiative. The project, in partnership with the British Council, has been designed to support the Rwanda Education Board’s aim that every school in the country should have a high-quality leader by 2015. Kenny Fredericks, Chris Hill and Richard Edwards will visit for three days, with a two-day follow-up in May. The NAHT team will work with the group of Rwandan head teachers to develop tools that will shape future policy and training development, and help to ensure that school leadership standards (developed by the Council and Rwandan officials) are embedded in a

broader framework of educational improvement policy and processes. “The issue for Rwandan schools is around the development of school leaders in terms of leading learning and pedagogy,” said NAHT president Bernadette Hunter. “On the first visit the NAHT team will work with their Rwandan colleagues to find out what aspects of school leadership they feel need to be developed and

then work out how to do that. The Rwandan heads will share what they have learned with other school leaders so that the work is cascaded through the whole system.” The new ideas will then be trialled so that when the NAHT delegates return in May they can be adapted. “During that period there will be communication between the key leaders from Rwanda and the UK,” said Ms Hunter. The British visitors will also be in Rwanda to learn. “They will bring back what they learn and share it with members through briefings and articles,” she added. “This is a two-way process.” She encouraged UK schools to develop their own links with Rwanda through the Council’s ‘Connecting Classrooms’ initiative. See

Collaborate to raise standards, say MPs The NAHT has welcomed the Education Select Committee’s suggestions that more should be done to encourage partnerships between schools. “Collaboration between schools raises standards,” said Russell Hobby, the association’s general secretary. “The NAHT itself, for example, is working with 30 primary schools in clusters to help them get from ‘requires improvement’ to ‘good’.”


Genuine co-operation needs to come from a free choice, added Lesley Gannon, head of research and policy development. “Partnerships work best when they are voluntary and when there is an agreed and shared ethos so that it is about real collaboration, not about forcing people to work together.” Graham Stuart MP, who chairs the committee, said that the government wanted schools to take


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more responsibility for themselves and each other rather than looking to local authorities for expertise and assistance. He also called for Ofsted to be given power to inspect academy chains, for the government to formalise procedures for schools to leave academy chains, and for the DfE to “urgently review” how it monitors the support that converter academies are expected to give other schools.

Whitehall to fund bullying initiative The government has invited organisations to bid for funding to conduct a full review of how secondary schools are tackling homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying. Equalities minister Jo Swinson (pictured) said: “This project will help us to understand the issues and develop effective, evidencebased tools and best practice that will help schools to stamp out this harmful behaviour.” Lesley Gannon, head of research and policy development at the NAHT, said: “We are always keen to work with a range of organisations to promote this important area of work and it is always good to see resources from the government to back up its commitments.” She added that it was important for the government to recognise that this is also an issue for primary schools. “These initiatives are important across all phases of education, not simply secondary school. We look forward to seeing a similar approach right across the system,” she said.


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EDUCATION CONFERENCE WE Passion, brilliance and

the importance of laughter Free school meals scheme ‘must not be funded by cuts’ Free school meals for all children up until year two is a good idea but must not be paid for by cuts to other parts of the education budget, NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby has said. He also welcomed the government’s acknowledgement that capital funding will be required to build kitchen facilities. The Autumn Statement included £150 million for capital spending to build new kitchens or increase dining capacity. The government will also provide revenue funding of £450 million in 2014-15 and £635 million in 2015-16 to the DfE to finance the free school meals initiative. Mr Hobby said: “Universal free school meals enable schools to provide nutritious dinners at a reasonable cost, create a sense of community and can improve learning. However, the equipment required to deliver them, from ovens and counters to whole kitchens, must be funded. “We welcome the new money to achieve this, but funds reallocated from existing maintenance budgets must not disadvantage other school projects. We would not wish to see a situation where children are eating their free meals in buildings that are falling to pieces. The government also needs to think about the impact the policy will have on the allocation of pupil premiums and even on the delivery of sport. “Many schools will need to provide dinners in shifts, which will reduce their ability to use halls for other purposes.”

New curriculum will not raise Pisa results, say heads In the wake of the latest Pisa rankings (see page 10) the majority of school leaders do not think that the new curriculum will help British students to ‘catch up with the world’s best’. A survey by The Key found that 58 per cent of respondents do not think that the new curriculum will achieve the government’s ‘catching up’ aim. A further 21 per cent think that it will actually increase the gap between pupils in the UK and the ‘world’s best’. Sixty per cent of respondents say the removal of national curriculum levels will have a negative impact on monitoring progress in primary schools, with only six per cent predicting a positive impact. However, 81 per cent feel that their school is prepared to deliver the new curriculum changes in September. The Key is an independent service which provides research on school leadership and management.


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Comedy, athletics and hugging pants: the London leg of the 2013 education conference, held in November, was an invigorating affair. Guests included Olympic sprinter Darren Campbell, comedian Dave Keeling and ‘How to be Brilliant’ speaker Andy Whittaker – who promised on Twitter beforehand that he would be “wearing his hugging pants”. OLYMPIC MEDALS AND A BIT OF PIZZAZZ Darren Campbell had an impressive effect on the gathered school leaders, wrote Susan Young, who blogged about the event throughout the day. “His message is one school leaders need to hear,” she wrote. “People try to take it away but you have to keep that love and passion for what you do.” His message seemed to have got through, too: the line of people waiting to talk to him afterwards – and see his medals – was quite something, wrote Susan (see photo, page six). Lisa Bedlow, the head of New Bridge Nursery in Reading, said afterwards: “I was crying at one point, when he was talking about changing his name to his mother’s because she was such a positive and amazing guide. “It was lovely that he was standing there telling us we’re doing a good job when he didn’t have an amazing school experience, but he looks back and sees what was actually good. And that he only missed three school days – when he was suspended.” BRILLIANT LEARNERS AND BRILLIANT LESSONS Jackie Beere’s session on growing outstanding learning and learners generated significant enthusiasm among delegates who attended it in Bradford, so Susan grabbed the chance to hear her speak about the characteristics of brilliant learners in London. Resilience, focus, curiosity and a willingness to make mistakes all featured on the list developed by the room. “The habits of the very best learners are the same as the habits of the very best teachers,” Jackie then pointed out. FUNNY HAHA There were some great pieces of advice disguised as oneliners in comedian Dave Keeling’s presentation, including: “If a mouth is open with laughter, pop in some food for thought… the brain doesn’t feel threatened.” He also asked the leaders attending the session what they want to get out of it. When one answered “a bit of a laugh” he said that so do most children. Andy Whittaker’s keynote speech was equally entertaining. “Everything comes with a manual except the thing that really needs it – you,” he told the audience, before asking what was stopping people from being their best. Answers from the crowd included Ofsted, stress, staffing issues and hormones, before one delegate got it right: yourself. “All those things will always have an impact, but you have to say ‘yourself’ otherwise you’re powerless,” he said. Read Susan’s conference blogs online at:



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Behind the headlines The OECD’s Programme for International Student Assessment (Pisa) is a triennial test to evaluate global education systems by testing 15-year-olds. It was first conducted in 2000; 510,000 students in took part in the most recent tests, conducted in 2012. The results are, naturally, used to create league tables, which are used by politicians and commentators to talk about what is or is not working in any given country. SHANGHAI (NO) SURPRISE Shanghai topped this year’s overall ranking (China is tested by region rather than as a whole), with Singapore and Hong Kong in second and third. The UK makes it into 21st position for science, 23rd for reading and 26th for maths; in the previous rankings it was 16th, 25th and 28th, respectively. Break the country into its constituent nations and things don’t look good for Wales: it is behind the rest of the country for the third time. Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s education adviser, wrote on his blog: “Only two per cent of American 15-year-olds and three per cent of European ones reach the highest level of maths performance in Pisa, demonstrating that they can conceptualise, generalise and use maths based on their investigations and apply their knowledge in novel contexts. In Shanghai it is more than 30 per cent. Educators in Shanghai have simply understood that the world economy will pay an ever-rising premium on excellence and no longer value people for what they know, but for what they can do with what they know.” Michael Gove described the UK’s performance as “at best stagnant, at worst declining”, and said his reforms were designed to prevent schools from falling further behind, reported the BBC. ‘HARD-WORKING STUDY MACHINES’ The tests are not connected to any specific school curriculum, according to the OECD. “The tests are designed to assess to what extent students at the end of compulsory education can apply their knowledge to real-life situations and be equipped for full participation in society,” it says. Students from randomly selected schools sit a two-hour test that mixes multiple-choice and open-ended questions, and answer a questionnaire about their backgrounds to provide context. And there is no cheating the system involved, despite Time magazine’s suggestion that China’s is effectively doing so by only entering data from regions where children tend to be better educated than in other parts of the country. This attitude is that of a sore loser, said Andreas Schleicher. “Whenever an American or European wins an Olympic gold medal, we cheer them as heroes,” he writes. “When a Chinese person does, the first reflex seems to be that they must have been doping.” So what is their secret? They spend their school career in an endless cycle of testing, writes Emma Vanbergen, the Shanghaibased study abroad director for BE Education. “The best students are not in fact super clever, great thinkers; they are simply extremely hard-working study machines who memorise and churn out answers for tests in minutes,” she writes in The Daily Telegraph. “They spend all their time on study, revision, homework, learning test techniques and taking practice papers.”



New links to learning While many parents are good at supporting their child through school, others need encouragement and help to get their child ready to learn. This is the group targeted by the latest leaflet from the NAHT and its charity partner for 2013/14, Family Action. The enclosed leaflet, Giving your child a helping hand, is the third in a series produced under the campaign banner ‘Ready to Learn Every Day’. It provides advice for parents on how best to help their child with schoolwork at home and in other areas of life too. The key message is that education should not stop when a child leaves school at half past three. The goal is to link children’s learning to family and other activities, to help them absorb skills and information both in and out of the classroom. The leaflet suggests a range of things parents can do, including visiting museums and libraries, making a model or collage with household items, looking at the stars and even ‘thinking and dreaming’. Another recommended activity is getting a child to help with household chores. Children who help with shopping, cooking and other jobs around the house will be more independent and more likely to succeed at school.

The Ready to Learn Every Day campaign aims to promote the vital role of parents in their children’s learning, as well as supporting teachers in their relationships with pupils and their families. Further information Family Action has been chosen as the NAHT’s charity partner for 2013/14. The two organisations are running a range of awareness and fundraising activities including a dress down day – Dressed Down and Ready to Learn. Five assembly plans to support the campaign are available from www.naht. and naht. For more information about the assemblies, leaflets or fundraising, contact Cath Cole on 020 7241 7638 or cath.cole@


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KS2 RESULTS NAHT general secretary Russell Hobby said it was good to see England’s primary schools improving, but warned: “The government should learn the lessons of the past and of successful countries: school performance is a judgement, not a statistic.”


More support for SBMs The NAHT is determined to make sure that it meets the needs of school business managers as well as its other members, said Nicky Gillhespy, who represents SBMs on the association’s executive committee. “The two biggest issues facing SBMs today are pay – which the NAHT is working on with ASCL – and SBM membership of schools forums,” she said. “We believe that SBMs could bring something very useful to schools forums. Schools are changing; we are now small businesses. And because there is less support and control from local authorities, schools are taking on more of the responsibilities directly.” In many cases it will be SBMs taking on those duties, she added. The newly formed SBM committee will also be working to raise the profile of the profession within school leadership circles. “The issues we deal with might not sound exciting, but if staff aren’t paid and bills aren’t dealt with and building work is not budgeted for, all sorts of things could go wrong for schools,” said Ms Gillhespy. “But with this added responsibility people can find that this is quite a lonely role, sometimes as isolating as being head teacher. The best solution is a senior leadership team that works together and respects one another… but it can also be good to be part of a network of other SBMs with whom you can share experiences.” She encouraged SBM members to get in touch with her or with their local SBM committee member to find out more.

Committee members: Sarah Bagshaw, St Bede CofE Primary School, Bolton, Graham Colclough, Burnwood Community Primary School, Stoke-on-Trent, Alan Doyle, Mount Primary School, Wallasey, Beyhan Ercan-Razvi, Town Farm Primary School, Staines, Nicky Gillhespy, Cheam Fields Primary School, Cheam, Eileen Anne Grant, Clapham Manor Primary School, London, Chris Harrison, NAHT past president, Suffolk County Council, Rachel Horobin, St Nicholas CofE Primary School, Blackpool, Yolanda Houston, St John’s Walworth Church of England Primary School, London, Peter Malcolm, Rayleigh Primary School, Essex, Lesley Osborne, Bradfields School, Chatham, Rose Wilcox, St Mark’s RC Primary School, Newcastle,



The 2014 NAHT annual conference will be held on 3-4 May at the ICC in Birmingham. The dates for next year’s education conferences, which have the theme ‘Enlightened leadership: lighting the fires’, have also been set. The first will be held in the North on 17 October, with the second in London on 14 November. NAHT regional roadshows will run in June. Watch this space for dates and locations.

NAHT expects to announce the findings of its Commission on Assessment this month. They will be published alongside a set of principles drawn from the commission, which was set up in response to the government’s plan to scrap the national levels system. The association also expects to make further announcements about the assessment and accountability work it is

doing with government. (See feature, page 26)

DO YOU KNOW A FUTURE LEADER? Applications have opened for the ninth Future Leaders programme, which will start this summer. The Future Leaders Trust is looking for 125 current or aspiring senior leaders (50 primary, 75 secondary) who are passionate about raising the attainment of children in challenging schools. See

DEMENTIA FOR SCHOOLS RESOURCE Schools are being urged to teach pupils more about dementia, which affects around 800,000 people in the UK, using the new Dementia for Schools resource. The materials were developed as part of an intergenerational project across 22 English schools. The project hopes that today’s young people will become a ‘dementiafriendly’ generation. See


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19/12/2013 11:31



Wilshaw under fire Ofsted should get its own house in order rather than criticising variability in schools because at the moment it is part of the problem, not the solution, said Russell Hobby, NAHT general secretary. His comments came as Sir Michael Wilshaw (pictured), the chief inspector, launched Ofsted’s annual report by saying that there were “unmistakable signs that England’s education system is gradually improving” but that serious challenges remain. Sir Michael said: “Children from similar backgrounds with similar abilities, but who happen to be born in different regions and attend different schools and colleges, can end up with widely different prospects because of the variable quality of education.” The report also raised

concerns about classroom behaviour; about 700,000 pupils attend schools where behaviour needs to improve, said Sir Michael. Mr Hobby said: “In terms of both standards and behaviour our schools are immeasurably better than they were 10 years ago. There is still variability in the system, but we see Ofsted as part of the problem rather than the solution – it is a cause of variability. The

increasingly short-term and punitive inspection regime is making it very difficult to work in the most challenging schools. People who bravely choose to work in these schools are subject to unpredictable criteria and constant monitoring. “Sir Michael Wilshaw’s policies are standing in the way of getting the most talented leaders into the most challenging schools.”

Curiosity ‘is key to science success’ Time, resources and a determination to maintain pupils’ curiosity are the best ways to raise standards in science teaching, according to a recent report by Ofsted. Maintaining curiosity: a survey into science education in schools, published in November to support the implementation of the new national curriculum, highlights the importance of teaching science for understanding. The report, which was based on visits to 91 primary and 89 secondary schools, found that teachers in the best schools made sure that pupils understood the ‘big ideas’ of science and that they mastered the practical skills needed to discover the relevance of those ideas for themselves. It also found that achievement was highest in schools where individual pupils were involved in planning, carrying out and evaluating investigations.

Music hubs should be leaders, not service providers All music education hubs must be bold when they implement the National Plan for Music Education, according to Music in schools: what hubs must do, a report published by Ofsted in November. Hubs should also grasp the opportunity to work with schools and other partners in order to lead improvement in schools ‘on a major scale’, says the report.


The hubs were established in 2012 in an effort to improve music education, and they have “often brought new energy, collaborative approaches


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and vitality to working musically with young people”, but their work to date has only reached a minority of pupils, according to the report. In 22 of the 31 schools visited during the research, the work done by the hub was little different to that provided by former local authority music services. The Ofsted report’s recommendations include

that hubs should promote themselves as leaders of music rather than just service providers; that they should have regular, challenging conversations with their schools about the quality of music education for all pupils in that school; and that they should promote and be an integral part of highquality curriculum progression in schools.


19/12/2013 11:31



Dealing with FOI requests The Freedom of Information Act 2000 (FOIA) has been causing serious headaches for some members recently, writes NAHT senior solicitor Simon Thomas. Here, he highlights some of the main points readers need to be aware of. The FOIA makes information held by public authorities (which includes maintained schools and academies) available to the public in two ways: • Public authorities (PAs) are required to have a publication scheme approved by the Information Commissioner (ICO) and to publish information under the scheme • Members of the public can request information from PAs The FOIA contains 26 sections dealing with exemptions. Here, I touch on three, about which we are asked regularly. Space permits only an outline and it is recommended you consult the ICO website ( for detailed guidance. PERSONAL DATA (INCLUDING STAFF SALARIES) Personal data is defined in the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) as information that relates to a living individual who can be identified.


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However, in deciding whether this exemption applies, PAs may need to undertake a sometimes complex and timeconsuming exercise in deciding whether disclosure to person X, of personal data relating to person Y, would infringe Y’s rights under the DPA. The FOIA and DPA can in some respects be pulling in opposite directions, with the FOIA promoting transparency and the DPA protecting individual privacy. Although there is no specific requirement to publish details of teachers’ salaries, the ICO has published guidance and model publication schemes for schools in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It states that schools should publish details of salaries of staff earning more than £60,000 in bands of £10,000.

Individuals can ask for their names to be withheld. The ICO guidance says: “Exceptional circumstances are needed to justify the disclosure of exact salaries when they are not routinely published. In such cases there may be additional public interest factors that outweigh any detriment to the individuals concerned. These could include situations where: • there are current controversies or credible allegations; • there is a lack of safeguards against corruption; • normal procedures have not been followed; • the individual in question is paid significantly more than the usual salary for their post; or • the individual or individuals concerned have significant control over setting their own or others’ salaries.” VEXATIOUS REQUESTS Normally, the motive of the person making an FOI request is irrelevant. However, this exemption will apply where compliance with a request would cause a “disproportionate or unjustified level of disruption, irritation or distress”. The PA may take into account the history and context of the request,

including the motives of the person making it. COSTS The PA does not have to comply with a request if the cost of compliance would exceed the “appropriate limit”, which for schools is £450, or 18 hours at £25 per hour. The £450 may include expenses such as printing, copying and postage, as well as staff time, but cannot include time spent deleting or redacting nondisclosable information from documents. Nor can it include time spent considering whether exemptions apply. The PA must send a fees notice to the applicant, setting out the fee. The PA does not have to comply with the request unless the fee is paid. If the PA estimates that it can comply within the £450 limit but then reaches that limit, it can stop and the exemption applies. In some circumstances, two or more requests can be aggregated for costs purposes if: • they are made by a person or persons acting in concert, who are part of a campaign; • they are for the same or similar information; or • they are received within a period of 60 working days. The Secretary of State’s E



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Withdrawal of job offer W Code of Practice says that if the PA estimates that the costs limit will be exceeded, it “should consider providing an indication of what, if any, information could be provided within the cost ceiling”. It adds: “The authority should also consider advising the applicant that by reforming or re-focusing

their request, information may be able to be supplied for a lower, or no, fee.” A PA can offer to comply with a request even it estimates that the cost of compliance would exceed the “appropriate limit” and charge for doing so, including staff time at £25 per hour.

Reform of anti-social behaviour powers School leaders recognise that bullying can take many forms (such as cyber-bullying, name-calling and physical abuse) and know that it is unacceptable and should not be tolerated. Bullying can affect anyone – children, young people or adults. Schools already encourage positive messages about good behaviour and respect for others through their behaviour and discipline policies. The aim is prevention. By law, all schools must have measures in place to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils both in the school and outside the school day. However, sometimes incidents occur despite this good practice and new measures are proposed to address this. Injunction to Prevent Nuisance and Annoyance (IPNA) The IPNA is designed to stop or prevent emerging behaviour before it becomes more serious or even criminal. Schools should continue to adopt the same approach that


they do now, but if their disciplinary framework has not worked in dealing with a bullying incident or series of incidents, they may refer the matter to the attention of the police or other agencies such as the local authority. This will allow for a range of more formal interventions to be considered, including whether to apply for an IPNA as a last resort to protect the victim. The injunction may provide a locally agreed intervention to protect victims from bullying in schools/colleges or in the community, or cyber-bullying. The positive requirement that could be included in the injunction might also require the perpetrator to attend bullying awareness training, or counselling and mentoring sessions provided by the voluntary and community sector. This provides a further option for school leaders to consider that will support and underpin their existing safeguarding practice to protect pupils and the school community as a whole.

A recent case, which was settled for £12,000 before trial, concerned a member who was offered and accepted employment as head teacher of a maintained school. He resigned his post when he was offered his new job. However, prior to taking up the new post there was adverse publicity about the Ofsted report at his old school, whereupon the prospective employer withdrew the job offer claiming that the employee had withheld relevant information during the recruitment process. However, while candidates must not give misleading or dishonest answers to questions, they are not required to volunteer information and it is for the employer to ensure that they ask the relevant questions. That is not to say there may not be occasions when it is prudent to offer information over and above what has been requested. The case was settled before trial for a sum based on the net salary the member would have earned had he taken up the employment less his earnings from alternative employment. The NAHT regularly contests such claims for members and the following points crop up regularly: • Once submitted, a resignation cannot normally be withdrawn without agreement of the employer. • For there to be a binding contract there must be offer (from the employer) and acceptance (by the employee). And the terms must be clear: it need not be in writing, but verbal agreements may be difficult to prove. • If the offer is ‘subject to satisfactory references’, it will not be open to the employee to argue that a reference is objectively speaking ‘satisfactory’ if the employer considers it to be unsatisfactory. • In assessing damages for breach of contract, the court will normally assume that if the employer had not breached the contract, they would have terminated the employment as soon as they could have done under the terms of the contract. That usually means one term. So, damages for breach of a contract that was to commence on 1 September would be the equivalent to net salary (plus pension loss) to 31 December. In one case, a member was offered a two-year fixed-term contract and, unusually, there was no provision in the contract for it to be terminated early. That case was settled before trial for £118,000. • The court would expect the employee to mitigate their loss. Any earnings from other employment during the period of loss will reduce the damages. And if the employee has failed to take reasonable steps to mitigate their loss, the court may reduce damages by however much the court judges the employee could have earned had they mitigated their loss.


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PARTNERS WE M E S S A G E F R O M A S C H O O L P A R T N E R Seminars offer advice on managing absence in a changing environment On 5 December, NAHT Assure and The Education Broker joined forces to deliver a seminar to members on ‘Managing absence in a changing school environment’. It was packed with useful information; for example, how to calculate your school’s financial deficit when planning for maternity leave absences. We will be taking these seminars to a wider audience during 2014, so look out for dates on our website. The Education Broker helps schools to quickly and efficiently source three different staff absence (which can include maternity) quotes, from three different insurers. You pay nothing for this service apart from the insurance premium if you choose to buy one of the three policies. ‘Best value’, as recommended in DfE guidance, is made easy for schools when comparing the three insurers’ quotes. By working with an independent specialist insurance consultant in the procurement process, your school will benefit from the clear information provided on each different insurer’s policy. Schools can then select the policy that best meets their needs. The agreement offers exclusive benefits to NAHT members (see for details). Terms and conditions apply. Visit and apply online quoting your NAHT membership number or call 0845 600 5762 to speak to an insurance consultant.

WE M E S S A G E F R O M A M E M B E R P A R T N E R CS healthcare focus: Cervical Cancer Prevention Week: 19-25 January Cervical cancer is a preventable disease, but it’s still the second most common cancer in women under 35. In fact, about 2,900 cases of the disease are diagnosed each year. A smear test can detect up to 80 per cent of cases yet, in 2010, a fifth of women in the UK invited to screenings did not attend. There is also a vaccine, which has been tested as safe, against the human papillomavirus (HPV), which causes the disease, and is offered to all girls aged 12 – 13. Neither strategy is perfect, however, so it’s important to look out for any unusual vaginal bleeding, which is a common symptom of the disease. If caught early, there’s a good chance that cervical cancer can be cured, so don’t delay if you are in any doubt. First two months’ cover FREE† As an NAHT member, you receive your first two months’ cover FREE† when you take out individual cover, simply quote promotional code 147. For more information or to obtain a quote visit or call 0800 433 4940‡. CS healthcare is a registered friendly society, authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority– reg no. 205346. The maximum joining age is 74 years and 11 months unless you are switching from a previous insurer in which case the maximum joining age is 69 years and 11 months. †Terms and conditions apply; full details are available on request. The offer may not be available for policies arranged through a Broker or for existing members of CS healthcare including those who cancel and rejoin. ‡Calls may be recorded and monitored for training purposes.


partner contacts The NAHT is committed to negotiating a wide range of high-quality, value-added benefits and services for its members. If you have any comments on the services provided by our affinity partners, contact John Randall, the NAHT’s commercial marketing manager, at

SERVICES FOR SCHOOLS ETEACH Online staff recruitment 0845 226 1906 Email: TEMPEST SCHOOL PHOTOGRAPHY 0800 328 1041 (quote ‘NAHT’) GL ASSESSMENT Pupil wellbeing assessment 0845 602 1937 GL PERFORMANCE Kirkland Rowell Surveys 0191 270 8270 THE EDUCATION BROKER Staff absence insurance 0845 600 5762

SERVICES FOR MEMBERS ROCK Travel insurance 0844 482 3390 AVIVA Home, contents and motor insurance 0800 046 6389 CS HEALTHCARE Private medical insurance 0800 917 4325 (use code 147) GRAYBROOK INSURANCE BROKERS Professional indemnity and public liability cover 01245 321 185 Email: MBNA Credit card services 0800 028 2440 SKIPTON FINANCIAL SERVICES Independent financial advice 0800 012 1248 Email:


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he education system seems to be developing an amoeba-like quality, so that, like RONA TUTT the Greek god Proteus, it has the ability to alter its shape at will. This is not so much about what goes on inside schools, but about the structure of the system itself. We have moved from a time when there were distinct divisions between different types of services, schools and THE EDUCATION SYSTEM IS staff, to a system in a state of flux. This brings both advantages and INCREASINGLY MALLEABLE – AND disadvantages. One of the difficulties WE MAY AS WELL GET USED TO IT is keeping an overview of what is actually happening across the education Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS), covering birth to five service. For instance, while every local authority (LA) and and these children may be in a school setting, nursery or chilevery school has always been different to some extent, now dren’s centre. And with the Raising of the Participation Age the variety of provision has increased dramatically. When the (RPA), young people will need to be in education or training academies programme first came in, some LAs accepted that until 17, going up to 18 by the summer of 2015. this was the way things were going to be, while others actively resisted the change. The free schools programme could be Changing routes seen as a cunning plan to loosen LAs’ grip, by making it harder Recently, there has been a hoo-ha about unqualified teachfor them to open new schools unless they are free schools. As ers. Yet independent schools have always been less concerned their empire started to shrink, many have hived off services about qualified teacher status than whether someone is a speand shed staff to balance the books. This has come at a time cialist in their subject. In any case, there are now several schoolwhen schools are being encouraged both to commission and based routes into teaching, meaning that in many schools there to provide services. This has led in turn to a different relais a mix of teachers with QTS and those learning on the job via tionship between schools and LAs, with some deciding it is to schemes such as Teaching Schools or School Direct. their mutual benefit to provide services between them. In all of these areas, it is unlikely that the pace of change will We used to know the difference between state-maintained slacken or go into reverse, whether or not there is a change and independent schools. Then academies arrived, which are of government. Already there are discussions about how long described as ‘publicly funded independent schools’. Similarly, schools are likely to exist in their present form, when children the pattern of primary and secondary schools (or first, middle and young people can access a vast store of knowledge at the and upper schools in some areas) is being challenged by an inswipe of a screen. However, there will continue to be more to creasing number of all-through schools. Meanwhile, Mr Gove education than technology. The personal touch and enthusiis wrestling with the question of what constitutes a school. asm that teachers can bring, combined with the opportunities This has arisen because of the wish to expand grammar school provided by technology, is an exciting prospect for all those provision in Kent. As new grammar schools are banned, but exwho are taking the lead in educating future generations. isting ones are allowed to increase in size, the idea is to expand into a town without a grammar school and create 1,200 places in an ‘annexe’. At the time of writing, he has yet to decide when Rona Tutt is a retired head an annexe becomes a school. teacher and a There is precious little staying the same, not even when past president of NAHT pupils start school and when they leave. Now there is the




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EE “I cannot conceive of any educational purpose served by 20,000 different systems of assessment”


elcome to 2014. A year when many of the govRUSSELL HOBBY ernment’s previously announced reforms come into effect – all at the same time (see page 33 for the key dates). We have spoken elsewhere of the overload in the autumn term and tried to persuade the government to phase in or prioritise some of the demands. Curriculum and CURRICULUM AND ASSESSMENT assessment will be – or should be – ARE VITAL – BUT DON’T FORGET of overwhelming importance. The CREATIVITY AND COLOUR curriculum demands and requirements are now available and should fect, but they were shared and understood. It is that shared be within reach of most schools; the key issue will be reclarity which must be preserved, not necessarily the reducmembering that the school curriculum is bigger than the tion of a child’s achievement to a single number. national curriculum, and not to forget the creativity and colIn my view, some of what characterised levels ought to our in the midst of compliance. remain. Assessment should be curriculum-driven (although Assessment is a different matter entirely, characterised it should also look at social and emotional development); it by confusion and fragmentation. In the government’s eyes, ought to contain concrete, qualitative statements of what is schools are essentially on their own when it comes to asexpected of children and these ought to be arranged in some sessment. Try as I might, I cannot conceive of any educasort of progression to chart a path of development (rather tional purpose served by 20,000 different systems of assessthan rank-ordering pupils). Whether this is all boiled down ment. Nor can we be confident that inspectors could grapple into a single number is a separate question; although in fairly with that diversity of data when evaluating schools. many ways rich, narrative descriptions would be far more We hardly need an even greater element of uncertainty and useful. I can imagine a bit of both. chance in inspection. The NAHT hopes to step into the gap, as we do in other areas where we see fragmentation causing damage. This is A long-term direction part of the way that a union of leaders demonstrates leadWe expect that the majority of schools will continue to use ership. Just because the government abandons something levels in the short term. This makes sense, but it cannot last. doesn’t mean we have to as well. And assessment is not the For a long-term direction, the NAHT has established its Comonly area where we’re picking up the pieces; hopefully you mission on Assessment (see page 26). It took evidence last will have seen that we have taken on the cancelled ‘Seizterm and we have had observers from the DfE, Ofqual and Ofing Success’ conference (now called ‘Inspiring Leadership’, sted to ensure this is not an isolated activity, as well as practialthough we toyed with ‘Grasping Greatness’ for a while). tioners from primary, secondary and special schools. Same place, same time: I encourage you to demonstrate the The commission aims to agree a set of design principles profession’s independence and self-reliance by registering to underpin a coherent system of assessment and to secure for a place – see page seven. their acceptance by those who hold schools accountable. With a sense of direction, it would be possible for schools to move forward from levels, keeping the good bits but abanRussell Hobby doning the less helpful elements; and creating systems that is NAHT general secretary align with those used in other schools. Levels were not per-




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BLOGS Do Gove’s policies reflect his concerns over inequality? Warwick Mansell Michael Gove’s recent speech to education reformers in Boston, Massachusetts, suggested a concern for social inequality that does not seem to be reflected in his own education reforms, writes Warwick Mansell. In the speech, “Mr Gove challenged his audience about the great injustice of inequality in both the UK and the US,” arguing that children who are unfortunate enough to grow up in poverty or without a strong family background or connections “find it increasingly difficult to benefit educationally”. Warwick writes: “The interesting thing was this notion that Mr Gove, usually seen as a hero of the Conservative right, might be portraying himself as a class warrior, anxious above all to combat declining social mobility and even daring to talk about the defining concern of those on the left: income inequality.”


But this aim is undermined by the impact of Mr Gove’s own policies, he says. “Consider school choice, for example. If a government had a genuine aim of promoting social justice and equality above all other goals, would complexity in types of school be a help or a hindrance to disadvantaged families?” he asks. “Faced with a fragmented, complicated system of conventional community state schools, faith schools, some selective grammar schools, academies and now free schools, who is most likely to be able to make the most of this complexity of choice: the middle-class, well-connected parent or one without those attributes? “Mr Gove’s stated goals may seem laudable. But it is hard to see how the policies he described in this speech, and the major school choice reforms which have been the centrepiece of his time in power… genuinely support those aims.” This reminds us, Warwick concludes, “to subject everything our education secretary says and does to close scrutiny.”

Susan Young’s verdict on Ofsted’s annual report is ‘could do better’. Sir Michael Wilshaw’s desire for the return of formal testing at seven and 14 “is effectively saying you can’t trust the results of the existing teacher-testing at key stage one” and implies that “the only way to improve the ‘pace’ of key stage three is to put a rocket up schools with formal exams.” She also slams the regional differences section. “Schools in Peterborough and surrounding areas are singled out for criticism: so why aren’t they doing well? What about remote coastal areas? A bit more analysis of the difficulties might help schools overcome them more easily.” Susan also highlights news of a cut in funding for 18-year-olds studying full time in schools, colleges and universities.

E -and-media/blogs/warwick-mansell


Ofsted’s annual report raises questions Susan Young

HAVE YOUR SAY Teach children to be charitable from an early age Dear editor, Each year our school selects a charity to support, usually one involving children. This year, our selected charity was Family Action, following an article I read in Leadership Focus. Being a cathedral choir school, we worship in the cathedral each Tuesday and the collection taken at each service goes towards our charity. In addition to this regular work, each house holds a cake sale throughout the year, there are home clothes days, a young enterprise day and collections taken at our musical concerts. Individual children will often do fundraising out of school on our behalf. I felt that Family Action was an extremely worthwhile cause, especially the work it does with young children who have an extra responsibility to their family through no fault of their own. Our children at King’s have been moved by many of the stories regarding the children whom Family Action helps, and are keen to raise our target sum of £5,000 for the charity by the end of this academic year. We need to teach children to be charitable at an early age, so as to grow up realising that charity work is vital and helps so many disadvantaged people. Roger Overend, head teacher, King’s Rochester Preparatory School • See Family Action leaflet enclosed with this issue and News, page 10


Making sense of a flurry of DfE documents Rona Tutt “A bit like waiting for buses, you wait a long time for the promised draft of the SEN Code of Practice and then four associated documents appear all on the same date,” writes Rona. These are: Draft SEN Code of Practice for 0-25 years – statutory guidance; Draft 2013 SEN regulations; The consultation on transition to education, health and care plans and the local offer – transitional arrangements; and Draft 0-25 SEN Code of Practice, draft regulations and transitional arrangements – consultation document. E


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The ‘life blood’ of the NAHT Branch and regional officials of the NAHT were applauded for their work at their annual conference in November. Leadership Focus reports EE “Officials are the lifeblood of the organisation, helping members in need and representing them in discussions with their employer” 22


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Russell Hobby: echoed John Killeen’s comments about the immense contribution that officials make to the NAHT

AROUND 100 DELEGATES gathered in Leeds at the end of November for the annual NAHT Branch Officials’ Conference. John Killeen, a member of the national executive and chair of its professional committee, welcomed attendees and praised their work. He said that officials were the lifeblood of the organisation, helping members in need and representing them in discussions with their employer. He said that their work was more important than ever, as the role of local authorities was fragmenting and traditional HR services, in particular, were disappearing. The day covered a wide range of topics, from recruitment to TUC affiliation.

Recruitment Clare Cochrane, NAHT director of commercial and member services, said that the closing months of 2013 saw some of the highest recruitment across all categories of members in living memory. She explained the various campaigns and incentives that were available for recruiting new members, encouraged branches and regions to focus on recruitment activity and outlined the support mechanisms that were available through NAHT headquarters. E


20/12/2013 11:29

LEADERSHIP COMPACT The Leadership Compact, which sets out NAHT’s aspirational views of mutual rights and responsibilities with employers, was discussed by Paul Whiteman, NAHT director of representation and advice. He said that the world of education is complex, fastmoving and highly controversial and, as such, NAHT members have a right to work in an environment that allows them to strive for the standards that they expect of themselves. NAHT’s Leadership Compact is designed to ensure both local authorities and academy chains commit to helping leaders succeed and is relevant to any representatives from government or Ofsted who enter schools. Paul believed that the code of practice for employers is a step towards providing the environment for success. He explained that every school leader has a right to work in an environment that enables them to perform at their best. He added that while no situation is perfect, an aspiration to improve continually is important and he outlined the principles below, which describe an attractive and effective place to work. They make up the code of practice for employers.

WE General secretary

Question and answer One of the highlights of the day was a wide-ranging question and answer session from Russell Hobby (pictured), general secretary of the NAHT, which focused on a recent update on political developments, in particular curriculum and assessment, pay and conditions, school meals and Ofsted

Respect – we treat leaders with the respect and courtesy due to dedicated public servants. Clarity – we agree explicit and achievable goals and targets. Backing – we publicly and wholeheartedly support our leaders in the sometimes difficult decisions they must make in improving their schools. Fairness – we create a level playing field, with similar support and expectations for similar schools. Transparency – we ensure that leaders are the first to know about important decisions and discussions concerning their work. Communication – we provide timely and accurate information and regularly consult leaders and their representatives. Development – we provide high-quality training and development. Autonomy – we recognise that school leadership is a skilled and accountable position and respect leaders’ judgement. Insight – we form a rounded picture of the performance of schools, getting to know them and their contexts beneath the raw data. Well-being – we recognise the demanding nature of school leadership and have confidential, qualified support for leaders facing personal and professional difficulties. Equality – we ensure leadership is a feasible and attractive job for everyone, regardless of their background. Focus – we keep bureaucracy to a minimum, limiting demands to those essential to raising standards. Paul explained that the Leadership Compact is a voluntary, profession-led perspective and does not and is not seeking to replace the various statutory and contractual arrangements. Its purpose is to foster strong and productive working relationships between school leaders and their employers.


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Facilities time

Magnus Gorham, head of democracy and governance at the NAHT, then spoke about facilities time and other trade union issues facing the NAHT. On facilities time, there were a number of strands of work that were currently taking place. He explained that the coalition government has continued to scrutinise and apply pressure to trade unions regarding the issue of facilities time. The pressure on the provision of facilities time has started to become more focused; the recent consultation into the facility time in education by the DfE is an example of the government’s systematic review of facilities time throughout the public sector. In addition, changes to the funding arrangements in local authorities have led to fragmented decision making at a local level. While many local authorities had continued to hold monies at a local authority level, some school forums had decided to delegate the money to each individual school and some had decided to make different decisions for primary and secondary schools. Magnus said that the picture was extremely mixed and this had consequences for the delivery of NAHT services locally and the vital support and advice that was able to be given by branch and regional officials. He also outlined some work that was being undertaken jointly by some colleague trade unions, including the NAHT, to provide advice and guidance to local representatives and urged delegates to work at a local level with colleagues from



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WE TUC affiliation in 2014? To further the dialogue between NAHT and the TUC following the historic decision to seek affiliation to the organisation from 2014, delegates welcomed Paul Nowak, assistant general secretary of the TUC. Paul talked about the evolution of the organisation and spoke to delegates about the part the NAHT can play within the TUC. Of particular interest to the delegates were the increased opportunities for lobbying parties across the political spectrum, the regional structure of the TUC and how that can be tapped into locally and the increased opportunities to access training and advice, especially for those taking on a formal ‘lay’ role.

other unions. Magnus also mentioned the recent consultation from the DfE on facilities time and gave delegates the key points from the NAHT’s response.

Thanks to all officials Delegates also enjoyed workshops on a new email system for branch and regional secretaries, which will enhance the communication channels between members, through the branch and regional network to headquarters. John Killeen closed the conference by reiterating his thanks to all branch and regional officials for all the hard work they had undertaken on behalf of members throughout 2013.


20/12/2013 11:29

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A challenging assignment Tony Draper and Mick Walker discuss the remit of the NAHT Commission on Assessment 26


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Thought-provoking: The commission will support schools in developing their assessment systems

LORD SUTHERLAND Former HMCI and chair of the Commission on Assessment

THE CHALLENGES POSED by the government’s considerable changes to the curriculum and assessment system, together with the timescales involved, cannot be overestimated. The obsession with rushing in the new curriculum, together with a fundamental shift in the assessment process from September 2014, introduces significant risk to the education of children. While the current system has evolved into a useful method of demonstrating pupil progress, the NAHT recognises that the removal of levels is an opportunity to explore the creation of a richer assessment process. However, by not considering fully the impact of these changes and by not producing an alternative system that replaces levels, the government has done nothing to enable schools to deal with the changes. Furthermore, issues surrounding the development of a ‘common language’ for schools’ individual assessment frameworks, and the need for these frameworks to be understood by – and meet the requirements of – Ofsted, have not been clarified. To examine some of these issues, the NAHT established the Commission on Assessment. It has been looking at ways to support schools as they develop their assessment systems from September 2014 and more broadly at the purpose and structure of assessment in schools. Lord Sutherland of Houndwood, former HMCI, kindly agreed to chair the commission, whose members are drawn from a cross-section of informed educators from the NAHT

EE “We must help teachers with the need to assess pupils’ progress, and explore broader questions of the purposes and processes of assessment”

and more widely to provide an independent view on the challenges and possibilities ahead. Observers are also present from the Department for Education, Ofqual and Ofsted (see page 29 for full list of members). At the launch of the commission, Lord Sutherland said: “We have a dual task ahead of us. First, to provide what help we can to teachers who are confronted with the immediate and continuing need to assess pupils’ progress, and second, to take this opportunity to make an initial exploration of the broader questions of the purposes and processes of assessment.” The commission issued a call for evidence in September, which was based around the framework presented overleaf. It also asked for examples of good practice in assessment. To date, the commission has received a range of written and oral evidence from teachers, school leaders and prominent figures in education and educational publishing as it seeks to establish new methods of measuring pupil progress. It held its first meeting in late October and continued to meet regularly through E


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ASSESSMENT COMMISSION WE Commission framework  What are the purposes of assessment?  Who benefits from assessment?  What are the elements of good assessment

practice?  Is a universal system of assessment necessary

to measure pupil progress and attainment?  What aspects of learning should be assessed

and how?  What forms of assessment are appropriate for

use at the following ages? 0-4 years (early years) 5-7 years (key stage one) 7-11 years (key stage two) 11-14 years (key stage three) 14-16 years (key stage four)  What should be the outcomes, learning, teaching

and/or reporting of an effective assessment system?  What quality assurance mechanisms are needed

to ensure the robustness and reliability of assessment?  What role should assessment play in the

accountability system, including formal inspection of schools?  What other areas of assessment should be

considered by the commission?

W November and December, with further dates in January. Many of the complex issues surrounding assessment and accountability in its current form have clearly emerged through the written and presented evidence. Prominent among these are the tensions between wider accountability and in-school or local assessment. The high stakes and unforgiving nature of national curriculum test outcomes are never far from the surface. The government has made it clear that teachers will need to track pupils’ progress against the new programmes of study that set out what pupils should be taught by the end of each key stage. This means that the government will not prescribe a single system for ongoing assessment and that schools will be able to introduce their own approaches to formative assessment. However, schools will be required to build their assessment frameworks into the curriculum to check progress and whether pupils are on track to meet the end of key stage expectations and report to parents. Looking at assessment across the whole range of school-



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ing, questions arise frequently over how schools will share a common language for assessment when children move from school to school, or to different parts of the country. From the outset there has been a will to support schools in working a way through this to ensure there are not 16,000 different assessment systems, each with its own subtle nuances. The commission is in conversation with the DfE, Ofqual and Ofsted and through these conversations it is hoped they may be able to produce common plans for the future. It is not the commission’s place to design a national system to replace the current regime, but it does aim to provide support and guidance to schools to help them to introduce or develop appropriate assessment frameworks that are aligned with their curriculum. Ofsted will have a significant part to play because it will need to understand the system of assessment a school uses. Situations must be avoided whereby inspectors penalise schools because they do not understand the school’s framework. In many ways the government has made this as difficult for Ofsted as it has for schools. The DfE has stated that it is continuing to work with the NAHT to support schools in the development and implementation of this new approach. However, it has only recently


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MEMBERS OF THE NAHT COMMISSION ON ASSESSMENT Lord Sutherland of Houndwood (chair) Lord Sutherland has an extensive and distinguished background in education and was the first HMCI when appointed in 1992. Tony Draper Head teacher at Water Hall Primary School, Milton Keynes, and chair, NAHT Assessment and Accountability Group. Leora Cruddas Director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL). John Dunford National Pupil Premium Champion and chair of Whole Education, the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors and the charity Worldwide Volunteering. Former general secretary of ASCL. Dr Hilary Emery Chief executive of the National Children’s Bureau, former dean of education and psychology at the University of Worcester and adviser to the DfE and the Training and Development Agency for Schools, managing the successful implementation of extended services through schools and local authorities across England. Sam Freedman Ex-adviser to Michael Gove at the DfE. Now director of research, evaluation and impact at Teach First. Russell Hobby General secretary, NAHT.

EE “It is not the commission’s place to design a national system, but it aims to help schools develop appropriate assessment frameworks” come to light that the DfE has set up an expert panel on assessment to look at ways of supporting schools through advice and case studies. It would surely have made more sense for a link to be developed between it and the commission at the outset. At the time of writing in December, the task facing the commission remains huge. However, a first draft of the report is under way and members will be kept informed of the outcomes in due course. Current forecasts are for the commission to report in the New Year.

Bernadette Hunter Head teacher at William Shrewsbury Primary School, Staffordshire, and NAHT president. Stephen Kirkpatrick Deputy head teacher at Willow Tree Primary School, Salford. Tim Sherriff Head teacher, Westfield Community School, Wigan, and member of the Bew Review. Kerry Sternstein Deputy head teacher at Shaftesbury High School, a special school in Harrow. Gordon Stobart Emeritus professor of education at the Institute of Education, University of London. NAHT staff Kathryn James Alex Rowley Supported by Mick Walker, former executive director of education, QCDA. Observers Ofqual, Ofsted and the DfE.


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A job with strings attached The pressures on school leaders are increasing. James Hilton wishes he’d been more prepared for the toll on his health – and that he’d called the NAHT WORK-RELATED STRESS has become a very significant issue in recent times with 10.4 million working days lost to stress in the UK every year. Teaching is no exception to this; regularly featuring near the top of polls of the most stressful professions. Many of us have been affected by the issue (either personally or indirectly) and yet we often find it difficult to talk about. I was an experienced head teacher in my second headship; an exceptionally large and still rapidly-growing primary school in the midlands. With all the associated issues of rising staff and pupil numbers and the increasing quantity of parents expecting to see me personally, I found it challenging. Additionally, we had on-going construction and established routines constantly in need of review to reflect revisions in management structures or the expanding physical layout of the site. I was supported by some very talented senior leaders and a caring governing body, but I began to find it difficult to keep all the plates spinning. I loved my school but was struggling to be everywhere at once and make any impact on my to-do list. By this stage, we had five playgrounds, 21 classes and almost 100 staff. I felt I was constantly fire-fighting, trying to be everywhere and trying to be there for everyone. I really wanted to be there for them. I cared greatly. It would have been easier if I hadn’t. Sleepless nights worrying about the budget took their toll and I seemed to be constantly plugging holes in the dam of staffing, caused by promotions, planned and unplanned absence. Close colleagues, family and friends could see, better than I, that I was struggling and worked hard to ensure that I only had to deal with the things I really needed to be dealing with. During the Autumn of 2006, matters seemed to intensify. I had



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stopped going to heads’ meetings. I did not feel able to open up to other colleagues. I had a wonderful school. I felt that I should have been able to cope. Besides, I always came back from the meetings with an even longer to-do list, feeling even more inadequate. With the benefit of hindsight, retreating into myself was a mistake and my sense of isolation only made me feel worse. I also wish I had contacted my NAHT regional officer, given the headquarters advice line a ring, or explored the range of support that the union has on offer (see page 32). My physical health was deteriorating. Migraines were becoming a frequent occurrence. I was forgetful and I had developed a stammer that I found embarrassing in difficult meetings with parents. Those were the meetings I dreaded. I suffered panic attacks some days and sat in lay-bys on the way to work, trying to muster the courage to go to school. Things had crept up on me and I don’t think I realised how ill I had become. At the end of the following January, things came to a head. My back went into uncontrollable spasms and I could not move from my lounge floor for over a week. It was as if my body had shut down. My GP prescribed medication to help me sleep and stabilise my emotions but I had left it very late to seek help. Although he prescribed a course of cognitive behavioural therapy to aid my recovery I was too ill to embark on it for a further six weeks. The therapy was actually very helpful and gave some structure to the weeks off work. I took up watercolours to pass the time and this was therapeutic but I would only paint from photographs. I would rarely venture out of the house due to the E


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WORKPLACE STRESS WE Let the NAHT take the strain

James Hilton (pictured) left headship in 2013 to work as a speaker and trainer, delivering keynote speeches and workshops on the themes of leadership and personal development. He now works with a wide variety of clients including schools, universities, businesses, NHS and local government as well as spreading messages of positivity as part of Andy Cope’s ‘Art of Brilliance’. Contact him at

The experience of James Hilton is sadly all too common among school leaders, writes Paul Whiteman, NAHT director of representation and advice. As a result, many outstanding educationalists leave the profession, others become very ill and are never able to return again. Many others find themselves in difficulty with employers less supportive than the board of governors in the circumstances outlined by James. School leaders serve pupils much better if they take responsibility for their own welfare as well as the welfare of everyone else. However, in the high pressure environment of modern education, looking after yourself is often hard to do. James’ experience is a demonstration of what can happen if you do not call for help and the positive impact of the right help when it comes. The NAHT can be of assistance. First, most of the support leaders need can be found within their local branch. Union meetings are as much about building supportive and helpful networks of colleagues as they are about formal pay and conditions matters. They also provide a way of letting off steam in a safe environment. For practical advice on professional matters, members can call for assistance from the specialist advice team base at headquarters. Often, members just need to check their thinking out to give them the confidence to take a decision forward. Or, if you are feeling personally vulnerable for some reason, the team will provide you with advice about your rights as well as practical guidance. If you are unfortunate enough to find yourself in personal difficulty, the NAHT can support you via your local branch or through the team of regional officers based around the country. The specialist advice team, branch network and regional officers are not able to provide formal counselling; however the NAHT provides a counselling and support service in partnership with the Teacher Support Network. Don’t be scared to ask for help. The NAHT cannot take your problems away but we can help you solve them.

W irrational fear of being seen. When I did go out, I would wear a hat and would not shop anywhere within a 15-mile radius of school. It took three months before I started to believe I would ever NAHT advice line 0300 30 30 333 return to work and a further NAHT counselling and support line 0800 917 4055 two before I felt able to begin a phased return. The governors put arrangements in place to allow me to share the running of the school with my assistant head for a a number of national strategies. Such things might initially seem like yet more work but they enable you to raise your time, and without that support I truly do not think I would have head above your own furrow and see the wider educational made a successful return. landscape helping with a sense of perspective. I did though, more self-aware than before and with some • To maintain a focus on the positive, keep a diary and write strategies to help. I am not going to pretend to you that all the down three positive things, however small, that have hapissues went away but I am proud of the fact that I was able to continue to do the job I loved, in a community I cared about. pened each day. It helped me re-focus when things were tough. What follows are my tips based on the strategies I developed • In those difficult meetings with parents making a complaint, try to help me on my eventual return: to depersonalise the issue. It is very rarely about you personally. • Vary your route to and from work. It can help control your anxiety I tried to unpick what feelings and emotions might underpin a complaint before a meeting started. and reduce the sense of getting back on the same rollercoaster. • Find a trusted friend outside your immediate professional • Keep a ‘to-do list’; I also kept a list of the unplanned things, circle and talk to them, honestly. It helped me to maintain for example, meeting with parents. It was re-assuring to see some objectivity. at the end of the day that I had achieved a lot even if it some • Be aware of the fact that persistent physical illness can be a of it was unscheduled. warning of stress. If in doubt see your doctor. • Try to maintain an outside interest or hobby. I gave up amaAt a time of unprecedented pressure and reduced access to teur dramatics because of the number of evening meetings. professional welfare support, formal and informal networks of I came to regret it as it provided a welcome distraction from head teachers have never been more important. Above all we the professional issues I became increasingly focused upon. must remember that head teachers have a duty of care not only • Try to find a professional outlet for your expertise, for example, volunteer to co-ordinate your local cluster heads meetings. for their students, colleagues and community but for themselves I spent time working with the National College developing but also to one another.



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The secret work of the NAHT

EE “It’s tough that our stream of small successes happen behind the scenes and occur before anything gets into the public domain” 34


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A small team works behind the scenes at the NAHT to mitigate the worst excesses of the DfE’s policies and ensure that head teachers’ voices are heard. Susan Young reports

WE Let the NAHT take the strain:

How to get the crucial information and (safely) ignore the rest On the NAHT website  Ensure you are signed up to receive ‘Leadership

Links’ on the e-news/subscriptions section of ‘My NAHT’ on the NAHT website, which gives you the latest news, advice and developments  Sign up for alerts on subjects that interest you so

you’ll automatically receive important updates  Visit the website regularly to see what’s new  Look out for briefing sheets, model policies,

campaign toolkits and more on the site Other  Read Leadership Focus each issue  Keep on top of information from your branch  Attend NAHT conferences and events – officials

often speak at them

THE NEXT TIME a government announcement makes your blood boil and you wonder why on earth it never listens to the profession, remember this: it’s very likely that NAHT officials have been lobbying on it for weeks, and either the proposal is much improved on the original, or it’s being made to sound a lot more hardline than it actually is. “One of the things that’s tough is that our stream of small successes happen behind the scenes and occur before anything gets into the public domain,” says Lesley Gannon, NAHT’s

head of research and policy development. “Civil servants and government spokespeople bring ideas to us – things they want to do or are considering. They want to get a briefing or hear our opinion and there will then be a shaping period. It still might not be very popular, but it will have moved on a long way – although we can never talk about it openly because it happens as part of an informal consultation process.” She adds: “One of our greatest frustrations is when we have worked really hard to try to make something much more workable and practical – because you can see the extent of the effect it’s going to have – and then they release it through a political filter with a message that makes it less acceptable to school leaders. Sometimes when we get the press release they have made it sound tough on schools, but it’s actually a lot less tough because of the work we have done.” This quiet lobbying, led by Lesley’s team, underpins the work of the NAHT. The association is constantly gathering information on issues as diverse as SEND provision, asbestos in school buildings (see panel overleaf ), assessment, inspection – anything, in fact, that affects school leaders and children – and evaluating whether isolated problems are turning into trends. It informs decision-making by government and other official bodies and teams up with other organisations to campaign and share information. Members are at the heart of everything the association does, as it works to ensure the voices of school leaders and business managers are heard by decision-makers. The NAHT filters information aimed at school leaders, cutting it down to essential E


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POLICY AND RESEARCH WE NAHT campaigning: Asbestos in schools Any school built or refurbished before 2000 may potentially contain asbestos and that’s the subject of the latest advice briefing for NAHT members. The carcinogenicity of asbestos fibres makes the presence of this mineral – once common in building materials – a real issue for many schools and it is one on which the union is campaigning strongly, usually as part of the Joint Union Asbestos Committee (JUAC), an umbrella group of school trade unions. It also works with the Asbestos in Schools parliamentary group. Policy adviser Valentine Mulholland says: “We know members are worried about this – we’ve had 1,200 replies to a recent survey. We wanted to understand how they manage asbestos and whether they are confident they are doing the right thing. It showed a high level of confusion. “We’re using the survey to inform our lobbying of government, which is currently reviewing its policy on asbestos in schools, though we don’t have great hopes of them. That’s why we wanted to look at providing more information and, potentially, training for members.” Around 70 per cent of UK schools contain asbestos and DfE policy and Health and Safety Executive advice is that its presence should be managed. Schools must carry out surveys to establish where it is located and its condition and keep a register ensuring it is not disturbed inadvertently. However, JUAC is concerned that these

W issues so they can get on with running their school. The six-strong policy and research team gathers information from a range of sources, including reports from regional and branch officers, phone calls and emails from members or via the advice line. There are also updates from parliament, reports from organisations connected with children and education, contacts in the DfE and Ofsted, plus questions from journalists which act as tip-offs. “People always assume there are lots more of us,” says Lesley. When a new issue emerges, the team starts to investigate. “We look at statistics and data sets to get a national picture, investigate any trend and try to get a mix of hard factual databased research, academics’ knowledge, best practice and practical applications. We establish what issues look like nationally and regionally, ask practical questions and, on a really hot topic, send out a survey.” Recent issues from members’ feedback include problems with school places and recruitment to teacher training in some areas. “Schools Direct wasn’t quite going as well as it was being presented; there were some practical issues there,” says Lesley. Ofsted and forced academisation, and, currently, the way some local authorities (LAs) are responding to the new area inspections are also high on the agenda. “We’re starting to see more knee-jerk responses to demonstrate that they are being tough on schools, whereas in the past the approach might have been more to work together and some of that is starting to break down.” Another LA-related problem is the withdrawal of support services, where increasing numbers of schools can no longer get support with issues such as pay and appraisals, dealing with the new curriculum or managing asbestos.



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requirements are inadequate and not being followed properly. The government carries out annual asbestos surveys in academies, says Valentine, but in maintained schools the local authority (LA) is officially responsible, although there is an important role for the head teacher. “Schools are floundering a bit. It isn’t clear that anyone is checking the asbestos surveys properly,” says Valentine. The government’s Advisory Committee on Carcinogenicity concluded that children were more vulnerable to asbestos exposure because the lung cancer it causes takes up to 40 years to develop and so has more impact on a child’s life expectancy. The Education Select Committee, after its own investigation, recommended the government should carry out a review of its approach to asbestos. JUAC believes government policy is flawed. Valentine says: “It’s not enough to focus on removing the worst asbestos in schools, we should be seeking recommendations on acceptable levels. Levels are the same in school as in workplaces and we are arguing that because of children’s vulnerability they should accept that this should be reviewed. “We are also saying there should be checks on schools to ensure asbestos is being managed properly, with mandatory training of head teachers and also possibly school governors.” While the government did create a

Asbestos in schools is an important issue for the NAHT, affecting the majority of schools to one degree or another, and one on which the union is campaigning vigorously (see above). All this information is used to inform union business, lobbying and campaigning. It may be presented to a specialist executive committee, which may recommend that the national executive takes action. It is used for lobbying and discussion purposes by Lesley’s staff and also by Russell Hobby and Kathryn James in the general secretary’s unit. They may also ask for research on how many members might be affected by particular issues, and seek specific examples of schools. “The lobbying happens at different levels: Russell and Kathryn do high-level meetings and have regular contact at ministerial and senior levels in the DfE and Ofsted. We work at the next tier with named officials within the department, exam


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mandatory online training course, she says it is “very basic”. The group is also lobbying the HSE for updated guidance. JUAC has recently campaigned on two related issues: heaters and gas masks. At Cwmcarn High School in Caerphilly, asbestos came loose and was blown out by cabinet heaters, leading to the school being closed for more than a year. The government was asked to issue a warning about checking heaters but refused, says Valentine. However, it has issued a warning about handling second world war gas masks, many of which contain loose fibres. “Asbestos is an issue which 20 years from now we will be saying we should have taken more seriously. We don’t want to be thinking it was a missed opportunity.” • Check for the latest advice to members on asbestos.

High maintenance: Asbestos needs to be managed properly

boards and regulators, talking day-to-day business, producing consultation responses and so on,” she says. Where a new policy is proposed, the NAHT will explore it with officials. “Free school meals are a wonderful idea – who wouldn’t want to give nutritious meals to children in their first year of school? But there are practicalities,” says Lesley. “Have the schools got a kitchen, or a hall to eat the meals in? Are new buildings needed? How can our members deal with this?” Increasingly, the NAHT is creating its own practical responses to problems, such as Instead, where its members review other schools, and the Commission on Assessment. “We are working in a constructive way and take these ideas to Ofsted and government to show them something successful. It’s not as straightforward as saying ‘we think you should change accountability systems’ and the government saying ‘tell us what you want and we will do it’.

Nicky Gillhespy is one of the NAHT’s growing number of school business manager members, whom she represents on the national executive. She gets to see all stages of the union’s advice and lobbying system, from a member’s first contact through to useful information arriving in schools. “It’s amazing that somebody rings in for a little bit of support or legal advice on an issue and that can lead to us trying to help everybody. It means that anybody, whether a school leader or someone like myself who’s passionate about my job, can come together and work for the best education for our children and the best working environment for all of our staff. “If you’re a member in a branch, you might take your concern to a local meeting, which will feed into the region and so to the national executive where it might become a campaign or a policy, and become something the advice staff can take calls on. “There are so many issues affecting our members, and asbestos, for example, affects almost everybody. Every person in the school – whether staff or children – is the responsibility of the head teacher, and the NAHT does a vital job in getting the message out and sharing information with everybody.”

Instead, we say ‘here are some tried and tested examples – they work better than the current system’.” The NAHT works closely with other groups on issues where a united voice brings more influence. The assessment campaign and the Children and Families Bill are recent examples. “Wherever possible we try to find other people thinking the same way as us,” she says. “There have been massive changes around special education and disability. A coalition of different organisations, including the NAHT, children’s organisations, disability rights groups and education charities, are working together to respond.” The expertise of serving school leaders is also in demand, with heads often enlisted to take part in discussions with think tanks and charities. The team is also exploring other ways of getting members’ voices heard more directly: for example, through encouraging people to respond to consultations. “What our members care about is making schools as good as they can possibly be,” says Lesley. “We make sure policy works in a school setting, helping children and helping members. It’s about listening to what members want, using their expertise and doing the policy work because they are busy running schools and can’t do this themselves. But the idea of making sure their voices are heard at the highest levels is something we are absolutely committed to.”


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From little acorns… Experiential learning is being reinvented at Boston West Primary in Lincolnshire, with mud pies and bushcraft on the curriculum. Carly Chynoweth dons her wellies to find out more

Wild things: Outdoor learning is used to teach a range of subjects at Boston West

IT WAS SEEING pupils on Monday mornings that got Mike Schofield thinking when he was first appointed head teacher of Boston West Primary School in Lincolnshire in 2000. “The kids would come up to me in the playground and tell me what their mates from other schools had said when they were at football, karate or some other weekend activity. They would say ‘your school is crap’. That really got me boiled up inside. I wanted to show these kids that they weren’t crap, that we valued them and they had many qualities – and that the school would get better.” Mike needed to find a way to help pupils to feel proud of themselves and their achievements. “I thought, ‘I wonder if we can convince a few kids to work towards the Eco Flag’, because winning a national award would give them, and the school community, a way to show that they had done something well and be something to feel good about.” The school’s newly formed Eco Club secured that award – it

EE “Parents are anxious about the world. Their perception is that it is not a safe place to allow children the freedom to explore” 38


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has earned five more since – and set it on its way to becoming a haven of outdoor learning. The school’s grounds have been transformed thanks to suggestions from pupils and assistance from local organisations: it has a bird-box with a webcam in it, interactive musical sculptures, a vegetable garden and a small orchard. It offers bushcraft and other forest school activities, but Mike and his team work hard to make sure that outdoor learning is part of every subject at the now over-subscribed school. Ofsted’s two most recent reports have praised it for

setting high standards and for pupils’ outstanding behaviour and attitudes. When Mike joined the school, the picture was very different. It was in special measures, albeit improving according to the agenda of the day, which meant it had lots of policies and schemes of work but lacked a holistic view of the children’s wellbeing and development. Mike got rid of as much of the bureaucracy as he could – “it’s about good quality teaching and learning, not about having pieces of paper that say what you E


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OUTDOOR LEARNING WE AHOEC: The benefits of outdoor learning Dave Harvey, national chair of the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres (AHOEC), works with trainee teachers and NQTs to help them understand how outdoor learning can be incorporated into their practice. “We are going to offer NQTs a training day looking at the new curriculum and the opportunities in it for outdoor learning,” he says. “There is a need for people to have a wider understanding of the benefits of outdoor learning as well as the resources to do it.” The national curriculum contains plenty of possibilities for incorporating outdoor learning but it does not mention it specifically apart from in relation to physical education at key stages two and three. “So there are opportunities, but you have to find them yourself,” he says. Dave also suggests that schools integrate all their outdoor learning so that everything from day-to-day activities through to residential visits works together. “I am pushing to make sure that all these things link up so that there is a coherent approach not just in school but when they go further afield, rather than [residential activities] being isolated,” he says. “Visits to AHOEC centres can contribute to raising attainment and developing relationships between children and between children and teachers, which will have a big impact back in school. That effect will be even greater with an integrated approach.” Dave goes in to schools to help them think about this as well as about how to overcome some of the barriers to making the most of outdoor learning. “People still have issues with cost, with perceptions of health and safety. That is why you need a school-wide approach rather than doing things ad hoc. You need to support teachers so that they have the training to do things outside and to share their experience afterwards.” See

W are doing” – and started moving towards a more child-centred, experiential approach to learning. “It’s not sitting in front of a screen that makes children buzz. They like doing things. These pieces of wonderful technology have their place, but they are just teaching aids; I have seen them used well and used badly.” The school itself, which is part of the CfBT group of academies, is not in a particularly rural area. “Part of the theory behind this is that children are often being brought up in a hard-built, uncared-for environment,” says Mike. “If there are green spaces, say a park, they are probably not very inspiring. On estates there will usually be a playground but our pupils may not go to it because there are bigger kids doing things.” The parental fear that their children will be abducted or otherwise hurt if they are allowed to play outside is also a factor, he added. “Parents are anxious about the world. Their perception is that it is not a safe place to allow children the freedom to explore a woodland, dam a stream or look for frogspawn in a pond, but these are all things that were a normal part of childhood a few decades ago.” Mike, who grew up in Rotherham in the 1960s, has clear memories of his mother sending him off for the day with a sandwich and instructions to be back before dark. The upshot is that children spend a lot of time indoors learning about the world through television and the internet rather than by going out and finding things out for themselves. And it’s not just children who have succumbed to the pleasures of the screen: it is not unusual to see teachers teach volume by showing children a video of water being poured between cylinders, whereas in years past children would have had the chance to get damp while trying it for themselves. Mike and his team have turned that around. The process started with the Eco Club and the school’s first Eco School Green Flag award and took off from there. “Every square centimetre of the school grounds has been developed to promote direct


engagement with the natural environment,” he says. There is a vegetable garden, planted with assistance from a local nursery and the area’s allotment society; a ‘trim trail’ to promote physical activity; a bird hide; a garden of reflection, which has proved to be a wonderful area to take children who have “had a bit of a wobble” and need time to calm down; and sculptures including a phoenix and a wooden dragon, commissioned at the children’s request. Schools don’t need fancy outdoor spaces to get children learning outside, says Mike. “The school I inherited was quite barren. We had patches of grey playground, but we were lucky because we also had a small hill with some trees on it.” Reshaping this space into the current beautiful, interest-rich grounds took time and effort but was absolutely worth it, he says.


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Mike is also working to embed outdoor learning in the school’s culture. “We are building a framework to make sure that it is not hit and miss, so that there is a plan.” Part of this is making sure that younger generations of teachers, brought up on screens and interactive whiteboards, grasp the importance of thinking “we don’t have to do this indoors”, he says. “My long-term worry is that when the people of my generation drop off the end, the ones who are in the system now have only known the past two decades or so of the national curriculum as a rigid, inflexible thing.” Boston West is doing its bit to create and develop the next generation of outdoor educators through training programmes run at its new Hive facility. This ‘Centre for Learning Beyond the Classroom’ was completed last September and provides a base for children’s outdoor learning experiences and also acts as a teacher training/small conference venue. “We’ve run two outdoor learning sessions for other schools and the feedback has been phenomenal,” he says. “People use words like ‘inspiring’ and ‘brilliant’.” But the main point is not simply that schools need more outdoor specialists, but that they need all teachers to think differently about the outdoors. “When people come on our courses they see children who are engaged in their normal lessons, but outside.” Mike doesn’t simply want to create outdoor specialists; he wants all teachers to think in an open way about how they can incorporate outdoor activities into their lessons. At Boston West, pupils learning about Vikings have undertaken archaeological digs to uncover historical artefacts from the sandpit (actually bits of broken crockery from a charity shop), ‘cooked’ Viking banquets in the mud factory and built a boat out of wicker. Mike confides: “It did not look fantastically like a Viking longship, but it was one to them.” Maths is an easy one to take outside – trees and buildings are both great for measuring – while music is taught with the aid of xylophone-like statues and outdoor drums. Science is another obvious outdoors win (children love observing the fungi growing on an upturned tree stump, for example) while the storytelling possibilities offered by the natural world are a good fit with literacy: children could build a tiny twig fort to protect figurines, then tell the story of who or what is trying to attack them, for example. And Mike recently spotted children learning phonics by running a relay race in the playground. “They had a tray of words and they had to run to pick up a card with the sound on it that the teacher was reinforcing,” he says. Then there are specific outdoor skills such as building a shelter, cooking food over a fire and whittling wood. Perhaps surprisingly, parents have not been worried about their children using knives, says Mike. “We have been using knives for three years. It is done in controlled small groups. Foundation stage students start with a potato peeler and we work up to using a proper three- or four-inch bushcraft knife from an outdoors shop, not an educational supplier.”

WE The great outdoors

Time to take it outside? Mike Schofield (pictured) has tips for head teachers who are new to the outdoor life:


You don’t need green playing fields to use the outdoors. “You can use your playground and the outside of buildings for things like finding right angles. You can also bring in the natural environment by building raised planters, for example.”

Get your teachers and governors behind you. “This not just another initiative and it must not be seen that way. It’s an approach to teaching and learning.”


Children will be your strongest advocates. “Get them involved through classes, an eco club, the school council – they will love it.”

3⁄ 4⁄ 

Keep parents informed. “If you are going to go out and get muddy it will hack parents off if you have not said anything and their children come home with muddy shoes.”

Take a common sense approach to risk. “Some staff will be paranoid about taking pupils outside but the risk is no greater than having playtime on a hard surface surrounded by the corners of brick buildings.”


Take small steps and keep at it. “Don’t try to do everything at once. Start with one project, such as building a planter, or one topic. Let your teachers build on their natural interests and creativity. As it expands, encourage your teachers to share their successes.”


Ofsted has given outdoors learning a positive mention in the school’s reports and Mike is confident that it enhances pupils’ engagement with learning. He is now working with CfBT to develop a research project that would be able to link performance and outdoor learning in a more scientific way. But there is a much simpler way to test the success of the school’s approach. “You need to come to the school and look at the kids’ faces,” says Mike. “That’s how you measure it.” @BWHive


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Sonia Blandford, chief executive of Achievement for All 3As, reports on how schools are reaching out to parents and carers through structured conversations, with an impressive impact on both children’s attainment and parental engagement

It’s good to talk

WE Achievement for All

Fast facts  The Achievement for All programme is used in

1,900 schools.  Costs for the two-year programme range from

£3,815 for a school with fewer than 500 pupils to £7,625 for one with more than 1,000.  It targets children and young people vulnerable

to underachievement and/or disadvantaged in their learning. These include children receiving free school meals, those attracting pupil premium funding, looked-after children, those who fall into the lowest 20 per cent of attainment and those with SEND.  The average point score gain in reading, writing

FOR ALL THE PARENTS and carers willing to engage with schools, there is still a sizeable minority who don’t get involved. When I talk to the schools that Achievement for All 3As works with, a detailed and varied picture emerges of the reasons why some parents don’t actively support their child’s learning. In most cases, these are the parents and carers of children who we would classify as being disadvantaged and vulnerable. They include children on free school meals (FSM), those attracting pupil premium funding (PPF), looked after children, those who fall into the lowest 20 per cent of attainment and those with SEND. Many parents have had poor school experiences themselves and that emotional feeling about school and teachers has stayed with them. Some have SEND, just like their children. Others lack confidence and some are anxious about their child but assume the school knows best and don’t bring their concerns forward. In a small minority of cases, schools do not provide an actively welcoming environment. Parents and carers of vulnerable and disadvantaged children share the same hopes and ambitions for their children as engaged parents. What we need to do as educators is change our perception of these parents. Instead of seeing them as ‘hard to reach’ we should see them as ‘reluctant to engage’ and find ways to bring


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and maths was 4.4 across the 650 schools completing the first year of the programme, compared with 3.0 for all children across England.  Achievement for All 3As has launched an online

resource called Are we ready? SEN reforms to help parents, schools and local authorities prepare for the introduction of the Education Health and Care Plan and Code of Practice. See uk/achievement-for-all/are-we-ready.

them into the school so that they become active partners in their child’s education. Looking at a cross-section of parents, it is clear that most do want to engage and they want those school links to be more constructive. According to a recent survey carried out by Achievement for All 3As with Ipsos Mori, half of the parents surveyed said their school only called them when their child had done something wrong, while three out of five said that they would do more to support their youngster if they had more time or guidance on practical ways to help their child’s learning. Interestingly, the survey revealed that socio-economic background made no difference in parents’ desire for their child to do well at school. At Achievement for All 3As we see deep and meaningful E



19/12/2013 11:43


Grove Wood Primary School, Essex Grove Wood is a 600-pupil primary school in Rayleigh, Essex. The school joined the Achievement for All programme in September 2012 after deputy head and Senco Jacky Wragg became an Achievement for All coach. She says: “Schools can be quite arrogant and think that they know everything, but when you take part in programmes like this you get the opportunity to reflect and find out things that you didn’t know.” The aim of the Achievement for All programme at Grove Wood was helping the progress of all pupils, particularly those deemed to be ‘stuck’ because they had made very little or no progress in the previous 12 months. These children – 17 in all – were classified as a focus group for the purposes of the programme. The school had always enjoyed good relationships with parents but there were a number of ‘invisible’ parents who were never heard from. Jacky says: “It became clear to us that it was the parents who were stuck as well, and they needed support. There were children who were well-behaved at school but the opposite when they were at home and parents were not sure what to do about them. This meant that things like doing homework or reading at home were very difficult and an unpleasant experience and they had stopped doing it. Other situations included parents having to work long hours because of their financial situation and children spending a lot of their time with various care providers. “When we did our first structured conversation practice there were lots of sceptical teachers. At the end of the training most of them probably wondered why they were doing it. But by the time we had done our third round of structured conversations with parents they really appreciated it. Parents’ evenings were always so rushed and not everyone feels happy with talking openly about their child at these occasions. The structured conversations made a big difference. They also made parents’ evenings more effective, as there was more time for other parents.” The impact of the Achievement for All programme on attainment has been impressive. Jacky says: “We wanted children to make four points of progress in a year across reading, writing and maths. They achieved that.” Structured conversations have given teachers a way to target interventions more appropriately. “We still run catch-up reading, maths support and reading recovery, but this is being delivered for children who would not normally be subject to interventions.” Some of the focus group children have not had any interventions, says Jacky. “But teachers are much more aware of them and the quality of teaching for these children has improved. There is much more targeted work and a focus on accessibility and personalisation for individual children, for example.” The feedback from parents has been good, with many saying the programme has made them more knowledgeable about how to support their child in the future.

W parent and carer engagement as one of the core ways to help schools and parents work more closely together to actively support the child. Parental engagement is one of four elements that our programme helps schools to develop in their efforts to raise attainment among vulnerable and disadvantaged children. It sits alongside leadership, teaching and learning, and improving wider outcomes. Delivered together, the four elements result in significant improvements in reading, writing and maths. In many cases, this closes the gap with the national average for all pupils. The programme also improves wider outcomes such as behaviour and attendance, reducing persistent absenteeism by 10 per cent. At the core of the parental engagement element is an approach called structured conversations (see panels). This requires schools to give teachers time away from the classroom for a series of focused, managed conversations between teacher and parent or carer. The aim is to raise the child’s academic achievement and enhance their chances of success. Teachers learn how to recap a conversation, summarise complex or convoluted points that both sides understand, and set targets that the parent or carer, teacher and child sign up to. These are then reviewed at a later meeting. In many cases the cost of cover and of providing crèche facilities can be covered from PPF. Through structured conversations, many schools have been able to build effective partnerships with parents, get them more involved in their children’s learning, agree learning targets and develop more individualised approaches for pupils. We have a wealth of evidence from schools around England that structured conversations work. Parent and carer engagement with teachers and in children’s learning improved by


EE “In many schools the approach has been so successful that they have rolled it out for all parents, not just the parents of disadvantaged children”


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WE Case study

WE Top five tips

Tredworth Junior School, Gloucester

Structured conversations

Tredworth was the lowest-achieving school in Gloucestershire when Andy Darby became head teacher in 2002. His first priority was to improve engagement with the 35 per cent of parents who had little to do with the school. “For me, it was key that we improved the parents’ knowledge of what the children were up to at school,” he said. “We needed to empower them to ask questions of the school and to challenge us as well.” By 2009, parental engagement was up to 85 per cent. This was good progress, but Tredworth still had a sizeable proportion of ‘hard to reach’ parents. Then the Achievement for All programme started. Tredworth used the programme’s structured conversations approach as the basis for its parental engagement strategy. Teachers are regularly given a day away from the classroom for a series of 30-minute in-depth conversations with parents. Teachers use the techniques they’ve been taught in how to recap a conversation and summarise complex or convoluted points so that both sides understand and set targets. Parents can leave their pre-school children in a crèche at the school during the meeting. Andy says: “The basic premise of structured conversations is simple but Achievement for All gave us a structure and a methodology that has become the model for parental engagement across the entire school.” Parents of every pupil in the school are invited into the school for a structured conversation with the teacher twice a year. For years three to five this is increased to three times a year. The discussions always involve the child’s class teacher and the teaching assistant. Once a year, the child is invited into the meeting to discuss how objectives have been met and to set new, binding targets for the next academic year. This level of commitment takes a teacher out of class for at least two days a year, but the supply cover cost is more than covered by the pupil-premium funding attracted by pupils on free school meals, says Andy. Parental attendance at Tredworth’s structured conversations is now 97 per cent. Attainment of pupils with SEND is above average for every year group. For example, 81 per cent of pupils classified as having SEND achieved key stage two level four or above in English and maths in 2012. The national average was 46 per cent. It’s the same story for pupils who qualify for free school meals. The figure was 87 per cent for FSM pupils – well above the 68 per cent national average. Persistent absenteeism across the school has also dropped – from 12.6 per cent in 2011 to 8 per cent in 2012.

17 per cent, according to surveys carried out by Achievement for All 3As. In many schools the approach has been so successful that they have rolled it out for all parents, not just the parents of disadvantaged and vulnerable children. Professor Charles Desforges, an expert in parental engagement, summed up neatly the purpose of structured conversations when he explained to delegates at our recent annual conference that parental engagement was not about getting on with parents. “If that’s all it’s about then it won’t benefit the pupils,” he said. “Achievement for All has got that bang to rights. It has re-engineered the parent as a partner focusing on pupil achievement.”

It takes time to establish a relationship, based on mutual respect, between parents and teachers. It also takes both sides to be willing to listen and to be non-judgemental.


Prepare well for the meeting Gather the most recent and relevant data. Be aware of good progress and be ready to praise this. Also be aware of slow progress and be ready to agree targets to accelerate it, if appropriate. Get reflections from colleagues, such as playground observations.

Welcome the parents or carers Make sure that parents or carers receive a warm welcome. Usher them into a well set-out room, and provide refreshments and toys for younger siblings, if necessary.


Keep it simple Avoid using educational jargon and over-formal language which may create a barrier between you and the parents. Avoid asking too many questions, which reduces the parents’ opportunity to talk.


Focus on the child Try to find out whether there are any barriers to progress. Explore and agree the activities that will contribute to the pupil’s motivation and fulfilment.


Agree a plan of action Agree deadlines by which the child’s targets will be fulfilled. Ensure everyone is clear what they will need to do and how they will do it. Offer parents support where necessary.


Professor Sonia Blandford is founder and chief executive of Achievement for All 3As, the charity that delivers the Achievement for All programme.


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Joined-up thinking It is time that schools took control of their own development, writes Professor Tony Booth, who makes the case for values-led school improvement with the Index for Inclusion 46


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RECENTLY I UNDERTOOK an analysis of Ofsted reports across a whole county. I found them to be poorly written, sometimes contradictory and lacking in depth. While they mentioned tasks for development, there was little indication of how this might be accomplished. There was also an overuse of drop-down menus when it came to report writing. The worst offender occurred in a report on a small school of 28 pupils, which was chastised for its lack of use of middle management. In another county, a school with a deserved national reputation for its innovative approach to school improvement was given an outstanding result by the inspectors, yet the report offered no indication of the approach that was taken. What’s more, in schools where test results have not risen as fast as others there is not a glimmer of self-reection from Ofsted that their approach might need revisiting. None of this implies that we should ignore the achievements of children. All children should attend a school where they, their families and their communities know that the highest and broadest achievements are expected and possible. But we


19/12/2013 11:43

WE Inclusive values framework Establishing shared values to put into action

WE Curricula for all Reorganising subjects for education








 Clothing and the decoration of the body



 Housing and the built environment



 Mobility, trade and transport



 Health and relationships

 Respect for diversity


 The earth, the solar system and the universe



 Life on earth

 Food cycles

 Sources of energy  Communication and communication technology  Literature, arts and music

need to move beyond an approach that relies so heavily on the crunching of numbers and injunctions to try harder. Creating conditions that allow teaching, learning and relationships in our schools to flourish will always be the most productive and sustainable elements of school and system improvement. Index for inclusion: developing learning and participation in schools is a set of materials to guide schools through a process of inclusive school development. It is about building supportive communities and fostering high achievement for all staff and students. It is not meant to add to the Ofsted burden, but to make sense of it and provide a way of responding to it so that it is framed within the ambitions of school leaders, staff, children, families and governors. When people look at the title, they often think it is concerned with children with SEND. Inclusion here refers to a principled approach to the development of schools for everyone in its communities, adults as well as children, teachers and assistants as well as families. The major new elements of the book involve a framework of values and encouragement to develop ‘values literacy’; a way of making alliances across all those innovations and programmes that share common principles; and an outline alternative curriculum for the 21st century to support schools to bring their curricula into a closer relationship with the lives of children and their families. Establishing shared values The central idea of the book is to show how school improvement is a process of putting values into action. It offers a framework to encourage schools to develop their own model, rather than to provide fine words for a vision statement. The book sets out in detail what it means to put inclusive values into action in all aspects of a school; in classrooms, staffrooms, school grounds, relationships within and beyond the school, and in teaching and learning activities. This is an intensely practical activity. Values are fundamental guides and prompts to action. They spur us forward, give us a sense of direction and define a destination. All social activity has underlying values, yet in the dominant approach to school improvement they are left implicit. We cannot do the right

 Work, interests and activity  Ethics, power and government

thing in education without knowing that it is in accordance with our values. The inclusive values framework (above left) is connected to some 70 indicators of school improvement. In the materials, each one is supported by many questions to provide ideas for investigation and action plans and success criteria. The indicators are divided along the dimension of policies, practices and cultures. It is through changes in culture, involving the establishment of shared values, that improvement is sustained. This dimension has commonly been ignored by other approaches. One of the principal barriers to coherent school improvement in recent years has been the overload of initiatives and programmes directed at schools. So, in the Index, I have shown how school improvement activities sharing common principles can be seen as roots nurturing a single tree. For example, activities around citizenship, health promotion, sustainable environments, outdoor learning, equalities education, social cohesion and restorative justice can all be related to shared principles, rather than be seen as separate interventions under the guidance of outside agencies. All these issues permeate the Index. Curricula for all The most ambitious part of the Index is its new curriculum resource. We have tended to operate within a 19th century conception of curriculum designed to separate knowledge from experience and to disadvantage those who do not easily make this transition. If a values framework is about how we should live together, then a curriculum is about what we need to know in order to live together well. I have proposed a curriculum for everyone, from three years of age onwards, that reflects our shared needs and rights, is both local and global and encourages economic literacy and citizenship. It is offered as a set of practical suggestions, though at present it is mainly E being used to broaden existing curricula.


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W Each area is meant to link locally and globally, connect the present with the past and the future, and encourage financial literacy. It is ironic that the PISA-rated subjects of mathematics, science and language, used as the touchstone of economic competitiveness, hardly relate to the occupations of children and their families. All those budding engineers emerging from nursery experience with building mastery then find their interests have been omitted from the curriculum. In my curriculum, all the activities of families make a contribution because it follows the subject divisions of common experience. My scheme looks rather different from a traditional list of subject headings (see page 47) but it is not difficult to see connections. Physics and chemistry, for example, are included in ‘the Earth, the solar system and the universe’ in a way that provides continuity for children from a young age and reflects connections made in graduate science now. Biology arises in understanding food cycles and health, but more coherently in an understanding of life on earth or biodiversity. Literacy is given particular attention under ‘communication’, but also across all other curriculum areas. Perhaps the most noticeable absence is mathematics as a separate area. In most countries it is at the top of the hierarchy of school subjects, but maths can seem to be separated from children’s experience and create barriers to their learning. I propose that it may be best learned across the curriculum as it arises in investigations in other areas, fostering real needs to acquire facility with numbers and mathematical concepts and applications. It can also be learned at the highest levels, for example in astronomy.

An infant school’s leadership team put the Index at the centre of its approach to school improvement. It was used initially to broaden consultation with governors, parents and children, building on what parents liked about the school but also taking up suggestions. One action was to zone the playground with a range of activities and supervision. Issues raised about behaviour and bullying also helped shape a new behaviour policy and to integrate work with their Rights Respecting Schools activities. The leadership team initiated interviews with parents and governors when they were leaving the school at a point of openness and reflection. There was a move to use staff expertise more resourcefully, with staff inviting others to learn with them when they were working on something they considered particularly successful. The head told staff: “You don’t blow your own trumpets enough.” A group of sustainability issues was led by one member of staff, improving a community garden, recycling food waste from classrooms and kitchens, and encouraging packaging-free lunches. The Index has become a shared text across the school and all staff are encouraged to refer to it. In the school improvement plan, the Index is helping to knit together the improvement of the school into a coherent whole based on explicit shared principles. As the head teacher says: “It has to work because it shares our values.” One primary school, meanwhile, used the Index as a resource to address a range of important issues. Its leadership team was successful in addressing attendance rates, which had been resistant to change. Members worked with staff, governors and parents around the questions under the indicator: “Barriers to attendance are reduced” and found that the questions opened up new ways to respond to absence. Improvement came from changing relationships with and between children and their families and enabled them to take concrete action, which was reflected in improved attendance figures, which rose from 85 per cent to 94 per cent.

Taking responsibility Knowledge should be restructured for all so that we can transform schools from places that can divide people – and prioritise the learning of some over others – into places that value everyone’s contributions. The separation of learning from experience is a malign process for other reasons too. When education is viewed primarily as the cultivation of the life of the mind, it cuts people off from an understanding of the conditions that sustain their lives and their planet. In this way education has contributed to the situation where humankind is eroding the habitats of other creatures and ultimately destroying its own. Such an analysis makes it imperative for us as educators to forge a new relationship between people, their bodies and the natural world. This can only happen when we see ourselves as the ones that push forward the development of our schools and the values that we want to see them reflect.


Professor Tony Booth is a research fellow at the Cambridge University Centre for Commonwealth Education

Further information can be found in Index for inclusion: developing learning and participation in schools by Tony Booth and Mel Ainscow, published by the Centre for Studies on Inclusive Education.



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WHAT’S NEW WE T H E L A T E S T B O O K S A N D R E S O U R C E S Comprehensive Achievements

Independent Thinking

Edited by Tamsyn Imison, Liz Williams and Ruth Heilbronn. Institute of Education Press, £23.99

By Ian Gilbert. Independent Thinking Press, £9.99

This portrait of Hampstead School (1980-2000) offers “glimpses into what a school can be”, courtesy of numerous first-hand accounts. The school taught pupils to value different aspects of themselves and others. As one student recalls: “Its greatest success was the unbelievable human generosity and investment in the learning process that was afforded to all of us, regardless of academic ability or cultural or social background.” The book is also a tribute to the benefits of comprehensive education, which one contributor describes as “something precious that has been lost”.

Researching Educational Leadership and Management By Mark Brundrett and Christopher Rhodes. Sage, £23.99

This thought-provoking collection of musings on life, death, children and education is perfect for dipping into when you need inspiration. Topics covered – concisely and with biting wit – include using Twitter to help your pupils experience history in real time; what makes a ‘good school’; and how to give a deeper socio-political context to your next charity cake sale. There is a heartening list of 30 things that exams don’t measure (including ‘ability to train a kestrel’) alongside anecdotes, random observations and stimulating ‘thunks’ (example: ‘Does a dog know if you hurt it by accident?’).

Is it about time school leaders had more say in how schools are run – why leave it to academics who’ve never led a school? If you’ve always wanted to publish research but not known how, this could be the book for you. It offers practical advice on how to carry out research, design research tools and report the results. Don’t be put off by the jargon either, because there’s a full explanation of key terms and questions. There are also examples of research tools taken from successful projects.

DIARY DATES National Heart Month February is dedicated to the 2.6 million people in the UK living with coronary heart disease and since all of us have a heart, we’re all at risk.

National Storytelling Week This will be the 14th year that

the first week of February has been devoted to telling tales. Resources on the website include ‘using storytellers in schools’ and ‘how to run storytelling competitions’.

tagline ‘Sock it to eating disorders’. It’s a chance for everyone to raise funds by wearing their silliest socks.

World Book Day Eating Disorders Awareness Week This runs from 24 February to 2 March and has the

The sixth of March is the big day, but schools packs should be winging their way to schools in mid-January. These

contains £1 book tokens and plenty of ideas for events and activities.

Apologies The price for the Science Learning Curriculum (LF, November/December 2013) is £120. The book From My Heart by Dr Neil Hawkes is available from


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WE T E L L U S A B O U T Y O U R S C H O O L We ’d love to share your stories with LF re a d e rs . Ema il Su s a n E


hen I told my nine-year-old son about the kind of things they do at West Jesmond Primary School in Newcastle, his face fell. “It’s too far away for me to go there, isn’t it?” he said. So what’s special about it? For the pupils, it’s the hands-on experience of Viking axe-throwing, gutting fish and toasting marshmallows over a fire pit. For the parents, many of whom come from abroad to study or work at nearby universities and medical schools, it’s a school with a history of welcoming children from different cultures, and giving them a fantastic education. West Jesmond was already successful when Gary WallisClarke applied for his second headship three years ago. “I was a school adviser and I missed being in charge of a school, leading for learning and creating my own ethos.” Situated in a comfortable suburb, West Jesmond has a brand new building, a low free school meals entitlement and a mobile pupil population, currently featuring 37 countries and 21 languages, including several newly arrived from Saudi Arabia who speak no English. Children come from Japan, Singapore, China and India, several South East Asian nations and so many from South America that Spanish is taught across the school. Pupils learn pocket trumpets and recorders, there is an orchestra and a rock band, and the school year is launched with an international festival celebrating all the pupils’ cultures, to which families are invited. “It’s a lovely hello to the school,” Gary says. With 580 pupils, it has specialists running many subjects, and after-school activities include street dance, ballet and taekwondo. And there’s a coding club, run with a local business. “We have got children who are very inquisitive and like to be challenged,” Gary beams. “We’re an incredibly high-attaining school and we are very proud of that.” An incident early in his headship encapsulated his approach to learning. “The year two team asked me to a launch a project, ‘because it’s not very interesting’. My question was: then why on earth are we doing it? “Ideally, all the curriculum we do should be creative. It’s how you approach it and make it come to life for



A DAY TO REMEMBER the children while making sure it’s progressive and challenging. “I am very excited by the new national curriculum,” he says. “I know there’s a lot of concern, but there’s enormous freedom. One of our drivers is to say to the curriculum team, think about something different. What would you like to do?”

Making learning memorable Deputy head Dominic Martin teaches history and also leads on the curriculum. “It’s about tweaking it, thinking about ways of doing things differently to enjoy that new freedom,” he says. So when year one had to learn how to write instructions, they were asked to toast marshmallows over a firepit before sandwiching them between two chocolate biscuits. “The old way was to watch a teacher make a jam sandwich. This is much more memorable: so the quality of their writing is better,” says Gary. The year six Viking/Anglo-Saxon work was Dominic’s project, and he worked with local specialist Rob Carter to bring the subject to life. The children made Viking shields (pictured) with the help of traditional maths techniques. They also thought about how Vikings would have prepared food and then deboned their own fish. “It’s about making things real for them,” says Dominic. And then there was the axe-throwing, to give the children a feel for Viking combat. “We wanted to give them something authentic: it’s risky, they are real sharpened axes. They had appropriate supervision and training. We wanted them to have that sense of reality, that there is a risk, that they are throwing it and it’s meant to be sharp.” He adds: “It’s about making learning memorable. Yes, it’s about structure and repetition and testing, but the children will always remember the day of the Viking workshop.” • See also feature, page 38.


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19/12/2013 11:45

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NFER Tests Reading and mathematics tests for years 3, 4 and 5 In an independent review of 201 schools, 90% were satisfied with the tests.

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c Primar y Christ the King Catholi School

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Leadership Focus, Jan/Feb 2014, NAHT  

Leadership Focus magazine, January/Februay 2014. Published by Redactive for the NAHT

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