September 2014


  • Changing Outlook
    Reforms coming in for September represent a shift in political thinking about special educational needs (SEN), and while many of the changes are welcome, there could be unforeseen, negative consequences for young people, schools and colleges. Anna Cole sets out what leaders need to know. More
  • Learning for life
    Young people need employability skills as well as academic qualifications but defining what that means and how to teach it is not straightforward. Laura Gibbon looks at schemes that can help. More
  • All systems go
    Vicky Beer CBE, Chair of the Teaching Schools Council, talks to Julie Nightingale about women in leadership, working with Ofsted and why a school-led system has to be the future for education. More
  • Election call
    Standing for ASCL Council is an opportunity to contribute to policy making, improve the profession and widen your network, and it is one that more deputies and assistant heads should embrace, says Ben Bond. More
  • Flawed, but fairer
    Duncan Baldwin explores the moral issues raised by the new performance measure, Progress 8. More
Bookmark and Share

Standing for ASCL Council is an opportunity to contribute to policy making, improve the profession and widen your network, and it is one that more deputies and assistant heads should embrace, says Ben Bond.

Election call

It was with a fair degree of caution that I submitted my nomination for election to ASCL Council 18 months ago following a request for more deputy and assistant heads to stand. When I was successful, I joined a minority of council members who are not serving heads and thus began a fantastic experience and an opportunity to learn, question and evaluate a wide range of professional issues.

As vice-principal of a sponsored academy I have access to a plethora of information as we seek to improve outcomes for all of our young people at a time of great change in education. National policy, directed ever more from the centre, continues to challenge school leader autonomy.

At the same time I am continually assessing my performance and seeking inspirational leaders to guide and challenge my perceptions with better outcomes for our young people the focus. Clearly, I am not alone in this noble quest; similar conversations and activities are happening across the educational landscape.

Committee roles

ASCL Council meets four times a year – always on a Thursday and Friday – in different central locations. Members are asked to join one main and one specialist committee, and the full Council meets at the start and end of the two days. All professional interests are catered for and committee agendas are relevant for all. Chairs of each are elected internally and are time-limited to serve up to three years subject to election each year, which ensures fresh thinking and vitality. What struck me from the outset was the efficiency and inclusivity of each session; no colleague is left to feel outside of the decision-making process and all are encouraged to participate. When the full Council assembles, the wide array of independent, maintained and academy schools, as well as colleges, is represented alongside ASCL staff.

During my first Council I was afforded a ‘chaperone’ to assist my induction and ensure I could hit the ground running. In addition, the permanent ASCL staff are always very supportive and provide invaluable guidance on all matters of procedure and protocol. Elected members who cannot be there are able to nominate an ‘alternate’ to attend and this further complements the broad church of opinion at each meeting.

On Thursday evening, there is a forum session whereby an ‘expert’ delivers a keynote address followed by questions from the floor under the Chatham House rule (discussions may be reported but not the identity of the contributors). During my first Council this session was hosted by Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw in what became a lively and passionate discussion.

Themes are also embedded in all discussions, and at the end of Council all the committee chairs feed back position statements to full Council, which again provides a wealth of relevant thought and opinion on the key educational priorities facing us all. To get a flavour of the topics discussed and debated see the Council notes online at You can see all the position statements online at

Democratic theme

The democratic and representative theme runs through everything the Council does. The presidential trio and other honorary members seek consensus from Council at every stage, and at each meeting there are many opportunities for informal discussion over coffee, meals and dinner. This networking is a wonderful by-product of Council membership and my school has benefited from a number of visits along with a growing number of leading experts with whom I have made contact. 

Recently I was elected to represent deputy and assistant heads at the ASCL Executive Committee that meets throughout the year to review key strategic decisions and guide policy statements. An invitation to the presidential dinner in Whitehall also provided a marvellous time for reflection and ratification of the main issues.

I have been asked on a number of occasions about the relevance of non-heads being elected to and taking part in Council. The opportunity costs of time out of school, impact on senior colleagues and potentially adverse effects on the operational needs of school all have to be considered.

My reply is always the same: the benefits outweigh the costs. Council membership and influence should not be the preserve of headteachers or principals and my experiences to date reinforce this. Lively debate, informed discussion and reasoned decisions are strengthened by a wider Council membership. School and college leaders who represent all leadership roles are an integral part of this.

The future of ASCL as the premier professional association of secondary school and college leaders looks assured, something that is, in my opinion, a result of its constitution and DNA. I have always and without hesitation recommended the association to those appointed to their first leadership role in school. Membership figures continue to grow and the percentage of assistant heads who join is ever increasing, which is promising for the future.

National and international

Of course, standing for election to Council is not a prerequisite to enjoying and benefiting from ASCL membership. However, for those who wish to play a leading part in thought-provoking debate on a national and international scale, I urge them to stand.

At our recent Council meeting I was enlightened by the view of a business manager (in fact, the term ‘business leader’ was preferred) colleague who made an impassioned plea for greater recognition and wider membership of Council for other colleagues in such roles. At a time of greater and faster academy conversion what could be more relevant?

Whatever your position or circumstance, school and college leadership represents a wonderful and awe-inspiring challenge. It should be viewed as a constantly evolving one where the future of so many young people lies at the heart of what we do.

School and college leadership is a privilege; it demands the highest levels of professionalism and it must be enjoyed. The quest for effective, dynamic and efficient leadership is not limited to heads or principals but demanded of all senior leaders. Council membership and its associated benefits will truly serve this aim and provide a platform for sustainable improvements, regardless of your role or context.

Talk with your colleagues, seek opinion and take that first step. You will not regret it!

How you can get involved...

The greatest strength of the association is that it is run by members for members. ASCL Council, the policy making body, is made up of elected representatives. The ratio of Council representatives to members is more generous in ASCL than in any of the other teacher associations and we are proud of this democratic base – it is fundamental to our continuing success and effectiveness.

It is at Council that association policy is determined and that national officers, including the president, are elected. Council members are often the ones to represent ASCL at government meetings. It is vitally important, therefore, that members continue to come forward for election, as regional or national representatives, in sufficient numbers to ensure that the balance of Council reflects the membership as a whole in respect of gender, role and type of institution. We would like to see more deputies, assistant heads and business leaders standing for Council. This wide representation is integral to serving our diverse membership.

Council meets four times a year from Thursday lunchtime until Friday lunchtime. ASCL meets hotel and travel expenses. A Council meeting consists of plenary sessions, debates on current issues, a forum session with a visiting speaker and attendance at one of the main committees and specialist committees.

Council representatives are leaders not just of the association but also the profession. They are, therefore, expected to attend all four two-day council meetings, make an active contribution through the committee structure and debates and engage with members in their regions.

Elections are taking place this month, so watch out for details of nominations and calling papers online on the ASCL website from 8 September and also through our weekly email newsletters and twitter @ASCL_UK For further information on becoming a Council member please contact Ali Carpenter-Hughes at ASCL on 0116 2991122 or email

Forthcoming vacancies

Region Term Vacancies 
National 2015-18 6
East of England 2014-16  2
South West 2015-19 4
London 2015-19 5
Wales 2015-19 3
Ind sector 2015-17 1
SEN 2015-19 1

In the event of two or more nominations for one post, candidates will be sent a detailed nomination form. Each candidate will be given the opportunity to include an election address. The address will be printed unedited on the voting papers that will be distributed by the Electoral Reform Services (ERS). The ERS will act as independent scrutineers throughout the elections. The results will be announced before Christmas.

Ben Bond is Vice-Principal of The Wellington Academy, Wiltshire.