Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Reflecting our membership


By changing the association's name to ASCL, we are making an unequivocal statement about the future of leadership.

I first joined SHA in 1988 when I became a deputy head and have been a member of Council since 1993. I have much appreciated the support and companionship I associate with the SHA name. I am also only too well aware of the high level of national recognition for SHA and the influence of our views.

I therefore felt a certain amount of alarm when we first entered the name change debate. However, over the months I have become more and more convinced that the time is now right for us to make this highly significant change.

We need to dispel the idea that schools and colleges are run by one heroic individual who patrols the corridors, balances the books, checks the boilers and brings about change through sheer force of personality. School improvement happens as a result of hard work by teams: teams of leaders, teams of teachers, teams of associate staff and teams of students.

SHA represents teams of leaders in schools and colleges, teams which include headteachers, deputy heads, assistant heads, bursars, business managers, principals, deputy principals, assistant principals. So what could be more to the point than to call ourselves what we are: the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

In schools and colleges we know that leadership is no longer in the hands of one person but it is often an uphill struggle to persuade those beyond the school gate to accept this. And this applies as much to those with political power as well as to parents and members of the community.

In changing our name we are making an important statement, at a national level, about the nature of leadership, one which those we work with and seek to influence will not be able to ignore.

Our Council, which discusses and formulates policy, represents all categories of members and during our debates we heard the views of assistant heads, bursars, college principals, heads and deputy heads from all types of schools and colleges across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is only right that our name should reflect our membership.

For many of our members the first half of this term has been particularly challenging. The agenda is huge, as John Dunford has written in the TES, with staff restructuring, the SEF, new relationships with SIPs for some and extended schools and BSF for others, to name but a few.

The STRB report on workload provided further cause for concern. While workforce remodelling is obviously reducing secondary teachers' working day, secondary leaders' work hours increased between 2003-04 and 2004-05 and are likely to increase again this year.

Government announcements didn't help. How likely is it that schools facing any sort of challenge will be able to recruit either teachers or leaders with the threat of rapid closure if results do not improve within the year?

The name change is significant and makes an important statement but we will also be backing that up by campaigning throughout this year on the following issues:

  • The salaries of school and college leaders must reflect the level of responsibility and the expectations which others have of us.

  • The increasing vulnerability of leaders must be reflected in salaries and contracts.

  • There must be a recognition that real improvement takes time and that sustainable progress is more important than quick fixes.

  • Government, both national and local, must be mindful of the need to improve the work/life balance of leaders as well as of teachers.

  • Initiatives must be carefully planned within a bigger picture, costed and funded, with manageable timescales, in order to avoid the current overload.

  • If leaders are to take up opportunities to work outside their own institution on national or local agendas, there must be a recognition of the importance of the whole leadership team, both through remuneration and status.

School and college leaders are not afraid of hard work and long hours but we do need to feel that it is possible to do a good job and that the job will be appreciated. This message will be as strongly articulated by ASCL as it has been by SHA.

By Sue Kirkham, SHA President

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