Geoff Barton wins ASCL leadership election by a landslide

The Suffolk headteacher and TES columnist takes election for general secretary with more than 80 per cent of the votes

Adi Bloom

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TES columnist and Suffolk secondary head Geoff Barton has been elected general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders by a landslide.

He received 2,716 votes in the ballot of full members. His opponent, the ASCL executive's preferred candidate, Chris Kirk, received 677 votes.

Mr Barton, who has been headteacher of King Edward VI School, in Bury St Edmunds since 2002, said: “I am delighted to have gained this mandate as ASCL general secretary. The level of support has been both inspiring and humbling.”

He thanked Mr Kirk for “being principled and good humoured” throughout the election process.

And he added: “There’s never been a more important time for leaders, in our various roles across all types of schools and colleges, to speak with a distinctive, authoritative, united voice.”

Asked what his priorities would be Mr Barton told TES: “There are some very, very significant issues facing school leaders. So, in some way, the agenda sets itself.

"There’s a huge crisis in funding. There’s a huge crisis of how we get more teachers in the profession, and how we get more people to become school leaders, because there’s not exactly a queue of them at the moment.

“School leaders have a hugely privileged position as overseers of the nation’s children, but sometimes they can feel overlooked. We want to make sure that the recognition that’s already there in wider society is also given by politicians.”

Earlier this year, the incoming president of ASCL, Carl Ward, criticised Mr Barton for making outspoken comments about grammar schools, and for failing to attend hustings.

In an open letter to Mr Barton, Carl Ward, executive headteacher of Haywood Academy in Stoke-on-Trent, said that members: “are concerned that your outspoken comments on academies and grammar schools are not consistent with an ASCL membership which has so many members working within such.”

He added that some members wondered how he would be able to represent the views of academy and grammar-school leaders effectively.

ASCL president Sian Carr recognised the divisiveness of the electoral process. “The election has inevitably divided opinion, as elections always do,” she said.

“But what unites us as school and college leaders is far stronger than any differences we may have. We are driven by a collective moral purpose to do the very best we can for the young people in our schools and colleges.

“The appointment of the new general secretary will help to take ASCL from strength to strength."

Sir John Dunford, a former ASCL general secretary, writes in a TES comment piece today: "Knowing [Mr Barton] as well as I do, I am absolutely confident that he will be a great general secretary of ASCL, representing the members effectively, bringing good sense to the public education debate and becoming highly respected in Westminster and beyond.   

Mr Kirk, offered his congratulations to Mr Barton, acknowledging that he highlighted important issues during the campaign. The Suffolk head will take up his post on 18 April. Until then, Malcolm Trobe will continue as ASCL interim general secretary.

The election took place between 3 and 24 January, and involved a postal vote of the 15,955 full members of ASCL who were eligible to vote.

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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