The Week

11th March 2011 at 00:00

Yup, it's that time of year again! It's the ASCL conference! Don't all whoop at once. Like a dear old friend who comes to stay every once in a while and keeps the family up a bit longer than you'd like on a schoolnight, the ASCL do can be both anticipated and dreaded in equal measure. There are heavy doses of both the fascinating and the, frankly, horrifying. For all the insightful and agenda-setting edu-debate, there is also the late-night vision of middle-aged headteachers throwing shapes on the dancefloor. Think ying and yang.

This conference, though, might be a little different to those of recent years. This year, after all, sees a membership that is angry. Livid, in fact, about its pensions. As last week's TES reported, the attitude of most secondary school leaders seems to be: "Come near our plans to buy a nice gite in the south of France, and we bite!" With the whiff of industrial action in the air following the fall-out from yesterday's Hutton review, the atmosphere this weekend may bear more resemblance to an NUT get-together than the genteel affairs of recent times. All together now: "The workers united will never be defeated."

Another subject that should be exercising the delegates in Manchester over the next couple of days will be that of the long-awaited SEN green paper, published on Wednesday. Described by politicians of both a blue and yellow hue as a revolution in the way schools handle special needs, the collective heads will have a lot to digest. Of one thing they can be certain, though; this document certainly ain't going to bring to an end any time-honoured debates on the subject. Delegates can rest assured that when their radio alarm goes off this time next year there's a fairly safe bet that they'll still be able to hear John Humphrys doing a piece on inclusion vs special schools. Some topics are simply too emotive to resolve. Even with a dose of Coalition blue-sky thinking.

And all the while, bubbling away in the background is the slightly hideous fact that some cook with a mockney accent will be doing more to generate public interest in education than any speech or motion from the floor ever will.

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