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New ASCL general secretary: coalition should recognise us September 21, 2010

Posted by Alex, Managing Director in Independent Education, Magazines.
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The autumn issue of one of our flagship magazines, Conference & Common Room, was this week mailed out to all HMC member schools. Editor Tom Wheare has put together another fantastic issue with a fine mix of the weighty, the constructive and the irreverent.

Brian Lightman: Post was "irresistible"

The issue includes an interview with new Association of School and College Leaders general secretary Brian Lightman, who recently stepped into the considerable shoes of the departing John Dunford (also paid tribute to in the same issue).

Here we pick out some of the best bits from Tom’s excellent interview…

How and why did you become general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL)?
Ever since joining ASCL in 1996 I have had the greatest admiration for the work the Association does and have valued enormously its support for school leaders and its influence over education policy. Having enjoyed the privilege of being ASCL’s president in 2007-08, the opportunity to become general secretary was irresistible even though I have loved headship. I would not have left it for any other post.

What advice would or will you give to Michael Gove?
On the day of his appointment, ASCL sent Michael an open letter with ten recommendations that summarises our position.

1. Pass fewer education laws. Do not over-regulate schools and colleges. Put in place just enough regulation to ensure that one school’s success is not at the expense of another.
2.
Maintain the direction of change from the culture of competition that existed in the 1980s and 1990s to the culture of collaboration and partnership between institutions that has developed strength in recent years.Create more incentives for schools to work in partnership.
3.
Continue to increase in real terms the proportion of the national budget spent on schools and colleges. The next generation of young people should not have their education jeopardised as a result of an economic crisis not of their making.
4. Over time, improve the distribution of that funding so that young people are not disadvantaged by their postcode.
5. Continue to build schools for the future and prioritise the renewal of the schools with the worst buildings.
6. Strengthen post-14 qualifications by introducing a general diploma with a broad core of knowledge and skills.
7. Strengthen assessment by building a cohort of chartered assessors – senior professionals externally accredited to carry out in-course assessment to external standards – and use these assessments as a proportion of final grades in all
external qualifications.
8. Engage parents more strongly in the education of their children – and recognise that they don’t want to run schools.
9. Introduce intelligent accountability for schools and colleges. Make it robust, fair and proportionate. Make quality assurance and self-evaluation the centrepiece of the accountability system.
10. Only through our work at school and college level can your policies become successful, so make sure that all these policies are rooted in the reality of implementation.

To me the most important message is that the department should take advantage of school leaders’ collective expertise on implementing effective change in schools. Legislation, overregulation and hyper-accountability stifle our ability to achieve this.

What are the main challenges facing members of ASCL?
The greatest challenges are the same issues that make our work such a fulfilling experience. Society rightly has the highest aspirations for our education service and our members share the commitment of our political masters to ensuring that every child is able to succeed and achieve his or her potential. These are high stakes that bring high levels of accountability.

In meeting those demands we cannot be expected to solve all the ills of society. As a professional association we have sadly had to deal with far too much casework around members who have been treated by their employers as the problem rather than the solution. That culture needs to change if we are going to attract the calibre of professionals we need to meet those aspirations.

What are your plans for ASCL?
We have my predecessor, John Dunford, to thank for ensuring that ASCL is such a highly regarded and influential organisation with more than 15,000 members. It would be madness for me to do anything other than build on that strong base. However the world of school leadership is changing, with new roles and structures that challenge us to look to the future. I want to listen to all our members and develop our services to meet their needs. This includes using new technologies and providing the kind of consultancy and training that they need.

At the same time I want to ensure that the new coalition government recognises us as the most influential voice of secondary school and college leaders. Above all, however, I want to be a champion of school and college leadership so that our very best graduates aspire towards it as a most worthy career.

The full interview with Brian Lightman can be found in the autumn issue of Conference & Common Room, the magazine for leading independent schools, published by John Catt Educational for the HMC. Copies can be ordered from our bookshop. To contact the editor Tom Wheare with any editoral ideas, please email tom@dunbury.plus.com

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