ASCL launches inquiry into how education professionals can take on a greater role in improving our education system

12 June 2014

The Association of School and College Leaders is today launching an inquiry into leadership of England’s education system and how heads and school leaders can take on a greater role in the next phase of development. ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman is making the announcement at the Inspiring Leadership Conference today in Birmingham.

ASCL’s inquiry, What does a self-improving school-led system look like? A blueprint for the future, will consider the steps that the coalition government has taken towards system leadership – that is, heads and school leaders who work across several schools to bring about improvements – and asks how this can be accelerated and widened to all schools.

The inquiry will be supported by a reference group made up of a range of education experts and includes a public consultation, which is launched today.

The inquiry will cover:

  • System leadership, including school-to-school support, National Leaders of Education, and teaching schools

  • Governance and structural change including the growth of multi-academy chains

  • Initial teacher education, professional development and teacher professionalism

  • The role of inspection and accountability

  • The role of central government

  • System maturity – are the building blocks in place for a self-improving system

ASCL plans to publish a final blueprint with recommendations and next steps ahead of the general election in May.

ASCL General Secretary Brian Lightman said:

“I believe that up until now we have been dabbling in system leadership. It is now time for the profession to take charge as we move into the next phase. This inquiry will bring together views from a whole range of stakeholders about how we define, once and for all, what a self-improving system looks like, and how we make it happen in practice.

“As we take this significant step towards defining a self-improving system, it is important that we give careful consideration to the constraints. A question many school leaders may ask is whether Ofsted, in particular, is contributing to or hindering further improvement.

“There may be a more strategic, less operational, role for government – specifically to remove obstacles and create the conditions for a self-improving system. This would involve a commitment from politicians to re-calibrate their relationship with the profession. These are questions that we are asking as part of the inquiry.”

Steve Munby, CEO of CfBT, is a member of the reference group. He said:

"I welcome this inquiry. Much progress has been made since the early days when we launched National Leaders of Education, but it is time to step back and to look at both the incentives and the barriers to a school-led system."

Chris Husbands, Director of the Institute of Education, is also on the reference group. He said:

“As the school system changes, it is important that we develop a clearer professional understanding of what a self-improving school system can look like, how it can work and how the widest range of educational partners can support schools in their development. We know a great deal about devolved school systems, and we understand that they will not become ‘self-improving’ without clear alignment of incentives, policies and structures. I welcome ASCL’s initiative in establishing this inquiry and look forward to working with the team to ensure that the benefits of a school-led system can be shared by all.”

ASCL is asking interested parties to respond to the consultation document by 25 July.

Brian Lightman has written an article setting out the case for the blueprint