Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Home and away...

Basketball, breakfast meetings, The Beatles and business managers - life is never boring for an ASCL president, says John Morgan. There's even a chance to experience the Clegg effect.

It is often said that, after the ASCL Annual Conference, the rest of the year can be a bit of an anti-climax for the ASCL president. The conference in March, attended by well over 700 delegates, was certainly a high point; necessarily more political than usual, but still retaining its focus on leaders' learning and enjoyment through member-led seminars and inspirational platform speakers.

It was also our first experience of the Clegg effect, just as impressive at conference as he subsequently proved to be on the television debates.

But the weeks following conference continued to demonstrate why being president of ASCL is not just a great honour but also a wonderful professional opportunity. Barely was the conference over and I was in the air, heading for Phoenix and the North American Secondary School Principals' conference which saw me at the Grand Canyon in the snow and cheering on the Phoenix Suns against the LA Lakers.

Between these two treats was a splendid conference, similar in style to our own. At breakfast the first newspaper headline I read was: "Firing teachers: a first step to reform or a step too far?" Home from home!

The theme of their general secretary, Gerry Tirozzi, was a call to members to lobby their congressmen against President Obama's offer of financial support to individual states to improve failing schools but only if they adopt one of his four national strategies; the first step in each of the four being "Fire the principal..."

There was much evidence-based condemnation of the majority of charter schools, too. "Some are doing a great job, but standards across the country are below average." Beware cherry-picking from foreign trees; not all the fruit has yet ripened.

On arriving home, I had more opportunities to follow the educational political hustings as, like me, the politicians travelled to the teacher union conferences. They provided the only genuine debating that took place, as every other platform motion seemed to be passed virtually unanimously. Whatever one might think about the policies proposed, it was pleasing to see that the education brief was held by three of the sharpest political operators in town.

Four part harmony

Next I found myself joining 200 other school leaders singing Let It Be in four-part harmony, led by David and Carrie Grant (ask your children if you don't know) as part of a wonderful ASCL/RM Futures conference, reminding us that the best training is itself enjoyable and participative.

Then it was on to another first which will surely soon become a tradition: the ASCL Business Managers' Conference. No group of members is growing more quickly than the business managers, both in numbers and in their understanding of and contribution to wider school and college leadership. No group interrogates exhibitors more rigorously, either. Added value is always uppermost in their minds... and I don't mean CVA.

In between, we have been signing off the annual accounts ready for the AGM, appointing new staff as we continue to increase the range and responsiveness of our support for members, and preparing for the new government, when the huge amount of work put in throughout the year by the general secretary and colleagues in developing relationships and influence across the full political spectrum will, as before, make ASCL the first port of call for a secretary of state or a civil servant seeking constructive, common sense advice.

John Morgan

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