2021 Autumn Term 1

The know zone

  • Good business sense
    School business leaders are a vital part of education leadership but, sadly, many SLTs still do not include a business or finance lead. Here, ASCL Specialist Louise Hatswell shines a spotlight on their work. More
  • Academy Trust Handbook 2021
    ASCL Business Leadership Specialist and representative on the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) Academies Finance and Assurance Steering Group Hayley Dunn highlights the key changes from the recent update to the renamed Academy Trust Handbook. More
  • Vocational reform
    Highly significant changes to vocational qualifications are underway. Here, ASCL Specialist Kevin Gilmartin looks at the implications for students, schools and colleges. More
  • Don't believe the hype
    ASCL Pensions Specialist Jacques Szemalikowski shares tips and advice to help members avoid becoming victims of unscrupulous pension scammers. More
  • Wise words of wisdom
    Here, ASCL members share their advice for new leaders starting this September. More
  • Critical thinking
    Headteacher Hannah Millett says being on ASCL Council has helped her build a wider network of leaders to support her in her job. Here, she shares her passion for Council, leadership, football and not being afraid of criticism. More
  • Baby boom and bust
    Despite a short-term recruitment rush encouraged by the pandemic, we are still desperately short of secondary teachers. Carl Smith suggests some drastic remedies for the problem. More
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Here, ASCL members share their advice for new leaders starting this September.

Wise words of wisdom


Drink tea. Drink coffee. And lots of it. Brace yourself. Spend as much time as you can – and there can never be enough – in one-to-one or small groups getting to know your people. Your people. Your most valuable and cherished resource. And just listen. In those crucial meetings you’ll find out more about your school and the individuals and teams that you’ll rely on to make it work for your young people than in any file, improvement plan or policy. Store away the insights and the anecdotes; they’ll inform subsequent strategy and shape actions for the better going forward.

Derek Peaple
Retired headteacher, Park House School, 2003–20

Walk the walk

  • Try to establish a good work–life balance from the start. You are not much good to anyone in school or at home if you are exhausted.
  • Treat others the way you would like to be treated yourself.
  • Look after your staff – they are your most precious resource.
  • Remember that promotion is not a race. Enjoy the journey.
  • Read widely, focusing on behaviour, curriculum and teaching and learning.
  • Do not be buffeted by the latest trends.
  • Get out of your office as much as you can and walk around the school. You will see first-hand the small, often unseen but defining moments that make working in education so rewarding.

Mark McKelvie
Principal, Pudsey Grangefield School


As a leader, often it isn’t the 999 things you do really well that stick in people’s minds but the one thing you don’t do particularly well. Never be afraid to admit you have made a mistake, but a consistent, cheerful, courageous and compassionate approach to whatever challenges you face will help ensure the 999 great things are equally memorable for many.

While realism is essential, so too is cheerful optimism as successful leaders seek to reassure, inspire, support and build confidence in individuals and teams in the drive to overcome adversity, nurture creativity and aspire to excellence.

Mark Jackson
Headteacher, Haslingden High School

Be positive

Smile Although masks have made social interactions difficult over the last 18 months, your eyes and body language will convey your feelings. Be seen to be upbeat and happy; this will have a huge influence on the people around you.

Take an interest Find out small facts about the people you work with. Make an effort to remember the name of a puppy bought during lockdown, or which football team they support. This will go a long way towards building relationships.

Be confident You clearly have the ability to be successful in your new role or you would not have been appointed. Remember to instil confidence in others, too.

Enjoy it Some days will feel tough and overwhelming but keep calm, take a moment and breathe. Remember that you don’t have all the answers and, as we say to the student, it is OK to ask.

Sue Dunn
Assistant Headteacher, Chapel-en-le-Frith High School

You can do it:

Be brave; have the tough conversations early in your tenure.

  • Build your team as soon as you can – people sometimes say ‘evolution not revolution’ but if it’s clearly not working, fix it as soon as possible; why let students suffer a day longer?
  • Headship is not a lonely job.
  • Not everyone is against you.
  • Every school has its challenges, even your incredibly high-performing neighbour.
  • It takes about five years to effect and embed a real culture change but you will know when it starts to happen.
  • Flattery is a wonderful thing, just don’t inhale.
  • Say thank you.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate – people might not always like what you do but if they understand your reasoning, that goes a long way.
  • You can do it; back yourself.
  • Network and build alliances.
  • The highs are higher and the lows lower than perhaps any other job.
  • Sometimes we all are just busking with confidence.

Martin Lavelle
Headteacher, Southgate School