2019 Autumn Term 2


  • A solid foundation
    Good schools are built on good teachers, but we face a severe shortage of teachers says Sam Sims, Research Fellow at UCL Institute of Education (IOE). Here, he explains the thinking around a new collaboration between ASCL and IOE to help with teachers' job satisfaction and retention. More
  • Getting educators on board
    Supporting another school or trust by joining its governing board offers a fantastic professional development opportunity for school leaders says Dominic Judge from Education and Employers. More
  • Smoke & mirrors?
    The long-awaited government spending round has been and gone, but what does it actually mean for your school? Is the government finally addressing the funding shortages in education, or just hiding behind a smokescreen? Here ASCL Funding Specialist, Julia Harnden, talks us through the detail. More
  • Change makers
    Gohar Khan, Director of Ethos at Didcot Girls' School in Oxford, shares her school's desire to create the next generation of female leaders. More
  • All in the mind
    Ruby Wax made her name as a writer and comedian but, in recent years, has become a vocal advocate for mental health and will give a keynote speech at ASCL's Annual Conference in 2020. She spoke to Julie Nightingale. More
  • Diverse thinking
    We need leaders and governors to reflect a society and a school population that is diverse and varied, and be all the richer for it says Geoff Barton. Here he highlights how we can all help to make that change. More
  • Our united vision
    This is the first in a new regular update in Leader to provide you with the latest information from our colleagues across the nation. ASCL is proud to represent school and college leaders from all over the UK. More
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This is the first in a new regular update in Leader to provide you with the latest information from our colleagues across the nation. ASCL is proud to represent school and college leaders from all over the UK – see more at www.ascl.org.uk/Membership/ASCL-UK

Our united vision

It is important to understand that while there is much in practical terms in schools across the UK that would appear to be very similar, there are major contextual differences that create different challenges and opportunities for school leaders in Scotland.

At the micro level, the educational process is essentially the same: large groups of young people of varying ability and socioeconomic background assemble at an appointed time at buildings of varied physical and architectural quality to be taught, essentially, the same group of subjects by adults of varying levels of enthusiasm and ability.

It is at the macro level at which education is delivered, where a visitor to the UK would, by travelling the nine miles north from Berwick High School to Eyemouth High, begin to identify significant and distinct differences.

In Scotland, 95% of young people are educated in state comprehensive schools attaining qualifications from one examination body – the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA).

The nomenclatures – academy, secondary school, high school and grammar school – are no more than historical anachronisms and have no relevance in identifying differences between schools.

Since 2007, Scotland has had the advantage of stable governance:

  • Major national curricular reform through the introduction of A Curriculum for Excellence has been implemented over that period.
  • Since 2015, the Scottish government, through its commitment to ‘Improving Excellence and Equity’, has placed education at the front of the political agenda.
  • Since 2017, the Scottish government has embarked on a programme to empower headteachers to have significant powers over curriculum, school improvement, finance and staffing.

A layer of local authority governance exists between schools and Scottish government.

Since 1997, school inspection has been conducted against a standard template ‘How Good is Our School’ – now in its fourth edition.

All teachers must be registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland (GTCS). This can only be achieved after attaining a recognised degree or qualification, one year’s post-graduate training and one year’s paid training in a school.

In sharing the Scottish school leadership perspective with you I will, in forthcoming issues of Leader, return to the strands of the Scottish context in more detail.

Jim Thewliss
General Secretary,
School Leaders Scotland

Holding onto the dream of reformed education in Wales

As someone new in post as Director of ASCL Cymru, but seasoned as an educator and leader, I have been humbled and overwhelmed by the many members I have spoken to over the last few months. Your dedication to children in the most difficult and near impossible financial and social circumstances is both heartening and grim.

In Wales, we are in the midst of seismic changes. At the heart is a wonderfully articulated road map for a new curriculum that is bold, innovative, exciting and child centred. Progression and assessment will recognise the stages that children go through in learning, rather than merely providing a stop/ start approach based on age or sector. I believe that this could really make Wales a global leader in education.

Ours is a proud nation and we are on the edge of something very exciting. And, in general, we don’t mind the raft of changes, because they are noble and worthy.

However – and there had to be a ‘however’ – the appetite for these optimistic reforms is more than a little dulled by funding starvation.

The reality in Wales is that a significant quantity of money for education resides outside of schools in the multi-layered, complicated machinery built between government and schools.

ASCL Cymru is having to fight for every penny. Leaders in schools are having to make dreadfully difficult decisions. Children are suffering as a result of this irrefutable funding crisis.

It is time for Welsh government to realise that the well of goodwill is drying up. Leaders want to make Wales a first-class education system but will struggle when they are quite simply, broke. If schools were businesses, they would be declared bankrupt.

It would be easy for people to become desensitised and dismissive of our frequent cries for better funding. However, every day our leaders look into the eyes of their pupils, their parents and their teaching staff.

They know how much better it could be if resources matched today’s needs, let alone tomorrow’s dreams for a better Wales. And at ASCL Cymru we’re doing everything to help them achieve this ambition.

Eithne Hughes
Director of ASCL Cymru

Much to celebrate in educational provision in Northern Ireland

Academically, pupils at A level have consistently outperformed their counterparts in England and Wales in recent years. The overall A*–E pass rate at A level increased slightly to 98.3%. There was a rise in the proportion of top A level grades awarded to pupils, with just over 30% of entries awarded A* or A grades, a rise of 0.5% on 2018. 2019 saw the completion of the first cycle of the revised GCSE specifications. As educational policy is now devolved, this year saw the introduction of the new C* grade. The narrowing of the A* band for GCSEs in Northern Ireland now aligns it with Grade 9 in England, but the A grade boundary equates with Grades 8 and 7 in England. ASCL Northern Ireland has been working with the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) to ensure that this will be recognised by Higher Education (HE) providers in the future.

Congratulations must go to the hardworking students, their teachers, school leaders and parents for the excellent outcomes that have been achieved. Despite this, schools in Northern Ireland have never been under such strain. School budgets are at crisis point. According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) in a recent report (www.ifs.org.uk/publications/14369), Northern Ireland has seen an 11% cut in real-terms school spending per pupil since 2009. That compares to cuts of 8% in England, 6% in Wales and 2% in Scotland. The IFS also said that pupils in Northern Ireland received the lowest education spending per head in the UK in 2018–19. The report concluded that spending per pupil, out of all the devolved regions, was lowest in Northern Ireland, at £5,500 per pupil.

The pressures that Northern Irish school leaders are facing is compounded by industrial action short of strike action, which the main teaching unions have been taking since 2017. This is revolving around a pay claim and working conditions and, at the time of writing, has not been resolved.

ASCL Northern Ireland is strong and members are looking forward to our Annual Northern Ireland Conference www.ascl.org.uk/niconference

Robert Wilson
ASCL Northern Ireland
Regional Officer