August 2018

The know zone

  • Summer term blues...
    'Common knowledge' has it that teachers not only spend a large proportion of the year on holiday but also have a full half-term to recharge their batteries in preparation for that big six-week 'sit-off'. If only it were that simple, says one head... More
  • Leaders' surgery
    Hotline advice expressed here, and in calls to us, is made in good faith to our members. Schools and colleges should always take formal HR or legal advice from their indemnified provider before acting. More
  • What's your favourite book?
    With the end of the summer term in sight, bringing with it a chance, hopefully, for you to unwind and maybe read a book or two, we asked what you enjoy reading. Fiction or non-fiction, novel or biography, here are a few suggestions from ASCL members and staff. More
  • Ready for transition?
    Kevin Gilmartin examines the proposed 'transition year' for 16 year-olds. More
  • Time for reflection
    Self-evaluation is almost always a useful process, but as with most leadership activities, the trick is to ensure the cost/benefit ratio works in your favour, says Stephen Rollett. More
  • Hub of expertise
    A new website, supported by ASCL, offers schools and colleges a valuable chance to share best practice and resources on special educational needs and disability (SEND). Anna Cole highlights the details. More
  • New starting point
    As the pace picks up on plans to introduce the controversial new Reception Baseline Assessment (RBA), Julie McCulloch looks at how the assessment will work and how it will be used. More
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With the end of the summer term in sight, bringing with it a chance, hopefully, for you to unwind and maybe read a book or two, we asked what you enjoy reading. Fiction or non-fiction, novel or biography, here are a few suggestions from ASCL members and staff.

What's your favourite book?

The thrill of if it...

One of my favourite pre-holiday rituals is deciding which book to take away with me.

I can never pass up the opportunity of a good historical conspiracy thriller. I love how the author keeps me guessing as they weave historical facts with supposition, legend and hearsay to create what may be the real truth behind the historical events.

Authors such as Philippa Gregory, Ken Follett and Dan Brown are so adept at researching and re-assembling source materials to recreate a backdrop of intriguing imagery against major real-life historical events. I am already looking forward to my next one....

Pepe Di’lasio
Wales High School
Sheffield, South Yorkshire

The Most Dangerous Book: The Battle for James Joyce’s Ulysses by Kevin Birmingham

It is a superbly written account of the extraordinary battle by a group of far-sighted people to get into print, against the social mores of the time, one of the world’s greatest works of literature. It is also an illuminating and incredibly moving insight into the life of Joyce and his stunning creation.


A Very English Scandal: Sex, Lies and a MurdernPlot at the Heart of the Establishment by John Preston

The book is even better than the BBC’s excellent adaptation. Beautifully written, it has the pace of a thriller, and is rich in detail, not only of the bizarre scandal itself, but also of the politics, characters and climate of the era. It is, in turns, comic, surreal, horrifying and tragic.

Richard Bettsworth
ASCL Head of Public Relations

The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov

It’s a completely bonkers novel written in the early part of the 20th century and not published until 1967, 20 years after Bulgakov’s death. It’s the story of the Devil visiting Soviet Russia accompanied by, among others, a giant talking cat. Running parallel is the story of Pontius Pilate meeting Yeshua (Jesus) in Jerusalem and normally by now anyone I’m trying to convince to read the book has got a slightly dazed look… All I can say is, ‘Try it!’ You won’t be disappointed. It mixes fantasy, romance, comedy, political satire – there’s literally something for everybody. And if you’re searching for a read that will take your mind off issues of staff, curriculum, funding and accountability this is absolutely the book for you.

Claire Robins
Headteacher, Sir John Lawes,
School, Harpenden

Tess of the d’Urbervilles: A pure woman faithfully presented by Thomas Hardy

Maybe it’s because the books we study at school get into our bloodstream: thus, my A level set-text, Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the d’Urbervilles, remains a favourite book. It’s often bleak, sometimes clunkily written, but also compelling in highlighting the story of a young woman who deserves far better than Victorian society’s attitudes deliver. And, of course, the novel is also a reminder for me of the power of a great English teacher to inspire.

Over the past year, I’ve recommended a selection of fiction and non-fiction titles in the run-up to each of the breaks. For my latest recommendations, see here bartonbookshelf

Geoff Barton
ASCL General Secretary

The Mitfords: Letters Between Six Sisters Edited by Charlotte Mosley (Fourth Estate)

At more than 800 pages, this book may be too heavy for your holiday suitcase, however, it provides a fascinating look at the life and times of the six infamous Mitford sisters who grew up and entered English society during one of modern history’s most turbulent periods. It’s great to dip into: witty and mischievous, the sisters’ politics and rebellious behaviour aren’t always easy to comprehend, but their letters and billets-doux are packed with in-jokes and nicknames, as well as a glimpse of a past era, an era when we kept in touch with lovely, handwritten letters.

Sally Jack
ASCL Online Editor