It is a tremendous honour to have been appointed Interim General Secretary last week following Brian Lightman’s decision to step down and I look forward to serving in this role on your behalf. ASCL, and before that SHA, has played a huge part in my professional life stretching back more than 25 years. I served on Council for 12 years, as President in 2006-7, and I have been a full-time officer for the association since 2008.
I will hold the post of Interim General Secretary until the appointment of a new permanent General Secretary. This process will necessarily take some time and I want to take this opportunity to assure members that during this period, and beyond, ASCL will continue to be entirely focused on providing the very best support possible and campaigning over the issues which matter most to you.
First of all, however, I want to reiterate my thanks to Brian for his tremendous work for ASCL and pay tribute to his tireless commitment to supporting members and ensuring that the views of school and college leaders are listened to at the highest levels of government.
ASCL is a unique blend of a trade union and a professional association. As a trade union, we are here to provide members with great personal support in difficult circumstances, as well as high-quality advice and guidance. As a professional association, we work to influence and shape government thinking. These roles are not isolated from one another but interlinked. Our trade union role is essential in understanding the reality of what is happening on the ground in schools and colleges and in helping to inform our discussions with government. The information that members give us about the impact of things like curriculum change and accountability are matters that we can and do take up with civil servants and ministers.
I am acutely aware that there has seldom been a greater need for the support and representation that ASCL provides. The demands on school and college leaders are enormous with education going through a time of unprecedented change, as well as serious difficulties over funding and teacher supply. This means that our focus on providing great support to members must be relentless. It also means that we must not get locked into just being reactive to government policy and announcements but ensure we are proactively influencing the debate.
To that end, we have been constantly highlighting the difficulties in teacher supply and it is good to see that the government has now recognised the urgency of this situation. More action is certainly needed and we will continue to press hard on this issue. We have also lobbied for many years for a new fair funding formula, which the government now intends to introduce. We will be working on behalf of members to ensure that it really is fair and equitable and that it is introduced in a manageable way. Most of all, however, we are continuing to make the case that this measure alone is not sufficient. Schools and colleges must have the funding they need to meet rising costs. Both of these key issues – teacher supply and funding – will be a central theme of our annual conference on March 4 and 5.
I know that these matters are important to members because they want the best for the young people in their care. It has always been clear to me that school and college leaders share a sense of moral purpose. They fundamentally believe that education can and does make the world a better place. It is this moral purpose which keeps leaders going through the tough times and why they so often overcome extraordinary challenges.
That is why moral purpose is at the heart of ASCL’s blueprint which we launched a year ago. Its core principle is the belief that every young person can achieve, no matter what their perceived level of ability or social background. Our argument is that this vision can best be achieved by government stepping back and the profession stepping forward. Ministers must stop trying to micromanage the education system and entrust school and college leaders to have a much greater say over the curriculum, accountability, standards and professional development.
I can assure members that we will continue to make every possible effort to put forward this case. The education debate needs the insight and views of school and college leaders. It is our job to make sure your voice is heard.