Exclusive: 'End exam tricks and willy-nilly off-rolling,' heads told

School leaders' union asks members to sign up to a new ethical code on 'the right way to act’

Martin George

ethical leadership, schools, ascl, commission, off-rolling, gaming, exclusions, curriculum, nga, carolyn roberts, thomas tallis

Heads are being asked to pledge to end "exam tricks" and "willy-nilly" off-rolling under a new ethical code to show them "the right way to act", Tes can reveal.

The Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, which says leaders should be truthful, open and selfless, is due to be launched by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) later this month.

It was drawn up by a high-powered commission, with members including Ofsted chief inspector Amanda Spielman, governors’ leader Emma Knights, UCL Institute of Education director Becky Francis, and Nigel Genders, director of the National Society of the Church of England.

The importance of trust in school leadership

Carolyn Roberts, the head of Thomas Tallis School, who chaired the commission, has outlined the main points of the code and said what they should mean in practice:

  • Trust: “If we hold trust on behalf of children then we can’t be off-rolling them willy-nilly. We can’t be encouraging parents who are signally incapable of home educating a child to take a child home to be educated because it will make our numbers look better at the end of the year. That’s not holding trust on behalf of children. The safest place for children to be is in school.”
  • Wisdom: “Proper schemes of work, not exam tricks.”
  • Kindness: “If you have to give someone some really bad news, don’t say at 3.30pm on a Friday, ‘I want to talk to you on Monday,’ because that’s their and their family’s weekend gone. Do it on the Monday. Have a thought for how other people live.”
  • Justice: “Schools that have zero-tolerance behaviour policies, and they are very popular at the moment and I’m not saying that they are wrong, some children will fall out of that system. Where will they go, and who’s thought about that, and who’s going to pick them up, and what’s the mechanism? They don’t vanish.”
  • Courage: “The curriculum needs to be suited to the needs of the children and not the school. The children have to come first, and not the outcomes. Outcomes will follow if you are doing it right. And gaming: gaming is always wrong.”

Ms Roberts said: "If you have been around school leadership for a bit, you will know that the external pressures on schools often make it very hard to see the right way to act, and what we are hoping for from this whole ethical framework is that we will be able to just redevelop the language of ethics."

She also told a meeting of the National Governance Association that the size of school leadership teams was “a particular bugbear” of hers.

“I’ve noted in my many years of headship that many of my colleagues seem to feel that they are more important if they have got a ginormous leadership group," she added.

“One head said to me a couple of weeks ago, ‘I have got a leadership group of 11 assistant heads.' First, how can you afford it? And secondly, who wants 11 assistant heads dogging your footsteps everywhere?

“Don’t buy another assistant head if you can’t afford to put a maths teacher in a room.”

The commission is inviting schools to become pathfinders for the ethical framework.


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Martin George

Martin George

Martin George is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @geomr

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