Girls’ schools leader says frequency of regulatory change in schools is ‘untenable’

Alun Jones, President of the Girls’ Schools Association, is demanding a better, more effective system of regulation for all schools.

Schools are being inundated by new and revised regulations often at the busiest times of the school year. It is incredible that those who regulate schools seem to have little understanding of how schools work.
The amount of regulation that schools are subject to has grown exponentially and is coming at schools faster and ever more frequently.

Of course I completely agree that we must have robust legislation that keeps children safe and gives everyone clear guidance about how to do that.

But the sheer volume of regulatory change – plus revision upon revision, sometimes only weeks later – is untenable for both independent and state sector schools alike.

Not only were schools preparing for and then implementing, in September, the first reformed examination subjects, but we were also confronted with changes that the Department of Education introduced during the summer holidays, when schools are closed, that we must implement immediately.

We need time to understand the changes and put them into practice. Schools may be inspected on these before they have even had time to train staff to carry them out.

The impact on workloads has been massive and the increased stress amongst staff is worrying; schools are trying to implement new regulations at the very point in the school year when they should be focused on teaching.”
These government regulations dictate what schools must do and can cover not just the curriculum, but ways that schools can keep children safe, safeguard for FGM, or prevent children being drawn into radicalisation, as well as changes to the laws around data protection, Tier 4 visas for international students, disqualification of teachers by association and a raft of consumer legislation.

Alun Jones who is also Principal of St Gabriel’s School in Newbury, will add:

Of course we need to regulate and improve, to keep children safe. But we need to regulate smarter and more effectively. We need to look at all regulations impacting schools to ensure that they are necessary and can be implemented effectively to really improve the safety and wellbeing of pupils.

And it should not be necessary to make constant revisions to existing regulation – they must be right first time.

Alun will call for:

GSA are lobbying for – and I am sure all schools will join me in this – a recognised annual cycle for regulatory change.

There should be consultations released in September, with results available in January. There should then be post-consultation discussions with representative organisations through until March. Then the guidance should be issued in May, giving schools the summer term to prepare for their implementation from the start of the new school year in September.

If all schools are able to implement changes appropriately and effectively, everyone will benefit.

He will make the remarks in his Opening Speech at the Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) annual conference for Head teachers in Newport, Wales on Monday.
Talking about girls’ schools, he will also say that “there is still work to be done” to help girls achieve the very top jobs. He will say that girls’ schools are answering the question ‘How can we help our young women to reach further’?
He will call upon girls’ schools to “think what more we can do to help our pupils have bold aspirations, to help them seize the day and enable them to pursue successful careers and fulfilling lives.”

He will point to the continuing success of girls’ schools at breaking away from gender stereotyping.

Independent schools have an impressive academic track record but our independent girls’ schools stand apart in their ability to enable girls to break away from gender stereotyped subject choices.

Today – when industry and government alike are deeply concerned about the lack of girls studying physics and the shortage of modern foreign language skills in society – girls in GSA schools are two and half times more likely than girls in all other UK schools to sit A level Physics and twice as likely to take most languages.

Girls at GSA schools typically make up around 13 per cent of this country’s A level entries in Physics. In itself, that statistic is staggering…. When you also consider that GSA girls are awarded around 25 per cent of all the country’s Physics A * grades, then you really begin to understand the impact of a GSA education.

If this was the late eighteen hundreds, we’d be campaigning for girls to be allowed to study the sciences, for laboratories in our schools and the right for young women to go to university and study the same degree subjects as young men.

We’re still part of that vanguard of schools delivering a superlative education for girls. I use the word ‘vanguard’ deliberately because we ARE at the forefront and there IS still work to be done.

The remarks come as new research will be presented at the conference by Jonathan Black from the University of Oxford Careers Service that will “share some worrying information about intelligent, high achieving girls who get good degrees but seem to stall when it comes to pursuing high level careers.”

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