November 2013

The know zone

  • Pensions unpicked
    Thought about retirement yet? However far off it may be, start looking now at your options, says David Binnie. There may be unforeseen complications but also opportunities. More
  • Squeezed middle
    Schools may need to become lean and mean in order to adapt to new funding levels, says Sam Ellis, or they may find themselves facing a budget crisis. More
  • Raising the stakes
    Ofsted judgements look likely to be tougher in key areas under the revised guidance introduced in September, says Jan Webber. And the bar is being set higher for achieving Ďgoodí. More
  • Leading education
    ASCL exists to reflect and promote the views of its members, which is why ASCL Council is so important. ASCL Council is made up of 148 elected representatives and is the associationís policy-making body, meeting four times a year. Council members represent ASCL at meetings with government officials and other organisations. It is from Council that national officers, including the president, are elected. In each edition of Leader this year, we will spotlight the work of a particular committee of Council. This month, it is the turn of the Education Committee. More
  • Council focus
    What does it mean to be a Council rep? More
  • ASCL PD events
    New to the leadership team, Leadership for Outstanding Performance, and Homerun for Headship More
  • First term almost over
    ASCL Professional Development (PD) offers high-quality, relevant, up-to-date and competitively priced courses. Our training is delivered by a team of skilled trainers and consultants, almost all of whom have been headteachers or senior school leaders. More
  • How do you say?
    Focus on... 1,000-words challenge More
  • Adding value
    Time to protect your pension pot? More
  • Food for thought
    The government plans to spend £600 million on free school meals (FSM) for every child in a state-funded infant school and disadvantaged students in further education. Is this a good idea? Is this money well spent or should it be spent elsewhere? Here ASCL members share their views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Choice language?
    Would you like IT with your G&T? Or, like Eric Hester, are you bemused by the proliferation of acronyms? More
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ASCL exists to reflect and promote the views of its members, which is why ASCL Council is so important. ASCL Council is made up of 148 elected representatives and is the associationís policy-making body, meeting four times a year. Council members represent ASCL at meetings with government officials and other organisations. It is from Council that national officers, including the president, are elected. In each edition of Leader this year, we will spotlight the work of a particular committee of Council. This month, it is the turn of the Education Committee.

Leading education

The Education Committee covers curriculum, assessment and qualifications, and education/business links. The committee is supported by the work of the education policy specialist and also that of the college specialist. After discussion about the constant change to GCSE at the October meeting, the committee issued the following position statement:
GCSE reform An essential part of qualification reform must be a clear statement on the standards which are required to achieve particular grades at GCSE and A level. These grades must be criterion referenced so that all those involved (students, parents, teachers, governors, colleges, universities, employers) have a clear understanding of what is required. This will also allow the education system to demonstrate whether or not standards are improving. Once the grades and standards for the new GCSEs and A levels have been fixed, they should be kept for a set period of time.


The last Council meeting was held on 10-11 October in Sheffield. Key points are sent to all members by email, and are available on the website at www.ascl.org.uk/council


Patsy Kane has been head of Whalley Range, an 11-18 High School for seven years and is also currently executive head of Levenshulme High School, both all-girlsí schools in Manchester. She chairs ASCLís Education Committee.

What do you think is the most important issue facing education at the moment?
The governmentís announcement on early entry GCSE is having an extremely negative impact on education especially when schools are trying to ensure that the constant barrage of changes being brought in are not affecting childrenís achievement.

You took over both schools after they hit the headlines with some serious problems; coincidence or design?
After its difficulties, we got into a good place at Whalley Range in terms of ethos, attainment and positivity. We were also outstanding when it came to behaviour and safeguarding, which had been a critical issue at Levenshulme, reflected both in parentsí complaints and Oftsed inspections. Meeting the girls in assemblies and wanting them to have a good school experience made an impression on me. The biggest priority is building up a culture so that they are listened to and feel safe.

Your father was a head and your mother also taught. Were you ever going to consider any other career?
My dad died 40 years ago but when I went to a reunion of his school, people came up to me all evening to tell me what a brilliant man he was. Just this week, I received an email from someone who had passed my school on a bus, saw my name, looked me up, and felt compelled to write and tell me what a wonderful head my father was and how he had inspired all five brothers and sister in the family to go to university. That shows that the legacy of a good head can be very long-lasting; something to aim for!

Why did you take a career break in California?
I helped with the business development of a computer company and lived in Silicon Valley for a year. I think some of that dynamic, start-up culture was useful at Whalley Range, a business enterprise college. My son is just starting a degree in entrepreneurship so itís a thread running through the family. With a beautiful climate and a good job, itís the perfect place to live. Not so much if you lose your work or get ill and your insurance doesnít work, though.

Manchester: red or blue?

I grew up watching Best, Law and Charlton at Old Trafford but also caught the time they went downhill after the first European Cup win. We draw on Unitedís recent accomplishments in school, learning about the determination and the teamwork needed to be successful and stay successful. We had some visitors from Saudi Arabia at Whalley Range and they were asking about headship. I told them that heads here have more freedom than many around the world but we have far more accountability. It was like being a football manager. They understood that.

  • Interview by John Holt


Patsy Kane

LEADING READING