Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Strength in numbers

ASCL's new president Jane Lees shares her priorities for the year and looks specifically at the challenges of online reporting.

I thought long and hard before I chose 'achieving more together' as the presidential theme for this year. I wanted to reflect my personal values but also to reflect our association's commitment to its members and what we can achieve together.

One of our major projects last year was promoting partnership and collaboration within a realistic context. ASCL's publication by Robert Hill set out the intellectual case for working together and identified barriers to this happening. We must continue to promote partnership and collaboration this year, especially as the Children's Plan really starts to impact on our schools and colleges.

There is much which is laudable in the Children's Plan but, as John Dunford said when the plan was published, we need a route map to guide us through the journey as well as a realistic time scale for implementation. Far too much is being loaded onto school and colleges this year already.

As I travelled around the country representing ASCL at meetings last year, I felt uneasy that the workload of leaders was increasing further and that if we are not careful something worthwhile will be lost within the hurried implementation of so many policies. This feeling was confirmed by members who listed the many new demands they were facing.

One example is online reporting, which is mentioned in the Children's Plan. I am sure that this will engage more parents in their child's education and a positive partnership with parents does improve success. It will also eventually reduce the workload associated with traditional reports.

As a parent, the idea of online access to my child's attendance, assessment, behaviour, progress and SEN information is excellent. I should no longer need to ask the usual question "What have you done at school today?" Instead, I should (hopefully) be able to have an informed discussion with my child.

However, the letter we all received from Becta about the implementation of this initiative came one week before the end of term. Not quite the time when it would be a priority for school leaders who were dealing with educational visits, excited students, tired staff and the SATs fiasco!

There are other issues related to online reporting, such as interoperability, which are yet to be ironed out.

If online reporting is to work properly, schools, colleges, Becta, software companies, parents, staff and students need to work together to achieve the goal.

At ASCL we listen carefully to members' concerns. We try our best to limit the more damaging aspects of central control, although sometimes we are unsuccessful and the DCSF still misses the point. The most glaring recent example was the attack on the schools below the 30 per cent GCSE threshold.

Sometimes we can be frustrated at the lack of trust and understanding school and college leaders receive from those who should know better. ASCL's policy on chartered assessors is an example of how we have been proactive on this topic.

At the end of the summer term ASCL Executive chose this year's public policy agenda priorities which will guide the presidential trio, Council and officers in our work. This is based on members' input and tackles the most pressing issues.

We have included in the agenda school/college accountability, implementation of the Children's Plan, workload issues, the new Ofsted framework and the 14-19 curriculum, especially diplomas.

We take advantage of every opportunity to proactively influence and shape policies but also to ensure our members' interests are represented with truth and clarity.

I feel privileged to represent you as your president this year and I will enjoy meeting many of you. If you want to contact about a specific issue, my email address is jane.lees@ascl.org.uk

I truly believe that our success and influence as an association is based on all of us achieving more together.

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