Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

How did we do?

As the end of the academic year approaches, it's worth reviewing how much has been achieved so far with our 'sustaining leadership' campaign.

It is an honour and a privilege to be elected to serve your professional peers as president but to be the last president of SHA and the first of ASCL was a particular bonus this year. It has been a year of enormous change, and not just for the association. We have had an unprecedented series of changes at senior educational levels (or 'churn' as staff turnover is now fashionably called).

The change of name has certainly been a success story. Membership has continued to rise in all categories and the name change has attracted large numbers of leaders who feel that it reflects the reality of leadership today and in the future. As we hoped, the new name has also enabled us to emphasise to those with influence that the days of the heroic, individual leader are over. Our staff team has continued to serve us with huge commitment and we have made new appointments to reflect the needs of our increasing membership.

I can hardly believe it is ten months since I outlined in the September 2005 Leader my reasons for choosing the theme 'sustaining leadership' and the areas in which I intended to campaign. The need to sustain leadership in our schools and colleges continues as vacancies remain unfilled and schools experience the lack of stability caused by too much churn in the leadership group.

(I used to think that churns were used to produce butter and the better the churning process the better the quality of the butter, but of course that was in the days when butter was highly regarded, like the milk that those of my generation were obliged to drink daily because it was good for us. Presumably now that whole milk is appearing on the prohibited food list for schools we could all claim damages.)

So how much have we achieved with our 'sustaining leadership' campaign this year? Action is finally being taken to address recruitment to leadership. NCSL has been commissioned by ministers to make proposals and I have been involved in this work.

Thanks in great part to ASCL's evidence, the STRB commissioned PricewaterhouseCoopers to undertake a detailed survey of school leaders' pay and conditions. ASCL is also fully involved in this review and our book Leadership that Lasts, written by Robert Hill, has had a big impact.

There has also been a recognition that the workload of leaders, particularly earlier this academic year, reached unacceptable levels but we have yet to see whether this will translate into action by our new ministerial team.

In June, Council debated issues around accountability, looking at the progress made by government towards the 'intelligent accountability' model previously proposed by ASCL. Satisfactory in some areas, notice to improve in others, with some going straight into special measures, was the verdict. Our report will be with our members early in the autumn term and will also be sent to all those who can make a difference.

So, some successes, some work in progress but 'sustaining leadership' is now clearly high on all agendas.

Your response to the Sri Lanka project has been magnificent, with the funds raised already making a difference to young people whose lives and education were damaged by the tsunami.

The project also is making a difference to those young people who will be going out to Sri Lanka this summer. I have received moving accounts of the ways in which students are demonstrating leadership in their fundraising and planning activities. Most of these students have never been involved in a project of this sort and I am sure that their experience will have a lasting impact.

It has been a wonderful year to be president. It has been a privilege to travel around the British Isles and talk with so many members. Despite the workload, the often bewildering array of contradictory policies and the stresses of our accountability systems, our members remain extremely positive about the satisfaction that comes from doing such an important job.

Hearing you talk with such enthusiasm about your schools and colleges has reminded me of what I've missed this year, so I'm looking forward to returning - except possibly to lunch duties on wet November days!

Have a really good summer; make sure that you take time for yourself to switch off from work in whichever way provides you with relaxation. If you haven't already found the time, read Deborah Duncan's ASCL publication Work-life Balance: Myth or Possibility? and, more importantly, make a resolution to look after your own work-life balance next year as well as that of those you work with.

Thank you for your support and encouragement this year. Happy holidays!

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