The Association of School and College Leaders has a long and established history. It goes back to the Association of Headmistresses, founded in 1874 by the famous Miss Buss and Miss Beale, which gave over a century of service to education and saw many of its presidents honoured as leaders in that field. Education for girls expanded enormously during the lifetime of the association, encouraged and stimulated by the Association of Headmistresses (AHM).
The Headmasters’ Association (HMA) was established in 1890 to serve grammar school headmasters. Membership was open to all secondary headmasters including those of secondary modern schools created after the 1944 Act and of the comprehensive schools which followed.
The Secondary Heads Association (SHA) was formed in 1977 by the amalgamation of the AHM and the HMA. In 1983, SHA took a step forward when members overwhelmingly voted to admit deputy heads as full members, thus becoming the first association to recognise the specific role of the senior leadership team. With the growing recognition of and need for shared leadership responsibility, SHA opened membership to assistant heads in 1999 and to bursars and other senior support staff on the leadership team in 2005.
By 2005, two-thirds of SHA members were in roles other than that of head. Therefore to better reflect the true makeup of the association, in January 2006, members voted to change the name to the Association of School and College Leaders.
ASCL has responded to the needs of all its members by developing a wide range of professional support services. It is the only association to speak exclusively for the leaders of Britain's secondary schools and colleges. Its steadily expanding membership, now over 14,000, reflects the way in which its distinguished heritage has been adapted to meet the needs of today.