Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Who Gets Your Vote? Meet ASCL's Leadership Contenders

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Who Gets Your Vote? Meet ASCL's Leadership Contenders

Article excerpt

TES grills the two candidates for the Association of School and College Leaders' top job

Next month, voting will take place in a keenly fought election that will decide who will be the next leader of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

The contenders are education consultant Chris Kirk, who has been named as the ASCL executive's preferred candidate, and Suffolk comprehensive head Geoff Barton, who has been a council member at the association for eight years.

Why have you chosen to stand for the role of ASCL general secretary?

Chris Kirk: "This is a key moment for ASCL - we are all dismayed about constant changes to policy, but we must not turn back to being an old-style union. We have to engage and be progressive."

Geoff Barton: "I think it's a really important time in education and a really important time for school leaders to make sure that we engage very positively with the government."

Why should ASCL members elect you as their next leader?

CK: "I have been working with schools of all types for the past two decades; I can represent ASCL as a broad church. I understand how to make policy work in the real world. I have also got the management and leadership background to make ASCL a world-class organisation."

GB: "I have been a member of ASCL for a long time and I have been a headteacher for 15 years, so on many issues I think I could bring an authentic voice. The frustrations that they face could be articulated by someone who has dealt with it on a daily basis."

How should ASCL respond to the government's plans to introduce more grammar schools?

CK: "It's clear that ministers and civil servants want to find ways to implement selection, while having a minimal impact on non-grammar schools. I don't see how that will be possible in a traditional two-tier system. ASCL needs to be very forceful about that." GB: "There ought to be a real sense of frustration. The government has talked about system leadership and the rhetoric has been about working with school leaders, then they made an out-of-the-blue announcement. I will be seeking to influence policy before we get announcements."

How should the association handle the changes that will take place in education over the next decade?

CK: "ASCL must deal robustly with government, using evidence and strong messages alongside quiet diplomacy. ASCL can transform its support for members on a day-to-day basis by providing online tools to help them do their work. We have to continue to look at how ASCL manages its finances, so members get great value for money." GB: "I think there is an extraordinary opportunity for ASCL. It has a database to die for. The most exciting thing that we can do is join all these people up a bit better to help them with recruitment, training and support."

What would be the first thing you would do as general secretary if you were elected?

CK: "I would engage vigorously with the government about the key issues causing problems to our members in schools, such as funding, changes to curriculum and assessment, and workload. But there is also the need to engage internally. Staff need to feel motivated and in control of their work."

GB: "I would meet the team - I know many of them and respect them hugely - and I would listen to the people of ASCL about where they think we are now. …

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