May 2013

The know zone

  • Positively inspirational
    ASCL Annual Conference 2013 More
  • Policy excess
    Schools often believe that the preponderance of policies and procedures they have in place will protect them when things go wrong. But as Richard Bird discovers, this is not necessarily so... More
  • A sting in the tail
    The Department for Education’s (DfE’s) universal funding formula is too simplistic and at odds with its efforts to create a fair system, says Sam Ellis. And some schools will suffer as a result. More
  • Lead vocals
    Quotes from Erica Jong, François Duc de La Rochefoucauld, Benjamin Franklin, Lemony Snicket and Bede Jarrett More
  • Aim Higher
    Carol Holmes is an assistant headteacher and is the director of teaching and learning at Westhoughton High School in Bolton. She was a recipient of one the University of Oxford Inspirational Teachers Awards last year in recognition of helping a student secure a place at Christ Church College. More
  • Tricky Waters...
    The issue of whether or not to pay governors was raised again recently by Sir Michael Wilshaw. Would paying governors enhance the calibre of people who apply? Here leaders share their views. More
  • The perfect match
    Register & Be A Lifesaver (R&Be) is an education programme run by blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan, in conjunction with NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT). More
  • Adding value
    ASCL premier partner, SIMS wants to support schools to get the most out of their Student Information Management System (SIMS) software, to ensure that the software is making a difference to pupil progress and outcomes. More
  • It’s good to talk...
    In his speech to ASCL's Annual Conference, Brian Lightman invited anyone with an interest in education to take part in a Great Debate about its future. Here, he explains the rationale for this ambitious undertaking. More
  • Leader's Surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums… More
  • Voyage into the unknown
    Grievances and resignations, endless meetings and time management issues… and what to buy colleagues in the ’Secret Santa’. These are all trials and tribulations to be faced by the new head. More
  • Searching for answers
    With the long-awaited proposals for the National Curriculum finally published in February, that and changes to qualifications dominated the discussion in the plenary sessions at February’s Council meeting. More
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Positively inspirational

ASCL Annual Conference 2013

A record number of ASCL members gathered in March for the 2013 annual conference, to debate, network and learn about the latest developments in education policy.

Welcoming 1,150 delegates to London, President Mike Griffiths called for a pact of positivity from the profession, and also from politicians, the press, parents and the public. He said that we should “celebrate many of our extraordinary accomplishments.” Mike also welcomed proposals for a professional body – a College of Teaching – as in other professions.

He stressed that the government must do more to promote sport in schools and said, “We need commitment to build on the successes of the School Sports Partnerships” to “encourage all youngsters to engage in physical activity, to benefit their health, fitness and self-esteem.”

Mike said that leaders have vast experience of schools, of teaching and of young people and that they must insist they play a key role in designing the curriculum, and that they are not simply consulted at the end. He called on the secretary of state and other policy makers to work with ASCL and its members, to “respect our professionalism and experience, and ask us to lead the educational debate. Work with us to create a world-class system.”

Accountability is the issue

Next, Secretary of State Michael Gove took to the stage for a wide-ranging question and answer session, starting with an impassioned plea from a headteacher leading a school in a very challenging area. She said, “I love my job. I never want to leave. But I’m really worried. I feel that it’s career suicide to stay where I am.” Michael Gove suggested that the challenges were down to poor funding, however she corrected him and added, “[W]e can’t be a teaching school because we’re not outstanding, that’s my lifeline in terms of getting new blood into the school… It’s not right, there are great leaders in all schools including those in challenging areas.”

Michael Gove said that he is aware that some heads feel under pressure, and he accepted that it takes time to turn a school around. However, he left delegates wondering exactly how this statement squared with his policies on performance tables and floor targets. He also admitted that the way that the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme ended was not his finest hour.

Employers in the game

Continuing the conference theme of positive leadership, John Cridland, the director general of the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), reassured delegates that the CBI was supportive of schools and colleges. He said, “In our ever-increasingly volatile, hyper-connected and globalised world, the sort of education, skills, and training we provide are decisive.

“That is why we decided to reboot our work on schools’ reform last year… [W]e want to work positively to make our point about the value to our nation’s economy of high-performing schools, and to seek allies in re-founding the debate on how to build those schools.

“We are delighted that ASCL grasped our hand when we reached out to them on this, and I want to pay particular tribute to Brian for the energy and enthusiasm he brought to helping our team reframe the business narrative for education.”

Optimistic future

In his speech, ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman said that in spite of the many challenges school and colleges have been faced with, “[t]here are many positive signs and many reasons to be cheerful. Our profession is rising to the enormous challenges… with courage, resilience, tenacity and moral purpose.”

Brian talked about everyone working successfully in partnership from school and college leaders through to organisations such as ASCL, the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF), Whole Education and the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust (SSAT) to share best practice and inspire one another. He was delighted that “[o]ver the last year, more employers and teachers have been working together.”

He stressed that ASCL continues to spend many hours in intense, constructive and sometimes difficult discussions with officials, MPs, HMCI and the secretary of state and his ministers, trying to help to improve our education system further.

Brian highlighted that ASCL has a strong vision and set of values, and he detailed the ways in which the association has been enacting that vision over the last year. This includes ASCL’s lesson observation DVDs that are being used by half of all secondary schools in England, a project with the Principals’ Professional Council (PPC), seminars for leaders on changes to pay and conditions, and a current extensive research project on improving social mobility. ASCL has also supported 4,000 members through the hotline or via field and regional officers.

ASCL members will have the chance to once again experience the inspirational keynote speakers, practical workshops and networking opportunities. So put 21-22 March 2014 in your diary and join colleagues in Birmingham for 2014 ASCL Annual Conference. Whether you are a first time attendee, a day delegate or coming with your whole leadership team, you will find something to engage and inspire you.

Ofsted needs you

HMCI Sir Michael Wilshaw took to the stage and said that Ofsted will recognise and support leaders “with the qualities of resilience and moral purpose – people who are prepared to take tough decisions and battle away to raise standards for all children”. He added, “I am always delighted to see schools in the ‘requires improvement’ category with a grade 1 or 2 for leadership. That is why I want this new ‘requires improvement’ designation to act as a catalyst for the good and ambitious leader to drive their school forward.”

Finally, he ended with a plea for “the best heads” to consider becoming additional inspectors or HMIs and said that it was a chance for them to shape education policy, do something about performance in schools and sort out the problems in vocational education, learning and skills. He said, “It’s a chance for you to hold local authorities and others responsible for governance to account.”

Find out more

For videos, presentations and speeches from the 2013 conference see