Schools invited to take part in ethical leadership pathfinders

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

A pathfinder project has been launched to help schools embed the new Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education into working practices.

The framework has been created by the Commission on Ethical Leadership, which was set up by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) in 2017 in response to concerns from its members about the lack of guiding principles in this area.

The final report was published on Friday (January 25) and the framework’s guidance covers seven tenets of ethical practice in schools: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership. It also offers seven personal characteristics or virtues of ethical leadership:

  1. Trust: leaders are trustworthy and reliable.
  2. Wisdom: leaders use experience, knowledge and insight.
  3. Kindness: leaders demonstrate respect, generosity of spirit, understanding and good temper.
  4. Justice: leaders are fair and work for the good of all children.
  5. Service: leaders are conscientious and dutiful.
  6. Courage: leaders work courageously in the best interests of children and young people.
  7. Optimism: leaders are positive and encouraging.

A pdf listing the seven tenets and seven characteristics in more detail can be downloaded above.

The pathfinder project has now been launched through the National Governance Association (NGA), which is inviting schools to sign up to the new framework and is providing training resources to help schools “build its values and virtues into working practices”.

So far, more than 100 pathfinders have committed to the framework and using the training resources, which include professional development sessions, an ethical audit and a set of case studies.

Commission members included chief executive of the Chartered College of Teaching, Dame Alison Peacock, chief inspector Amanda Spielman, and Dr Jane Martin of the Committee on Standards in Public Life. Other organisations represented include Ambition School Leadership, the NGA, the UCL Institute of Education, NAHT, and the Teaching Schools Council.

An ASCL statement said: “The 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 framework is to be adopted in leadership and governance training and development programmes by the organisations involved in the commission.

An “ethics forum” is also to be established at the Chartered College of Teaching to “discuss and disseminate thinking about ethical issues in education leadership”.

Chair of the commission, Carolyn Roberts, headteacher of Thomas Tallis School in Greenwich, said: “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.”

  • Navigating the Educational Moral Maze, ASCL, January 2019:
  • The NGA is continuing to invite pathfinders for the framework until Easter 2019. For details, email or visit

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