Shout it from the rooftops

Written by: Malcolm Trobe | Published:
Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary, Association of School and College Leaders

We need to shout from the rooftops about the success of our schools, says Malcolm Trobe

There are a lot of us in the education sector who spend a great deal of time commenting on issues and concerns.

This includes the government, regulators, think-tanks, trade unions and the education media. Inevitably, a lot of what is said focuses on problems – whether that is the government making remarks about “underperformance”, or unions, politicians and think-tanks criticising government policies or highlighting issues such as underfunding and teacher shortages.

It is, of course, entirely reasonable and healthy in a democracy to have a vigorous discourse about such important issues. However, I am acutely conscious that the cumulative effect, over a period of time, can create an overly gloomy picture. It is important that in the tumult of debate we don’t forget to make positive statements about the education system – by which I mean the schools and colleges which collectively constitute that system.

That is important in terms of public perception, the confidence that parents and pupils have in the system, and ensuring that we are not inadvertently deterring people from becoming teachers.

There is a difficult balance to strike between the perfectly legitimate business of talking about our concerns while also being conscious of the need to be positive and upbeat. I would suggest, however, that it is a balance that all those who are in the business of making public comments need to bear in mind. And ASCL, as a leadership organisation, has a key role to play in striking that balance and achieving the right tone.

So, this article is really a commitment to you to get that right. Because the reality is that our schools and colleges do a superb job, often in difficult circumstances, and our teachers are utterly dedicated professionals who are determined to do their very best for the young people in their care.

Because the reality is that 89 per cent of our schools are now rated as outstanding or good and the education system in this country is among the best in the world. Because the reality is that education truly does make the world a better place. Indeed, the reason that ASCL is pressing so hard on the issues of funding and teacher supply is because teachers care so passionately about maintaining the high standards they have set, and taking them to the next level. It is absolutely vital that you have the resources that you need to achieve these goals.

So, we will continue to campaign vigorously on these issues – and an important part of that is raising public awareness about the very serious problems which are created by underfunding and teacher shortages. But we will also ensure that we put that in the context of the tremendous success of our education system.

This was the thinking behind our recent Twitter campaign in which we encouraged schools and colleges to post pictures of the great work which goes on every day with the hashtag #whatwouldyoucut. We wanted to reflect both their achievements and at the same time explain the impossible choices they face because of severe funding pressures. This campaign was launched in early March ahead of the Budget. It received a huge level of support and people continue to tweet using this hashtag

In our efforts to be upbeat we will not be putting on rose-tinted spectacles. I know the issues of funding, teacher supply and curriculum reforms are combining to make life very difficult at the moment, and we will continue to speak out robustly about the pressures this situation is creating.

But we also need to make sure that the extraordinary work that goes on in schools and colleges across the country is celebrated – and we will be shouting that success from the rooftops.

  • Malcolm Trobe is the interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders.

Further information

For more details about the ASCL #whatwouldyoucut campaign, visit


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