2019 Summer Term

The know zone

  • Primary focus
    ASCL's newly appointed Primary Specialist Tiffnie Harris shares starting points for primary leaders when considering 'curriculum intent' following the publication of the new Ofsted framework. More
  • The end for BTECs?
    The government's consultation on the review of post-16 qualifications closed on 10 June. As we await the outcome with bated breath, we wonder: was this just an attempt to sacrifice the Applied General Qualification (AGQ) on the altar of T levels? Kevin Gilmartin examines the bigger picture. More
  • Due diligence
    An important element of forming, joining or merging an academy trust is to ensure that a comprehensive due diligence process has been undertaken. This way, says Hayley Dunn, schools can reduce, manage or avoid any pitfalls. More
  • Its in our DNA
    With an ever-growing focus on teacher recruitment and retention, it's important to ensure, now more than ever, that you are looking after the wellbeing of your staff. Here MAT CEO Jeremy Rowe shares top tips from his schools' Staff Charter. More
  • RIP for AGQs?
    We are concerned that the government's review of post-16 qualifications could result in Applied General Qualifications (AGQs) being discontinued. Do you run AGQs in your sixth form or college? What are the benefits of these qualifications? What would be the impact if they were discontinued? Here, ASCL members have their say. More
  • Sending a clear message
    Senior leader and ASCL Council Member Margaret Mulholland says disadvantage isn't simply about circumstance or special educational needs and disability (SEND), it's more than that - it's about being individual - a message policymakers should take on board More
  • Give me a break
    Every year as exam season finally comes to an end and sports day and prom night have been and gone, we can at last start looking forward to the summer holiday. But do we really, actually, ever, get a break? More
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Senior leader and ASCL Council Member Margaret Mulholland says disadvantage isn't simply about circumstance or special educational needs  and disability (SEND); it's more than that – it's about being individual –  a message policymakers should take on board.

Sending a clear message

Tell us about your role and your school

I’m Director of Development & Research at Swiss Cottage School in Camden, London, leading the Teaching School. It’s a unique place on so many levels, serving a special school population of 245 learners from 2 to 19 years. We put progress of young people at the heart of everything and it’s a testament to our staff, all of whom we see as leaders. When a child gets a place at Swiss Cottage School their families get a place too. Parents play such a fundamental role in educating their children that our support and collaboration with them is key to success.

Why did you decide to get into teaching/leadership?

Many reasons, with one above all – my mum. She worked her whole career full-time (with four children of her own) in the school where she trained at 18 and is still an active governor at 79. When we walk through our community in Liverpool, four generations of the same family will say, “Hello, Miss” or, “Miss, you would be so proud of our Francis, he’s a teacher now.” Growing up, I saw the difference Mum made to so many families. She didn’t decide who most needed her help based on labels of Pupil Premium, SEND or anything else. She used her knowledge of the school, community and the classroom to identify where she could recognise and support vulnerability. She has faith in people and their ability, and she helps them to see this for themselves. This has always inspired me.

Why did you decide to become an ASCL Council member?

I’m a SEND Representative on the Inclusion and Equalities Committee and I really enjoy the quality of discussion and the opportunity to shape ASCL policy. My ambition is to affect positive change for all pupils with SEND. As the majority of SEND learners today are in mainstream classrooms, much of my focus is how we can influence national policy and support change to ensure SEND strategy is central and not an afterthought – built in not bolt on! My experience of working with colleagues from all over the country has evolved now into a shared language – this is so important. I recognise that so often as educators we seek improvements for key groups but I’m particularly proud of our committee’s focus on vulnerable learners and making the idea that ‘every leader is a leader of SEND’ and we all have a part to play in improving the life chances of all children in our care – this is concrete in ASCL dialogue.

How do you like to unwind?

I love to travel – my first school trip as a newly qualified teacher (NQT) was to Venice and it had a profound effect on me, and I’ve been back with my own family countless times. In my family, we’re all art gallery geeks and I’m so excited that my middle son is off to study art history.

Tell us an interesting fact about yourself

I love seeing the connections between people in a room – on occasion I’ve taken a ball of string to make visible the many links that we have with one another and that this web of connectivity can be used to work towards shared goals. 

What’s your favourite film and book?

Cry Freedom is the answer my kids would give you. I fell in love with the film when I first began teaching about apartheid. I also love the book (and film) Stuart: A life backwards. It’s a true story of the relationship between a university graduate and a severely vulnerable ex prison inmate who struggled all his short life with poverty and learning difficulties. The story recognises life’s complexity – disadvantage is not simply about socio-economic circumstance or SEND; it’s always contextual and individual – which is a message that is so important for policymakers looking for simple or quick fixes.

What advice would you give someone starting a leadership position today?

Find a school where the culture is one of learning, not just performance.

ASCL CouncilFor more details on how you can become a Council member, please email ASCL Director of Policy Julie McCulloch at Julie.mcculloch@ascl.org.uk  We are particularly keen to encourage people from currently under-represented groups, including women and people from black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds, to put themselves forward. Also see www.ascl.org.uk/council