July 2014


  • Challenges - and opportunities
    Brian Lightman looks ahead to some of the changes facing school and college leaders from September in what promise s to be another turbulent academic year. More
  • Capital Ideas
    With the general election less than a year a away, now is the time to start tackling MPs about their party's policy on education. Leora Cruddas sets out the questions politicians need to address if they are serious about securing long-term, sustainable improvement for our schools and colleges. More
  • Collaborative Leadership
    A record number of school and college business leaders gathered in June for the 2014 ASCL Business Management Conference, to hear the very latest on a range of priority issues via a series of keynote speakers and to engage in some practical workshops and open debate about the changing role of business management professionals. More
  • Sensitive Challenge
    Dorothy Lepkowska reports on how one school is raising awareness among pupils of the threat of female genital mutilation (FGM). More
  • More than bins and bells
    Invited to participate in the Great Education Debate (GED), Peter Kent's students had some frank views on the flaws in the education system - and, in particular, why young people need more than good academic grades to equip them for adult life. More
  • Inspiring their future
    Close links with employers can pay dividends for schools and colleges in terms of introducing young people to the working world and to the skills and qualities that will make them employable in the future, as Karleeen Dowden explains. More
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A record number of school and college business leaders gathered in June for the 2014 ASCL Business Management Conference, to hear the very latest on a range of priority issues via a series of keynote speakers and to engage in some practical workshops and open debate about the changing role of business management professionals.

Collaborative Leadership

The day also provided an invaluable opportunity to network with like-minded colleagues.The conference kicked off the evening before with an informal networking evening hosted by Zenergi, the conference sponsors. This was a great opportunity to network with other delegates in an informal setting, and to meet some of the conference team. Alex Crow, one of the UK’s best mind readers, provided some entertainment to keep the conversations fluid and animated – a thoroughly enjoyable way to start the conference, and one that will certainly be repeated next year.

Welcoming delegates to the conference was ASCL Vice President Peter Kent who then introduced our Business Management Specialist Val Andrew. In her speech, Val reflected on the past year, highlighted some of the challenges school leaders face, and focused in particular on the emerging changes in terminology with reference to the profession. As more schools become academies and embrace the autonomy this status brings, there is a need to address the wider context of business responsibility at leadership level and many more colleagues are being referred to as ‘business leaders’, a distinct move away from the traditional title of ‘School Business Leader’, which confirms the increasing acceptance of this role as a fully integrated part of school and college leadership structures.

On the theme of this year’s conference – ‘Collaborative Leadership’ – Val said this has both an internal and external relevance. In the current financial climate, the challenges to improve efficiency and reduce expenditure are leading to more collaboration, particularly in budgetary and wider procurement practices, something that this profession is leading the field to achieve. Internally, there are still many practitioners who are not fully recognised for their leadership potential and who continually strive for the equality of acknowledgement at leadership level within their own schools and colleges.

Next to take to the podium was ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman, whose speech reiterated the great importance and value of business mangers as an integral part of the school/college leadership team. Brian said that it was “crucial that business leaders are in senior leadership teams to bring about new ideas and perspectives”. Brian looked back on the challenges business leaders face and how they are embracing them. In particular, he spoke about three types of challenges – policy, political and global.

First, in terms of challenges within policy, he talked about the unprecedented levels and pace of reform, uncertainties over curriculum and qualifications reform, changes within inspection and accountability, changes within pay and conditions, workload challenges, and, last but not least – the lack of funding, particularly in post-16 education.

Second, on political challenges, Brian talked about the forthcoming general election and how ASCL will continue to influence the manifestos of all of the main political parties. He also encouraged business leaders to lobby their own MPs on key education issues at a local level. He highlighted the three main ASCL Manifesto priorities as intelligent resourcing, autonomy and accountability, and teacher professionalism. (To read about these in more detail, please see the article by ASCL Director of Policy Leora Cruddas on page 14.)

Third, Brian spoke about the global challenges that face education today and said that many of these challenges are closer to home than one may think, including how the cost of our education system has doubled over the past 25 years, how people are living much longer than before, population increases and how, although Europe has only 7 per cent of the world’s population, Europe has 50 per cent of the world’s welfare spending.

Brian continued by highlighting six opportunities for business leaders to embrace:

  1. Curriculum planning
  2. Accountability and inspection
  3. Tackling disadvantage
  4. Partnership and collaboration
  5. Performance management/ continuing professional development (CPD)
  6. Leading the business

Brian concluded by saying, “Business leaders are key players in school leadership and vital in moving schools forward.”

Sir John Dunford OBE, Pupil Premium Champion, chaired a question time session on the role of business management within sustainable leadership now and in the future. Headteacher and ASCL Council member Jonathan Fawcett was on the panel and he stated the importance of business leaders in schools, saying, “They have a deep understanding of all school issues.” Andrew Whitaker, Headteacher at Todmorden High School, talked candidly about his own personal journey from business management professional to headteacher.

On the Pupil Premium, Sir John said, “Schools have the autonomy to decide how to spend the Pupil Premium as long as they can demonstrate impact of their methods.”

This year’s conference sponsors – Zenergi – found an innovative way to get across their new theme about ‘Positive Energy’ using a group called ‘Boomwhackers’ who livened up the proceedings with some audience participation. Within a very short space of time they managed to get everyone making music using some coloured plastic tubes, which provided an opportunity to let off steam and engage in some stress relief by generating a real ‘positive energy’ in the conference hall.

The afternoon saw keynote addresses from ASCL Funding Specialist Sam Ellis, whose presentation on The Solution Focused Team, went down well with delegates. Sam spoke about the importance of cohesion on the senior leadership team (SLT) on strategic finance and decision making. He talked about solutions to achieving outstanding learning while balancing the books at school and said there is a need for a paradigm shift, away from the traditional culture where curriculum aspirations informed budgets towards the reality of constrained budgets/ finances dictating what is possible in terms of curriculum delivery.

Sir John Jones Inspirational Speaker on Leadership and Creativity was the last to take the podium this year; to give a truly inspirational presentation about the creativity required in today’s school and college leaders. He talked about the evolution of the role of school business leaders/leaders and how “they have started a revolution within school leadership”. He reflected on some amusing episodes from his own days as a school leader and talked about the humility and determination of certain individuals who inspire us all with their commitment to overcome adversity in order to achieve their personal goals and ambitions.

A truly inspirational way to conclude the conference!

ASCL Business Leadership Conference 2015

Many of you have already been asking us when we are holding the conference next year – it’s taking place on 4 June in Birmingham. Whether you are a first-time attendee or not, you will find something to engage and inspire you – so put the date in your diary.

From ‘business manager’ to ‘business leader’

In order to reflect the changing nature of the role and the ever-increasing responsibilities of our business management practitioner members, ASCL will be using the term ‘business leader’ in future, which confirms the association’s commitment to this integrated leadership role.

We have been overwhelmed by the praise and positive messages from many of you at the conference. Here are just a few of your tweets:

  • Great day at #ASCLBM2014! Well done to @ASCL_UK on another fab event! Well worth a day out of school
  • Thanks to all the team @ASCL_UK for an absolutely BRILLIANT conference. Networking event was SUPERB!
  • @brianlightman “One vision for education underpinned by values” – well said! @ASCL_UK #ASCLBM2014
  • Excellent promotion of the evolution to School Business Leaders from @valerieandrew at #ASCLBM2014
  • Sam Ellis @ASCL_UK is the only person who can make school funding amusing. As always inspirational! #ASCLBM2014
  • @sirjohnfjones – truly inspirational, wish all educationalists could hear him!! Well done @ASCL_UK