School leaders testing the Framework for Ethical Leadership for Education resources - which are designed to support education leaders in their decision-making and in calling out unethical behaviour - have shared their experiences of being pathfinders in a new report published today (16 November).  

99 pathfinder schools and trusts are actively using and integrating the Framework, published by ASCL’s Commission on Ethical Leadership in January 2019, and accompanying resources in their practice. It is the first report detailling how the Framework is being used across England. Reflections contained in the report include:

“The ethical leadership framework fits perfectly with the work that we do and gives us a clear way of working and ‘checking’ our decision making. We also want to ensure that going forward as a trust, that the ethical leadership way of working is embedded and whoever is in a leadership position understands that this is the way in which the trust is led.”

There have been some historical issues with previous leaders in one of the schools in our federation. The federation is new and we are keen that we do things the right way from the start.

Taking in to account the experiences and feedback of the first 99 pathfinders, improvements have been made to the resources and the way in which their use is reported to the project’s secretariat at NGA. A further 50 pathfinders have already joined the second cohort. A map and full list of the pathfinders is available for pathfinders and interested schools/trustes to contact each other directly or via NGA. If you are interested in becoming a pathfinder or attending the Annual Ethics Summit on the 30 January 2020, then please get in contact: ethicalschools@nga.org.uk 

Over 70 pathfinders who attended the inaugural Ethics Exchange event at the University of Birmingham on Thursday 4 July also shared their experiences. Blogs written by three of the pathfinders can be found here.

Carolyn Roberts, Chair, Ethical Leadership Commission: "The Ethical Leadership Commission set itself the task to provide busy school leaders with a set of principles against which they could test their most difficult decision-making. We did this to help rebuild professionalism and personal agency in school leaders. Schools are where society looks after its young until they are old enough to take on the mantle of adult citizenship, so school leaders not only model diligent public service but also the behaviour and virtues society values. Accountability is not enough: we have to do good."

Emma Knights, Chief Executive, National Governance Association: "NGA volunteered to act as the secretariat for ethical leadership pathfinders, open to all schools and colleges in England, but this is truly an initiative led by schools and trusts. The way the framework has been embraced and the work of the pathfinders exhibit system leadership. This is not top-down; it was not spawned by fear or diktat; these are schools and trusts volunteering to explore the way, indeed finding paths through what can be difficult terrain, sometimes controversial terrain. Not because anyone told them to do this, not because anyone put them on a pedestal, but because leaders, including governing boards, agreed it is the right thing to do and because they want to share what they learn.  So thank you to the pathfinders. Their names are now in the public domain, and others who are interested can talk to them. If you didn’t get a chance to join up, it is not too late. The pathfinders remain open until 30th January, the date of the Ethics Summit."

Karen Cornell, Assistant Headteacher, Colehill School: "As an ethical pathfinder school the framework for ethical leadership has been invaluable in supporting the school and a range of stakeholders in becoming an ethically inclusive school. The training resources were useful to spread our message and rationale around supporting students, not just in our own school but through the whole of Warwickshire, with the ethical assumption that we all have a collective responsibility to work with all of the children in our authority to ensure they are able to access education. This work has helped to build lasting relationships with colleagues at Warwickshire County Council where we now have a shared language and a relationship built on common aims and trust."

Cath Kitchen, Chief Executive Officer, The Skylark Partnership: "The ethical leadership framework makes perfect sense to us at our trust. If we can set the policies, procedures and ways of working within the framework at this level, we can be role models for our governing bodies and all of our stakeholders, and ensure that the trust always acts in the 'right' way."

Professor Dame Alison Peacock, Chief Executive, Chartered College: "For many, our schools are where we begin engaging with society’s big questions. It’s important that teachers can develop skills to support these conversations and create a strong ethical climate in their school. As the professional body for teaching, we are happy to be involved with the Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education and play a part in supporting pathfinders to encourage these discussions to take place."

Read the Ethical Leadership in Practice Report

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