December 2018

The know zone

  • A shared approach
    Ofsted's promise of a new inspection framework for September 2019 seems to have got everyone talking about the curriculum. Here, ASCL specialists Stephen Rollett and Suzanne O'Farrell share their tips on how leaders can embed curriculum thinking throughout their schools. More
  • Fair play for all
    Teachers teaching the same subjects to sixth formers in schools and colleges get paid different salaries. Kevin Gilmartin examines why and asks, "Is this really fair?" More
  • Avoid the trap
    Managing Director of Lighthouse Financial Advice Ltd Lee Barnard says that there are steps you can take now to avoid getting caught in paying a hefty inheritance tax bill. More
  • Close encounters of the student kind
    Where's the most surprising place that you've bumped into a former student? Here, ASCL members share their stories... More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • Let it snow!
    As you spend time over-indulging with your loved ones, spare a thought at this festive time of year for those still hard at work... like the finance and maintenance teams keeping our schools ticking over during the holiday period. More
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Where’s the most surprising place that you’ve bumped into a former student? Here, ASCL members share their stories…

Close encounters of the student kind

New York, New York

As part of a celebratory holiday to New York in 2012, my husband booked tickets at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway to watch One Man, Two Guvnors after its hugely successful run in the West End. 

As we waited in the gallery, I flicked through the programme and came across a familiar yet unusual name – Suzie Toase. It couldn’t be the same person who had been in my form group for five years at Albany High School in Chorley, I thought. 

As soon as she walked on stage, I knew it was her. The walk, the voice, the hair. I was thrilled, proud and stunned! 

During the interval, I passed a note via the stage hand to say hello with contact details while I was in New York. Although we were unable to meet up at the time, I invited her to present certificates to the school GCSE awards evening later that year. We were able to catch-up there. Suzie is a renowned actress and has appeared in theatre, film and television including the Harry Potter films. 

I am still amazed by the chance meeting, thousands of miles away in a completely random moment where we were both so far away from our ‘normal’ lives. 

April Gibson
Deputy Headteacher, Longridge High School, Preston, Lancashire 

Down by the river 

My wife and I had an extraordinary meeting with a former pupil in the crowded restaurant of a cruise ship on the amazing Yangtze River. Late for dinner, so on different tables, we were surrounded by a cacophony of protest from our 90% American passenger list hotly debating the merits/demerits of their new president. Then my wife urgently signalled to me and said, “Do you remember this boy?” “Vaguely,” I replied. 

I did remember him – he was the brilliant centre-forward for our First XI every Saturday morning, adamant he wanted to play soccer and didn’t want to go to university. I remember desperately trying to advocate the local polytechnic, singing the praises of its year in industry, only for him to smirk and say, “Not likely.” 

Later that evening, I got talking to the ‘boy’ and asked, “What did you do?” He replied, “Took your advice: did a year with Rolls-Royce before graduation.” 

“And then?” To my sheer delight and amazement, he said he’d spent his whole career with the company and just finished as a director of Rolls-Royce. 

My stupefaction only concealed by the roar of noise from nearby tables. 

Philip Johnston
ASCL Associate Member 

Mayhem at the ground 

As a keen Leicester City fan and young teacher in the late 1980s I once went to watch my team play away at Ipswich Town. 

I was stood halfway up the terrace when a disturbance broke out at the front of the crowd and some of our fans began scaling the fence that penned the crowd in, no doubt attempting to invade the pitch. 

As the unsavoury events unfolded, a line of police, accompanied by some rather angry looking dogs, ran to the scene. In this toxic atmosphere one of the fans who was about 30 metres high swayed dangerously with just one hand holding the fence. 

As he surveyed the crowd below, his eyes met mine and a smile came across his face. 

“Hello, Mr Smith.” He waved. 

“Hello, Stephen,” I replied. 

“OK, sir,” he added before continuing to scale the fence. 

Needless to say, everyone around me was very impressed at how polite this hardened hooligan was towards me even in the heat of battle. 

Carl Smith
Principal, Casterton College, Rutland 


I would say a swimming pool in Majorca. I was happily playing with my son, who was 18 months old at the time. It was peaceful, and I was happy pulling him around the pool in his little boat. Cue a sound of splashing as two boys jumped into the pool. I didn’t really look to see who they were; I heard, “Sir.” I ignored this, thinking surely there must be a mistake. Then they shouted my name. I couldn’t believe it, and from that point I saw them daily. They were both characters but pleasant towards me on holiday. However, I had to permanently exclude the younger sibling two years later. 

Stephen Gray
Deputy Headteacher, The Whitby High School, Ellesmere Port, Cheshire