October 2017


  • Rooting for you
    Geoff Barton welcomes leaders to the new academic year and shares ASCL's renewed ambition and optimism to remain true to its roots, and serve all members. More
  • Don't be a hero
    Does school and college leadership really matter? World-renowned educationalist Professor John Hattie says yes, but it has to be the right type of leadership. More
  • Redo the maths
    Welcome though it is, the National Funding Formula requires a more sophisticated level of calculation if it is to reflect the real cost to schools of providing a worthwhile education, say Sam Ellis, Susan Fielden and Julia Harnden. More
  • Aiming higher
    Headmaster Walter Boyle says helping students to develop soft skills as well as encouraging successful academic grades can benefit staff and students alike. More
  • Changing places
    Teacher shortages and the developing role of multi-academy trusts (MATs) are two highly important issues for current education policy. Senior Economist Jack Worth says that research suggests that MATs are successfully deploying staff effectively across schools. More
  • Vital support
    Member support is the backbone of ASCL's work. Director Richard Tanton says it's been a busy year for his team, advising and representing leaders in a challenging education landscape. More
Bookmark and Share

Geoff Barton welcomes leaders to the new academic year and shares ASCL's renewed ambition and optimism to remain true to its roots, and serve all members.

Rooting for you

Welcome to the first issue of Leader for this new academic year.

Whether you have just joined a leadership team, taken on a new job, changed responsibilities or are a seasoned veteran of the role – hello from all of us at ASCL. We hope that it will be a really positive year for you, for your students and for the various teams you work with.

In my experience, however jaded and frazzled we become at the end of the endless summer term, and however long we have spent at our desks throughout the summer holiday, a new school and college year usually begins in a mood of optimism.

There’s something about the arrival of those new recruits – the fresh-faced and eager students and the anxious and keen-to-impress new members of staff – that reminds us that as leaders we are the custodians of the next generation, custodians of potential.

With us for the first time in our institutions are the future citizens, the future expert teachers, the future leaders who year by year replenish and enrich us. It’s an annual ritual of professional refreshment that not many careers bring. We should savour it.

Your professional association

It’s the same here at ASCL – at your Association of School and College Leaders.

We’ve been around for quite a while, of course. Back in the 19th century there was the Headmasters Association and the Association of Headmistresses, which became SHA (Secondary Heads Association) in 1977, and then, in 2006, proud and resplendent, was reborn as the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

And here at the start of September 2017 we remain, distinctively and assuredly, ASCL. This is who we are.

I am delighted that you are a member of our union, an Association that provides personal support, policy expertise, national influence, legal protection and professional development.

So, just as a new academic year brings changes for you, I am delighted that this issue of Leader introduces ASCL’s renewed team, values and vision. You’ll read the opening article by our new Director of Policy Kate Godfrey, and a welcome message from our new President Carl Ward.

In all of this, I hope you’ll sense an Association that remains true to its roots as a trade union – there when you need us if a student or parent makes an accusation, there to support you when you need quick advice, there to listen when you’ve no-one to talk to about the issue that’s keeping you awake at night.

But I also hope you’ll sense that there’s a new ambition about ASCL. These, after all, are turbulent times. The uncertainty of the political landscape, the worry about the post-Brexit implications, the fragmentation of old certainties – these could make all of us in education become more insular, more cautious, more timid.

In truth, in an age of anxiety, and in the absence of an overarching vision for education, we can either bury our heads or seize the agenda.

Leaving a legacy

ASCL will take the initiative. Our aim, of course, will always be to hold government to account, to scrutinise changes to performance measures and qualification regimes.

But all of us in leadership will one day look back on our individual legacies, on what we have actually achieved for the students in our care and for the teachers we employ.

We won’t want to be judged merely by the health and safety polices we wrote, the appraisal systems we implemented or the data we endlessly pored over.

We will instead want to look back on the young people for whom our institutions opened doors to a brighter future. We’ll want to celebrate the staff we nurtured and developed. We’ll want to remember the schools and colleges we enhanced, often imperceptibly and in ways not easily measured, on behalf of the communities they serve.

We know this isn’t easily achieved. Real progress isn’t built on gimmicks and quick fixes. Whether we are working in independent schools, in further education colleges, in primary schools; whether we are low down on the rung of senior management or stepping tentatively into executive headship – every step is hard fought and hard won.

At ASCL, we know this. But we also know that this is no time for insularity. That’s why what you will see in the coming weeks and months and years is an Association that plays more than a mere ‘government and opposition’ role. Education is about far more than the English Baccalaureate (EBacc) and Progress 8. It’s about the very nature of the young people our society needs – the skills, the knowledge and the attributes in an age of automation, higher aspirations and a need for genuine employability.

Shaping the agenda

At ASCL, we are determined to step up to shape that agenda, to learn from the best of international policy without genuflecting to it. We are determined to remain optimistic in the darkest of times. We will keep at our heart our mantra to ‘speak on behalf of members; but to act on behalf of children and young people’.

You’ll see us being ambitious and optimistic. We’ll celebrate bold, ethical leadership. We’ll celebrate the community cohesion that school and college leaders provide.

You’ll also see us, ever more visibly, celebrating our tradition as a union, because member support, words of advice, great professional development and camaraderie have never been more needed. You’ll see us fighting for better funding, for equitable assessment and accountability and for less political tinkering. These remain some of our non-negotiables.

So welcome to the new school or college year, and welcome to a renewed Association of School and College Leaders. Do stay in touch with us via Leader, our website and social media. Keep talking to us through emails, face-to-face courses and conferences, and via our surveys and evaluations.

School and college leadership can sometimes feel an isolated and precarious job. Remember that when it does, we’re here to help. And always, wherever you work and whatever you do, we’ll aim to represent you with clarity, principles and optimism.

Have a great year.

…we are determined to step up to shape that agenda, to learn from the best of international policy without genuflecting to it. We are determined to remain optimistic in the darkest of times.

Geoff Barton
ASCL General Secretary