Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Package to please

Despite Tony Blair's remarks last autumn, ASCL members know that radical reform is well underway already in schools and colleges. Now it is time for the government to reform leaders' pay and conditions.

Jacqui Smith's thanks to school leaders earlier this term (included in her letter on science and modern foreign languages at KS4) were very welcome, particularly since she recognised the heavy workload undertaken during the autumn term.

Everyone appreciates being thanked for their hard work but ASCL members would also appreciate a greater recognition of the impact of our excessive workload. This impact has a far-reaching effect, not only on the health and well-being of current leaders but also on those who may be considering moving on to leadership.

Recruitment problems at leadership level are growing worse and the number of temporary appointments causes concern. Schools and colleges need stable leadership to face the challenges ahead and yet an increasing number of institutions face a rapid turnover within the leadership team.

Pay differentials are insufficient to persuade teachers at the top of the UPS scale to take on the additional responsibilities and workload of senior leadership, especially at a time when their current workload is being gradually improved through workforce remodelling.

The independent review of leaders' pay and conditions, commissioned by the STRB, is welcome, and overdue. ASCL is already planning its evidence which will stress the need to consider improved conditions just as much as better pay.

Before the publication of the education white paper in the autumn, Tony Blair claimed that it would enable a radical reform of our schools to take place. What he had failed to notice was that the radical reform was already underway.

Some years ago, ASCL (then SHA) started a debate on the school of the future, discussing the staffing, organisation, technology and accommodation which would be necessary to educate young people in the 21st century. Many of the issues we were discussing then are no longer the subject of theoretical debate; they have become current practice.

Classrooms and approaches to learning and teaching have changed dramatically. The joint SSAT/ASCL conferences on personalised learning held during the last year have illustrated these changes. Many schools are thinking carefully about the shape of their working day and the way they organise teaching and learning, and are piloting sweeping changes.

We have embarked on a radical workforce reform programme which has already resulted in gains for teachers in terms of their work-life balance and which now needs to move into the area of leadership. We employ an increasingly diverse range of professionals.

Over the next decade we have significant curriculum and qualification reform to implement (not as ambitious as we might have hoped, but moving in the right direction) with changes at key stage 3 as well as 14-19. We will have to develop existing partnerships further to offer students the full entitlement of the 14 diploma lines.

Collaboration is also becoming increasingly common in trying to meet the needs of all students, including those who struggle with mainstream provision. We are working towards integrated children's services, and the extended school agenda has ambitious targets which will further change the nature of schools.

Accountability processes are changing with shorter inspections, school improvement partners, the school profile and an emphasis on the school's own self-evaluation. While we are now experiencing the teething problems associated with these changes, ASCL has welcomed these development (and frequently been leading from the front).

Many members are already involved in the Building Schools for the Future programme and others will be part of later phases. This programme provides exciting opportunities but requires a huge time commitment in the planning stages.

The area of the programme which has been ignored so far is the development of appropriate pay, conditions and support for the leaders of this brave new world. ASCL hopes that the independent STRB review and work now being undertaken by NCSL will start to address these issues.

In the meantime, ASCL has commissioned its own study of leadership and governance of the school of the future to kick start the debate. John Dunford provides further details of that study in his article and the issues around sustaining leadership are being debated at our annual conference this month.

The developments described above represent a truly radical programme of reform: a programme intended to bring our schools firmly into the 21st century.

We already have the programme, Prime Minister, please let us concentrate on it. Government can help us by letting us implement it and providing the necessary resources and support. Then we might find our younger colleagues more eager to move into leadership.

By Sue Kirkham, ASCL President

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