May 2014


  • Raising our voices
    Dialogue with the profession has been sidelined by this government, says Brian Lightman, with damaging results. It needs to be restored, whichever party is in power, if the vision of a great education service that we all share is to be realised. More
  • The perfect addition
    As more schools struggle to fill headship vacancies, business managers are successfully stepping up to leadership. Dorothy Lepkowska reports. More
  • Be true to your SEF
    As Ofsted announces a shake-up of the inspection framework, Tony Thornley looks at how approaches to school self-evaluation have evolved and explores what a genuinely useful SEF should contain. More
  • Excellence as standard
    We may have reached the zenith of understanding about what makes a great school, says Roy Blatchford. If so, the next step is to make it the norm across the system. More
  • A little bird told me...
    Wary of social media? Think Twitter’s a time-wasting distraction? Avid tweeter Peter Monfort offers a guide to its professional uses that could change your mind. More
  • The true values of education
    record number of school and college leaders gathered in March for the 2014 ASCL Annual Conference, to debate, network and learn about the latest developments in education policy. We were delighted that more than 1,200 of you could join us at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole for what truly More
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A record number of school and college leaders gathered in March for the 2014 ASCL Annual Conference, to debate, network and learn about the latest developments in education policy. We were delighted that more than 1,200 of you could join us at the Hilton Birmingham Metropole for what truly was an inspirational and amazing couple of days.

Welcoming delegates to the conference, ASCL President, Ian Bauckham, said it has been a momentous year for ASCL as membership had grown to more than 18,000 members – nearly double what it was a decade ago – and that it is continuing to expand at an unprecedented rate. On the conference theme, ‘Values for Learning and Leadership’, Ian said he was inspired by teenager Malala Yousafzai who risked her own life to fight for the values of education for all.

Ian (pictured right) also talked about the 2012 Programme for International Assessment (PISA) results and said, “I know PISA is not everyone’s favourite” but that we need to look at what it is that the most successful countries do that makes them so successful.

On Ofsted, Ian said, “It has made a positive contribution and we still need it.” Although he did stress, “To be fit for purpose for the future, fresh thinking is now needed about inspection.”

He then talked about why he believes “we should welcome the new College of Teaching” but stressed that it should be “a voluntary, profession-led, membership body, which puts professional development at the top of the agenda and links it with increasing professional effectiveness”.

Ian concluded his speech by saying, “We have the best ever generation of young teachers in classrooms today, led by the best ever generation of headteachers. Let us seize the agenda with confidence.”

Schools are improving faster and achieving more

Next on stage was Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, in a question and answer (Q&A) session. He said that Ofsted and the government can now take a step back from intervening with successful schools and he stated that schools were ready to take on this autonomy.

Michael Gove was asked several challenging questions from the floor, including a question that asked for reassurance that fair funding was on its way. Mr Gove responded by admitting that not enough had been done but reiterated that the government is taking a step in the right direction by putting additional money into the lowest funded schools. On another funding-related question, Mr Gove (above) was asked about post-16 funding cuts and he replied by saying that the government “had promised to protect funding for 5-15 year-olds and that it was a choice between cuts for early years or post-16 – one or the other had to take a hit”.

He was also asked whether, in light of the short tenure of many school leaders who took on challenging schools, as a result of Ofsted outcomes, he would advise school leaders to do the same today. Michael Gove replied by saying that the government and Ofsted would work with heads in challenging schools and give them more space and time to turn things around.

Less inspection for good schools

Taking the podium directly after was Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw (right). He also took several questions from ASCL members. On reforming Ofsted, Sir Michael said, “Ofsted is being proactive not reactive on the need for change to inspection.” He also said he would be increasing the number of inspectors from the teaching profession and he appealed for more school and college leaders to come forward. He proposed, “Good schools no longer need to be routinely inspected. Instead light touch visits should take place.” He indicated, “Ofsted in partnership with ASCL and the profession will work on these proposals in more depth.”

In addition, Sir Michael responded to ASCL’s position paper on inspection (see the position paper online at where he made a commitment to review the inspection of schools graded in their last inspections as ‘requiring improvement’ with new or relatively new leadership. Following that commitment, he has since sent ASCL General Secretary, Brian Lightman, a letter highlighting that new headteachers of these schools will be given time to improve their schools before being inspected (see the letter online:

Sir Michael also said, “Inspections are necessarily tough and demanding and that if they weren’t, they would lose credibility.” He added, “Publicly funded schools should be accountable to one inspectorate and it would be wrong to suggest otherwise.” He said, “There is little evidence to suggest that misjudgements have increased.” However, feedback received from members to ASCL strongly disagrees with this.

He ended his speech by saying, “Ofsted will inspect without fear or favour and judgements must be fair.”

Education – a single vision

ASCL General Secretary, Brian Lightman,(above) started his speech by saying, “Imagine an education service in our country built upon a single vision that has the complete support of everyone – ASCL members, teachers and other education professionals, governors, parents, students, employers, the local authority, academy chains, all political parties and the regulators.” He then said, “Colleagues, let’s imagine how we might get there” and highlighted the various ways in which this could become a reality. Brian talked about the Great Education Debate and said, “The issues raised in that debate have informed and enriched our discussions with officials, policy makers and others with an interest in our education service.” 

On the curriculum, Brian said that we are further away from a curriculum that meets the needs of all young people and he reiterated members’ frustrations in the way that the profession has been sidelined on this issue. He said, “Large parts of the secondary National Curriculum are an illusion.”

In addition, in his speech Brian called on the government to respond to the many unanswered questions that urgently need clarifying. He said that poor planning and delay over changes to qualifications and other reforms will lead to three years of turmoil for students and teachers.

He then talked about how disadvantage can be overcome, by saying, “Joined up, cross-party consensus is the only way that we will resolve one of the biggest challenges facing our society – educational disadvantage.”

Brian concluded his speech by saying that the profession “is delivering higher standards, better behaviour, and a better education and is crying out to be trusted”. He stressed, “Whatever the political noise, which will no doubt intensify during a long build-up to an election, one message resounds loudly wherever I go. It is the admiration for the sterling work you do day in, day out, often in the light of unrelenting pressures and immense challenges.”

Stop, rewind and play back The conference highlights video is now live on the ASCL website, and speeches and presentations, where available, from the plenary and breakout sessions are also online; see

ASCL Annual Conference 2015

Many of you have already been asking us when we are holding the conference next year – it’s taking place on 20-21 March at the Hilton London Metropole Hotel. 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 – so put the dates in your diary.


We have been overwhelmed by the praise and positive messages from many of you at the conference and from many colleagues who watched online and who followed the live Twitter feed. See the full list of tweets from the ASCL conference here: