Legislation and government policies

ASCL position statements

What is the context? Dealing with the coronavirus pandemic is one of the greatest challenges any of us has ever faced. The situation has been fast-moving, unpredictable, and extremely high stakes. Both government and school and college leaders have had to make decisions at speed, and based on incomplete and shifting evidence. 

While we recognise that the Department for Education has made attempts to engage with ASCL and other stakeholders during this period, we are concerned that this engagement has too often felt rushed, piecemeal and tokenistic.

School and college leaders are also increasingly angry and frustrated that announcements with major implications for schools and colleges are briefed to the media before being communicated to the profession. This leaves leaders in an extremely difficult position, with parents and communities wanting to know how schools and colleges plan to respond to an announcement of which they have had no prior warning. 

ASCL position:
ASCL urges the government to: 
a)    liaise properly with key stakeholders about any major policies and proposals, initiating genuine discussions around different options rather than simply seeking last-minute comments on the government’s preferred approach; and
b)    communicate their plans to school and college leaders in a timely manner, in advance of briefing the media. 

Why are we saying this? We believe that government will make better decisions if it consults properly with the people who understand deeply what the implications of those decisions will be, and who will be responsible for implementing them. We also believe that school and college leaders will be better able to carry out those plans, and to reassure their communities about them, if they have been both involved in their creation and informed in a timely manner about their communication. 


What is the context? This statement is in response to the Government’s green paper: Transforming children and young people’s mental health provision. It sits alongside our existing position statement on mental health.

We welcome the green paper as an important step forward in tackling an issue which is a major and increasing concern to school and college leaders and note the recognition that schools and colleges are already doing a great deal to support the mental health and wellbeing of young people. There are, however, many questions left unanswered in the green paper. In particular we are concerned about whether the proposed new Mental Health Support Team (MHST) will be able to offer the right level of specialist help that students need.

ASCL position: We are concerned the proposals to create mental health support teams for mild to moderate needs will not be helpful to schools who need additional support from clinically trained and well-qualified staff. This proposal could divert funds away from this important specialist provision.

Why are we saying it? We believe that these new teams will not be successful in helping schools and colleges promote good mental health and, crucially, support students who need more specialist help unless the people employed within MHSTs are experienced and suitably trained and qualified to carry out this wide-reaching, complex role. It will also be essential that they have fast track access to specialist CAMHS and other support services and are fully supported by a fit-for-purpose, local, specialist mental health service.

ASCL welcomes the Department’s recognition that quality school improvement requires funding. However, ASCL is deeply concerned about the uncoordinated, bureaucratic nature of recent centralised initiatives. Therefore, we would welcome the opportunity to work with the Department to reinforce ASCL’s Blueprint on school-led improvement strategies so that all children can enjoy an excellent education.

We welcome the government’s commitment in the White Paper, The United Kingdom’s exit from and new partnership with the European Union, to secure the status of EU citizens who are already living in the UK, and that of UK nationals in other Member States, as early as the government can. We believe this is both fundamentally important and urgent.

We are seeking clarity on the future recruitment of teachers and Qualified Teacher Status post-Brexit for EU Nationals. In the current climate of a crisis in teacher recruitment, it is very important that schools and colleges can continue to recruit teachers and other staff from the EU.

Personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education, including sex and relationships education (SRE), is an important and necessary part of all pupils’ education. PSHE (including SRE) should be a statutory* part of children’s learning.

To allow schools the flexibility to deliver high-quality PSHE and SRE which meets the needs of their communities, we consider it unnecessary for the government to provide standardised frameworks or programmes of study. 

*Statutory, but not prescriptive

ASCL wants all young people to succeed in order to realise their full potential and to create a workforce with the capacity and skills to enable the UK to thrive in a global economy.  We welcome the contribution all type of schools, colleges and universities can and do make to this through collaboration and partnership.  

The evidence we have seen does not support the premise that the further expansion of selection will improve education for the majority of young people. The evidence indicates that it will have a damaging impact on the life chances of the majority who do not attend a selective school.

The expansion of selection is a distraction to the profession’s efforts to ensure that the education system works for everyone.  

The best way to deliver a good school place for every child is to ensure existing schools and colleges have sufficient funding and access to a ready supply of high quality teachers and leaders.

ASCL welcomes the focus on areas of disadvantage. We urge the government to connect social policy and education policy in these areas and draw on lessons learned from existing successful programmes.

ASCL supports the need for high-quality AP. However, we have concerns about the lack of clarity in the white paper over a proposal for mainstream schools to remain accountable for the education of pupils in AP and systems for obtaining and commissioning high-quality provision.

We have previously not supported mandatory reporting. However in the light of cross party views and the NSPCC shift we are currently reviewing our position.

We reaffirm our support for a reform to the law on collective worship, by replacing it with legislation requiring inclusive assemblies that forward the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of all pupils, thereby removing the need for a small minority of pupils to withdraw.

ASCL maintains its current position:

  1. School and colleges take very seriously their role in deterring, preventing and detecting the abuse of children and young people.
  2. Any new legislation should be evidence-based.
  3. ASCL has yet to see evidence that mandatory reporting backed up by criminal sanctions will protect children and young people.
  4. ASCL is also concerned about unintended consequences, for instance, if discretion is removed, the resulting weight of unmoderated reporting will make it more difficult for those with the responsibility for investigating allegations to identify genuine cases of abuse.
  5. If it is decided to introduce mandatory reporting ASCL takes the view that it should be strictly limited.

ASCL is gravely concerned about the lack of strategic planning with regard to place provision in the secondary sector as the current increase in primary numbers works through the system.

ASCL is concerned by the lack of consultation ahead of the decision to create regional commissioners. There is lack of clarity about a number of key features such as the constitution of the head teacher boards.

The regional commissioner structure does not address the issues of the ‘middle tier’ functions. The system urgently needs a strategic plan which would outline how such statutory functions cohere across the academised and maintained sectors.