2022 Summer Term


  • Follow the sun
    Geoff Barton contemplates the finishing line in what has been another extraordinary year for school, college and trust leaders. More
  • Inclusive Education
    Will the government's new special educational needs and disability (SEND) green paper address the illusion of inclusion? ASCL Specialist Margaret Mulholland investigates. More
  • Be at the Heart
    Deputy Headteacher Gurpall Badesha says joining ASCL Council is one of the best things she has have ever done and it's made her a better leader, thinker and professional. More
  • A Friend in Need
    A crippling condition forced Kate Dixon to give up her vocation, but ASCL Benevolent Fund provided help in the darkest of times, she tells Julie Nightingale. More
  • Keeping Young People Safe
    Former headteacher Tom Goodenough highlights the work of Violence Reduction Units and how, with the support of schools and colleges, they are protecting young people from a life of crime. More
  • People First Development
    Placing people development at the heart of appraisals not only benefits teachers, it can also have a positive effect on pupil achievement. Denise Inwood from BlueSky Education explains how and why. More
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Geoff Barton contemplates the finishing line in what has been another extraordinary year for school, college and trust leaders.

Follow the sun

The end – surely – is nigh. You may not be there quite yet, but you’re almost there. ‘There’, of course, is the end of another term, another academic year, another staging post in this extraordinary Covid era. A holiday is now in sight and – gosh – it’s one that you have deserved. 

While the past year hasn’t quite been dominated by that unnerving brave new world of on-site lateral flow tests and teacher-assessed grades, it’s had its unfair share of leadership challenges. 

Most recently, you’ve had the burgeoning energy costs, the labyrinthine demands of an overcomplicated tutoring programme, high pupil and staff absence rates and the ever-present backdrop of Covid anxiety, exam anxiety, everything anxiety. 

So now, after all that, you and your team deserve a break. 

Yet one of the facets of leadership that always surprised me, in the various roles I had, was that despite all that synthetic media froth about over-long holidays for people in education, the reality was that my much anticipated summer break always started far later than scheduled. 

That’s because I’d get to the end of the summer term and could never quite switch off, couldn’t leave unfinished business unfinished, couldn’t persuade my overthinking brain that it was time to switch off from its default work mode. 

As a result, for my family, those first few days of the holiday were often ones in which I was distracted, irritable, ‘unswitchoffable’. 

I came to realise that for many of us in leadership, that’s part of the territory. We work at full mental and physical throttle through those relentless weeks in our schools and colleges. It’s unrealistic to think we’ll achieve a sudden grinding halt at the end of the last day of term. 

We need some time to process, reflect and consider. And I hope that’s what you’ll make time to do. 

Because this has been a year of angst, uncertainty and – to use a characteristic word of mine – ‘snarkiness’. Everyone, it seems, is quick to criticise and slow to praise. 

Let’s look back on the year that’s almost over 

Against a backdrop of concerns about a new Covid variant, you welcomed young people and staff back into your school or college, wherever you are in the UK, against a landscape of uncertainty. 

You re-established routines and rhythms to create some sense of normality for our young people, to reacquaint them with in-person learning. You reassured your staff. You soothed parental concerns. You showed local leadership when national leadership was so often woeful. 

You were visible and authentic, grounded and true. 

Others may not have noticed what you achieved, but we most certainly did. 

You did all this against a backdrop of madcap accountability measures that assume that it’s business as usual, a cost-of-living crisis that is eye-watering in its impact and the spectre of Ofsted hovering in the wings. 

So, you’ve almost made it to the end of the year. And let’s cling on to some optimism for the year and years ahead. The summer break is a time to regroup, to reflect on the lessons of the past year, to think of the year that lies ahead. 

It’s also a time to immerse ourselves in the things that matter far more than all of this – time with family and friends, time away from work, aided by the books, films, music and sport that help us to escape. It’s time to reconnect with the stuff that makes us human. 

Don’t feel guilty about doing any of this. You owe it to yourself and to your family. Your mind and body need a reboot ahead of the year ahead. 

So, as you emerge into the summer break, I hope that any pervading gloom of the year that’s been may start to be recalibrated, that a different perspective might be restored. 

I’m no wordsmith, but I know of someone who is. As Paul McCartney puts it, “Tomorrow may rain, so I’ll follow the sun.” 

So, what might the next year ahead hold? 

In each part of the UK there will be different priorities, different themes, different incarnations of political vision – various reformations of the curriculum, assessment and conditions of service for Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. 

In England, we know the Westminster government’s white paper will be translated into a Schools Bill. Political aficionados may get excited by this, but our view at ASCL is that it’s all ‘nerdily’ technocratic and a bit tame. 

Nevertheless, the Bill’s implications around centralisation of powers towards the Secretary of State, targets for literacy and numeracy and every school part of a strong trust by 2030 cannot be lightly dismissed. 

So, we will continue in the coming months to engage with government about what this direction of travel might mean in practice. 

Meanwhile, we believe that there’s something more significant taking place. The SEND green paper on the quality of provision for our most vulnerable children and young people – those with special needs who are too easily left on the margins, too easily ignored – is where we think the really important issues lie. 

Because if a state’s education system is to be judged as effective, then it must be measured against the needs and aspirations of every child, including those too easily overlooked. 

ASCL’s commitment to speaking on behalf of members but acting on behalf of children and young people, rings louder in our ears than ever as the UK’s poverty levels soar and all the impact downriver, we know this will hold. 

In a few weeks’ time, as we regroup around the start of a new academic year, be assured that as well as defending funding, pay and conditions, the right of leaders to make decisions on behalf of their communities and going after the punitive accountability system, we will also be there in the corner fighting for those without a voice. That SEND green paper provides an opportunity. 

We’ll do this not because it’s mandated, or in law, or a way of accruing more members. No, we’ll speak out for the most vulnerable young people because it’s the ethical thing to do. 

So, yes, Paul, tomorrow may rain, but we’ll follow the sun.


Geoff Barton
ASCL General Secretary

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