Bernard Ashley lives in Charlton, south east London, only a street or so from where he was born. He was educated at the Roan School, Blackheath and Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School, Rochester. After National Service in the RAF Bernard trained to teach at Trent Park College of Education, specializing in Drama. He followed this with an Advanced Diploma at the Cambridge Institute and has been awarded honorary Doctorates in Education by the University of Greenwich and in letters by the University of Leicester. During his career as a teacher he worked in Kent, Hertfordshire, Newham and Greenwich, with thirty years of headships in the last three.

He is now writing full time. His first novel, The Trouble with Donovan Croft, was published in 1974 and won the 'Other' Award, an alternative to the Carnegie Medal (for which he has been shortlisted three times). Twenty-five further novels have followed, gaining him a reputation as a 'gritty' writer in sympathy with the under dog. In Margaret Meek's view he gets inside children's heads, who say that this is what it's like for them.

Of Tiger Without Teeth Philip Pullman wrote in The Guardian:
'A commonplace setting, an everyday situation, ordinary characters. Bernard Ashley's great gift is to turn what seems to be low-key realism into something much stronger and more resonant. It has something to do with empathy, compassion, an undimmed thirst for decency and justice. In a way, Ashley is doing what ‘Play for Today’ used to do when TV was a medium that connected honestly with its own time, and what so few artists do now: using realism in the service of moral concern.'

Johnnie's Blitz (Barn Owl), drew on his wartime experiences as a child in and around London; while Little Soldier (Orchard) sums up his writing: a pacy plot with an emotional turning point, a theme that concerns him, and characters that grip as real people. It was shortlisted for the 'Guardian' young fiction prize and for the Carnegie Medal. His latest teenage novel is Dead End Kids (Orchard), a powerful look at young people's courage under the WW2 bombs.

Bernard’s picture books include Double the Love (Carol Thompson illustrating) from Orchard, Growing Good (Bloomsbury), Cleversticks, and A Present for Paul (Harper Collins). Tamarind published The Bush, illustrated by Lynne Willey. His popular stories for young readers include Dinner Ladies Don't Count (Puffin), Justin and the Demon Drop Kick, Your Guess is as Good as Mine (both Ashley Chappel Productions) and Nadine Dreams of Home and Torrent (both Barrington Stoke).

Television work has included Running Scared (from which Bernard wrote the novel), The Country Boy (BBC) and his adaptation of his own Dodgem which won the Royal Television Society award as the best children's entertainment of its year.

Stage plays are The Old Woman Who Lived in A Cola Can (Edinburgh Festival and tour), The Secret of Theodore Brown (Unicorn Theatre for Children in the West End), and Little Soldier (published by Heinemann).

A strong family man, Bernard is married to Iris Ashley, a former London headteacher, and they have three sons. Their eldest, Chris, also a headteacher, co-wrote with Bernard the TV series Three Seven Eleven (Granada), and his "Wasim" books are published by Frances Lincoln. David is a London headteacher and an expert on children's literacy; and Jonathan is an actor, writer and director whose writing for theatre includes Stiffs; and who was writer and voice director in Los Angeles and London on Primal and Ghosthunter for Playstation 2.

Bernard and Iris have four grandchildren, Paul, Carl, Rosie and Luke.