Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Keeping up the pace

It's been another busy year for school and college leaders, ASCL President Jane Lees reminds us...

Last autumn, there were so many issues impacting on members that it was difficult for ASCL Executive to prioritise our public policy agenda.

We felt that the major issues centred around the new relationship with schools, the Children's Plan, pay and conditions, the new Ofsted framework, 14-19 curriculum and assessment and funding. So we have taken every opportunity to ensure our messages about these matters are targeted at the people who are taking or influencing decisions which impact on leaders and on our students.

As the year has progressed, we welcomed the abolition of Key Stage 3 SATs and felt that perhaps there had been an outbreak of common sense in the government. However, it was to prove the major highlight in an otherwise increasing agenda of micromanagment.

In recent months we have:

  • set out our concerns and prerequisites for the new school report card

  • established a working relationship with Partnership for Schools to address concerns with Building Schools for the Future, especially about centrally managed ICT

  • worked with the Higher Education Delivery Partnership on admissions to higher education

  • engaged with the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties to develop relationships and build awareness of ASCL policies

  • played a highly proactive role in the rarely cover agreement

  • held a series of seminars on Robert Hill's future schools project

  • worked with LSC and government to ensure adequate post-16 funding

In my annual conference speech I expressed my serious concern about the workload on leaders. We know that the pace of innovation and implementation in schools and colleges is off the scale and yet the latest white paper flags up even more change and the Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Bill will mean additional workload.

Among many other imperatives this ASCL Bill (I think someone was trying to be humorous) will provide another complaints procedure (haven't we already got one?), will have the teeth to ensure compliance of workforce issues (although only six schools in the country are causing serious non-compliance problems) and cause us headaches about when and how to search students.

So what has ASCL done about it? We have made considerable representation to MPs and the House of Lords and you will see on the ASCL website our submissions as the bill passed through Parliament.

In March this year we received the House of Lords' Merits Committee report looking at the DCSF use of statutory instruments. One of the recommendations is that the government take a lighter touch approach to maintained schools.

However with 51 new policies for schools to implement this year, ASCL will keep up the pressure on the ministers to stop and think before they legislate. Every time they legislate, more regulations follow and many more pages of guidance land on leaders' desks.

Being president this year has given me a great opportunity to step back from the hurly-burly of school and the incessant implementation of policies. What has struck me most is the outstanding commitment and service that I have seen from our members.

I have travelled around the country and met members who care deeply about the future of our young people and who endeavour to provide the best educational experience possible for each child whatever their background. Public service is indeed alive and well in our schools and colleges, where leaders dedicate their careers to their communities.

I wish you all a well deserved summer break.

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