Paragraph 34 – Leadership and Management

713. The leadership and management standard, introduced from January 2015, is outcomes based, the required outcome being that the other standards are consistently met and the well-being of pupils actively promoted. The DfE has written:

It is not the intention to tell schools how to govern or manage themselves – ie about how they are to go about achieving the required outcomes. But recent experience has shown that repeated, multiple and/or serious failures to meet the independent school standards are often the result of a failure in the school’s management structure or processes, and inability or unwillingness to take appropriate corrective action. If any other standard is not met, then this is evidence pointing to the leadership and management standard not being met.

714. It will be noted that there is emphasis in this standard related to meeting the independent school standards consistently. The standards are not intended as something to be met every few years when an inspection takes place; the standards should be met continually, and this standard is intended to ensure that the quality of leadership and management at a school is sufficient for that purpose.

Skill, knowledge and fulfilling responsibilities

715. If it appears that a failure to meet other independent school standards is attributable to a lack of skill or knowledge in those responsible for leading or managing a school or the way in which such people discharge their responsibilities, or a failure by school leaders to correct a lack of capacity by the school to meet other standards consistently, then this standard is likely not to be met (in addition to those other, more specific standards).
Actively promoting well-being

716. The last limb of the leadership and management standard is intended to ensure that the underlying ethos of any independent school should be to develop and nurture the well-being of its pupils, and that therefore, the well-being of pupils should be actively promoted by those who are leading or managing it.

717. Well-being is defined with reference to the Children Act 2004, which lists the following factors:

  • physical and mental health and emotional well-being;
  • protection from harm and neglect
  • education, training and recreation;
  • the contribution made by them to society;
  • social and economic well-being.

718. The duty to actively promote the well-being of pupils underlines the safeguarding responsibilities of proprietors, working through their leadership and management team. The introduction of the broad 2004 definition into the independent school sector will entail schools taking the broadest approach to the promotion of well-being of pupils. Examples of a broad approach: considering the safeguarding and equality implications of policies during their development or on review and striving to improve, providing unconscious bias training to governors and staff, ensuring arrangements for ‘hearing the pupil voice’ remain adequate and effective. Failure to prioritise the well-being of pupils over the interests of the institution, including failure to note, assess and formally manage conflicts of interest on the proprietorial board could be considered failures to actively promote the well-being of children.

719. It is possible to fail this last limb of the leadership and management standard even though the other standards are being met.

Leaders, managers and external advisors

720. The inclusion of a standard relating to leadership and management means that appropriate regulatory action can be taken by the Secretary of State to address certain failures relating to the quality of leadership in or management of school. The necessary skills and knowledge will not be ascribed (imputed) to external providers and it is possible to be failing the standard, despite recent improvements, unless arrangements are in place to sustain that improvement through the work of the school leadership itself.

721. Specifically, this means that if a notice is served on the proprietor of a school requiring the production of an action plan setting out what steps will be taken to meet standards, that notice can include a requirement relating to what action the proprietor intends to take to improve leadership and management so as to ensure that other standards are consistently met. Steps that a proprietor might propose to take, for example, include further training or new appointments to strengthen leadership and management, or restructuring existing arrangements and senior staff. If it appears to the Secretary of State that the steps proposed would not achieve the requisite improvements, then an action plan is likely to be rejected.

722. In the unusual circumstances where the Charity Commission appoints a manager to a school with a charitable foundation, we recommend that the manager and senior leaders have clear written remits and responsibilities.
Governors and proprietors

723. The scope of the standard is capable of covering members of governing and proprietorial bodies as well as employees in management positions. It relates to anyone with leadership or management responsibilities at a school (and, therefore, regardless of the title of their position). When a school is run by a trust then ordinarily each of the trustees will be considered to have leadership and management responsibilities in relation to the school; the Charity Commission also has separate and relevant powers which bear on the governance of schools run by charities.

724. Action plans may, therefore, need to address what steps are to be taken in relation to members of these bodies. This might, for example, be the case when it appears that a governing body has not exercised proper oversight of safeguarding, or has allowed the senior management of a school too much freedom to pursue its own aims and objectives for the school without consideration for the standards.

725. The evidence gathered by inspectors in relation to other standards will usually be sufficient to make the necessary inspection judgements under this heading. But other potentially relevant considerations might be whether leaders and managers access appropriate, effective support and training to keep up to date and whether suitable systems for performance management are in place.

726. The DfE has advised that any material failure to meet the independent school standards, should lead to consideration by inspectors of whether there has been a commensurate failing of leadership (including governance) and management. Materiality in this context is to be judged primarily by reference to the effect of the failing on pupils, or the potential for effect on pupils whether or not any detriment is evident at the time of the inspection. Safeguarding deficiencies, in particular, are likely to be considered ‘material’ unless purely administrative, and to lead to corresponding reporting in relation to Part 8. Inspectors should contact the duty team via the ISI office for advice where it appears that Part 8 may be engaged.

727. For illustrative purposes only, occasional mis-recording of vetting checks which have been carried out satisfactorily pre-appointment, as required, could potentially be considered to be immaterial administrative errors. So, too, could limited cases of deficiencies in policies which can be clarified or other errors which can be corrected by immediate remedial action, provided that practice already reflects the intention of the policy. In considering whether the standard in Part 8 is met, inspectors will not only consider current compliance but also the findings of previous inspection reports. In particular, where specific regulatory failings identified previously have not been remedied or have recurred, this will be taken into account with the likely result that the standard in Part 8 would not be met. Judgements of materiality would be made in the context of the frequency, severity or extent of the shortcomings and of all other relevant information pertaining to the school. For example, a case where the inspection identified (and supported the school in correcting) numerous policy short comings could be considered ‘material’. Omission to undertake one or more vetting checks when clearly required would be considered ‘material’ unless picked up by the school and rectified outside of inspection, or a system is in place to do so.