2022 Spring Term 2

The know zone

  • Sounding out phonics
    Tiffnie Harris delves into the highly-debated issue on the use of phonics in teaching early reading. More
  • Is the Bacc back?
    As the government carries out an inquiry into the post-16 education landscape, Kevin Gilmartin examines whether there really is an appetite for a 16-19 baccalaureate. More
  • Resource management
    Hayley Dunn takes a closer look at the DfE's new tools for resource management and procurement More
  • Lifelong ambition
    Anne Murdoch explores what the Skills Bill means for colleges, employers and learners. More
  • Post-16 Bacc
    Should the government introduce a post-16 baccalaureate that allows students to take a variety of subjects, including both academic and vocational options? Here, ASCL members have their say... More
  • Going the distance
    Headteacher Russell Clarke says ASCL Council provides an excellent platform for sharing ideas and influencing policy. Here, he shares his passion for Council, carving and fell running. More
  • Never forget?
    If the human brain is wired for learning, it also appears programmed to forget. We all know how the acquisition of knowledge can enrich a life but forgetfulness can have value too, says Chris Pyle. More
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Headteacher Russell Clarke says ASCL Council provides an excellent platform for sharing ideas and influencing policy. Here, he shares his passion for Council, carving and fell running.

Going the distance

Tell us about your role 

I’m headteacher of Haslingden High School and Sixth Form in Lancashire. My 18th year in education has undoubtedly been my most exciting and challenging, in equal measure. September 2021 was the start of my first headship at an 11–18 comprehensive school, having the privilege of leading a wonderful community, comprising 1,600 students and 170 dedicated and passionate school staff.  

Why did you decide to become an ASCL Council member? 

I joined ASCL Council in 2018 and in the summer of 2020, I was elected Chair of the Curriculum and Assessment Committee. Council has facilitated many professional development opportunities, provided a platform for the sharing of ideas from a diverse group of leaders and allowed me to contribute, on behalf of members, to ASCL’s influencing of policy at a national level. In my relatively short time on Council, I have presented evidence in Parliament as part of the ‘No Good Options’ report and I will be meeting with Baroness Barran, Minister for Schools, to discuss the possible direction of travel regarding multi-academy trusts (MATs), as well as leading a discussion on curriculum reform with Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi.  

Why did you decide to get into teaching/leadership? 

Both my brothers pursued a career in the military. I had intended to follow a similar path and while my father wasn’t in the military, you wouldn’t have thought it. Chin-ups before bed, weekends spent in the Lake District or potholing in the Yorkshire Dales. However, on the final day of UCAS applications, I decided I wanted to be a secondary PE teacher and eventually I returned to work at the school I was taught in. I took up my first assistant headteacher post when I was 24 in a school that was in special measures and consider myself fortunate to have met some inspiring mentors in all the schools I have worked in, all of whom have helped shape my educational philosophy and understanding.  

How do you like to unwind? 

My children, aged six and nine, keep me on my toes and although it’s a pleasure to spend time with them, we all also need to make time for ourselves. Physical activity has always been an escape for me and after leaving semi-professional football behind when my children were born, running has been my outlet, allowing me to declutter my mind, organise my thoughts and think creatively. Woodcarving has also been a passion of mine from a young age, having spent many evenings in my grandfather’s workshop, finding it a great way to relax.  

Tell us an interesting fact about you 

I’ve always been keen to take on new challenges, particularly those that are physically demanding. In July 2021 I completed The Bob Graham Round, the 66 mile, 27,000 ft circuit of 42 of the highest peaks in the English Lake District within 24 hours. I hope to complete the Isle of Jura Fell Race this summer and a 100 mile event before the end of the year.  

What’s your favourite book and your favourite film of all time? 

My favourite book is The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy. I talked extensively about what this book means to me in my Leaders are Readers podcast with ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton (www.ascl.org.uk/News/Podcasts/Leaders-reading). And my film recommendation is equally uplifting – The Pursuit of Happyness is an absolute must see, demonstrating that happiness and achievement are not a given, they are hard earned. I believe that to succeed, especially in school leadership, you have to put in the hard miles, to make the sacrifices and overcome the odds, and this film offers all the inspiration you will need. 

What advice would you give to someone new to leadership? 

You must remember to find joy, even on the tough days – in fact, especially on the tough days – and to go easy on yourself and to smile along the way. 

ASCL Council 

For more details on how you can become a Council member, please email ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch at Julie.mcculloch@ascl.org.uk 

We are particularly keen to encourage people from currently under-represented groups including women and people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, to put themselves forward. 

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