October 2018


  • Renewed optimism
    New terms always begin with a mood of optimism, says Geoff Barton. Even when we worry about results, about looming inspection or about setting achievable budgets and plugging unforeseen staffing gaps, there's something that makes education distinctively upbeat each September. More
  • Cuts - The real impact
    Following his open letter to the Secretary of State for Education, ASCL General Secretary Geoff Barton surveys the impact of funding cuts, highlighting examples from around England of how diminished budgets are chipping away at the very fabric of education. More
  • Best of both worlds
    Positioning teaching as a global profession could have a positive impact on the current teacher supply crisis, both at home and abroad, says Dr Fiona Rogers from the Council of British International Schools (COBIS). More
  • Girl power
    Former teachers Charly Young and Becca Dean founded The Girls' Network with a mission to inspire and empower girls from the least-advantaged communities and help them achieve their goals. Here, Charly explains how the network is helping to change the lives of thousands of girls across the country. More
  • A flexible approach
    Could flexible working provide a major boost in helping to retain teachers? Jack Worth, Lead Economist at the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), looks at their latest findings and says school leaders and teachers need to work together on this. More
  • Double act
    Having survived their first year as Co-Headteachers of The Holt School in Wokingham, Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce reflect on one year in post in this unusual but not completely untested model of headship. More
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New terms always begin with a mood of optimism, says Geoff Barton. Even when we worry about results, about looming inspection or about setting achievable budgets and plugging unforeseen staffing gaps, there’s something that makes education distinctively upbeat each September.

Renewed optimism

It’s the sight of all those new pupils and students starting their new school, stepping up into new classes, moving to college, beginning new courses. It’s that familiar sensation of young people feeling nervous while trying to hide it, of new equipment, new books, new uniforms and new haircuts.

So here we are again – at the start of the annual ritual of refreshment that makes our world so different from that of other professions, that sense of a new beginning that education perhaps uniquely delivers.

And from all of us at ASCL we hope that, whatever worries have been rattling through your brain even in the recesses of a hard-won holiday, you and your team will enjoy a successful year.

Ever-changing landscape

Two things you can expect: more of the same and more that’s new. Because although he lived all those years ago in Ancient Greece, the philosopher Heraclitus of Ephesus said something that surely resonates with all ASCL members: “Nothing endures but change.”

While the start of term will begin with all those familiar rhythms and routines, we can be sure that this will be another year when you, like me, will need to respond to the ever-changing landscape that we’ve come to expect of education.

Whatever your role, in whatever type of institution, the familiar rituals will keep us grounded and secure while the pace of change continues to leave us unnerved and dizzy. Thus, a new year begins in education.

Breaking down barriers

For most of us, last year was dominated by three main issues: funding, teacher recruitment/ retention and growing concerns about the mental health of our young people and our staff.

This coming year must be the one when we start to get each of these huge barriers to educational success sorted. They are holding us back, impeding us from guaranteeing the educational achievement to which every young person from every background should be entitled.

And on funding, it’s now time for us to take the argument out of the educational echo chamber. We can’t simply keep telling one another and policy-makers that funding is having a damaging impact on educational standards. We need to take the argument to wider society, in particular to parents and the electorate at large, and to show them that impact.

And the problem with the real-terms funding reductions in education, which have been especially eye-watering in the post-16 sector, is that they are leading leaders to have to make cuts in provision that mean doing away with things that we value, which most parents and carers would assume were a fundamental aspect of education.

We made this point most strongly last year when we highlighted the disastrous effect of funding cuts to the courses that are most vulnerable: modern foreign languages, design and technology, and the creative arts. We showed how this is now narrowing the curriculum for too many young people at a time when employers are urging us to prepare them for a world that will need the creativity, problemsolving and self-discipline that these subjects combine.

We now have one year before the government’s comprehensive spending review, and this is the period when the talk of funding issues needs to resonate with a wider audience – showing what the ‘f’ word means in terms of limiting the opportunities of the current and next generation of young people.

In all of my meetings with headteacher and principal groups, at our conferences and courses, I’ve been saying that we need to tell the story of the funding issue in direct human terms so that parents, carers and governors can put pressure directly on their MP about the impact.

That’s why I’m so grateful that many of you have started to send me actual examples of the decisions your team has had to make. We print some of them in this issue of Leader and will be using these and other case studies in the media to show the funding realities in education.

We’ll also be helping groups of leaders to galvanise coverage in your local area, to provide a stronger collective voice in articulating why funding remains the number one issue in education.

Shaping the agenda

Meanwhile, as well as giving new grittiness to the funding issue, this will be the year when ASCL aims to shape more of the education agenda. In the coming weeks, Ofsted will unveil its plans for a new approach to inspection for September 2019. Behind the scenes we have been working closely with Ofsted to try to shape a form of intelligent accountability that helps school and college leaders to see inspection as part of a healthy evaluation process, rather than something that has in the past limited and narrowed too much of what we feel we should do.

Through Ofsted’s consultation and at our Regional Information Conferences, I hope you’ll agree that we have a rare opportunity, finally, to create an inspection system with the potential to enhance rather than undermine what we all try to do in our colleges and schools.

In the year of Brexit, we’ll also continue to set an optimistic, internationally outward-looking agenda, looking beyond political turmoil to explore our shared responsibilities to develop the global citizens of the future.

That’s why we are so pleased that former Headteacher, Her Majesty’s Inspectors of Schools (HMI) and Political Adviser Roy Blatchford has agreed to lead our inquiry into how we may ensure that every child from every background could finish Year 11 with certificates showing that they have reached national standards in literacy, rather than the current situation that is built on the expectation that about 35% of young people will fail to reach Grade 4. We have to do something different on behalf of this large group of young people.

In other words, ASCL will be here alongside you responding to the many policy pronouncements and initiatives that government and think tanks send our way. But we’ll also be using quiet (and sometimes less quiet) diplomacy to demonstrate on behalf of our members and young people that we can do things differently. We can – and we will.

Here’s to the year ahead.

Your CPD

Book your place at one of our Regional Information Conferences this autumn at www.ascl.org.uk/RIConf

Geoff Barton
ASCL General Secretary