New report will help school and college leaders navigate the educational moral maze

25 January 2019

School and college leaders, governors and trustees will be helped to navigate the educational moral maze through a new set of principles developed by a commission on ethical leadership which delivers its final report today.

The commission was launched by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) in 2017 and included senior representatives from across the education sector. Its final report will be unveiled at a summit in London this afternoon.

It was established because of concerns expressed by ASCL members and others about the lack of guiding principles for ethical leadership in education.

They felt this lack was particularly noteworthy in a school leadership climate where structures are diverse, accountability measures and their consequences are severe, and in which decisions are often taken under great pressure with competing demands in play.

The resulting Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education provides the profession with principles to support leaders in their decision-making and in calling out unethical behaviour. It comprises a set of values and virtues, against which leaders, governors and trustees can evaluate their decisions and actions. The framework is intended to act as a counterpoint to the data-driven culture that too often blights our schools and colleges.

The report sets out how the framework will now be embedded across the school and college system:

  • A pathfinder project has been launched through the National Governance Association (NGA) which invites school leaders to sign up to the framework and provides training resources about how to build its values and virtues into working practices. The project will be promoted through the NGA, ASCL and Chartered College of Teaching (CCT) websites.

  • The framework will be embedded in leadership and governance programmes developed by the organisations involved in the commission and hopefully, over time, throughout the teacher and leadership development landscape.

  • An ethics forum will be established at the CCT to discuss and disseminate thinking about ethical issues in education leadership.

Carolyn Roberts, a headteacher in London and chair of the ethical leadership commission, said: “We all have a duty to behave ethically, but the bar for school and college leaders is particularly high because they are setting the standards for the young people in their care and in turn the sort of society that we become in the future.

“While school and college leaders are motivated by ethical principles, we have not had shared language to guide us. At a time when there are huge pressures and demands on school and college leaders, as well as stories in the media about unethical behaviour such as the off-rolling of pupils, it is even more important that we do something about that.

“The ethical leadership commission and its framework is our answer. It won’t solve every issue, and it is the nature of school leadership that difficult decisions have to be made and that there will always be people who disagree with those judgements. But it is a touchstone which we hope will help to support school leaders in making those difficult calls and in speaking out if they see poor behaviour from colleagues.

“The framework isn’t a diktat from government. It is formed by the profession and for the profession. It is an example of a school-led system in action and we are immensely grateful to everybody on the commission who has given up their time and has put so much thought into a task which was by its nature complex and sensitive.”