Category Archives: Research


Partnership grows out of partnership

And Partnerships  are improving outcomes in Lincolnshire

CfBT Education Trust has just published a research report  ‘Partnership working in small rural primary schools’ .

Robert Hill and the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER) were commissioned  to investigate the most effective ways for small rural primary schools to work together in order to improve provision and raise standards. The project sought to examine the circumstances and context of small rural schools in Lincolnshire and evaluate their different leadership models (such as collaborations, federations, partnerships or academy chains) to:

identify successful approaches to collaboration likely to have a positive impact on pupil achievement

identify barriers to successful collaborative models

understand the role of the local authority in enabling effective partnership

place the Lincolnshire approach in the context of approaches being adopted in other areas in England and best practice in partnership as identified in research literature

identify issues and recommendations for policymakers to consider.

The report provides three sets of ten lessons for schools, policymakers and local authorities.

As well as the main report of findings there is a secondary report composed of supporting materials which is also available to download.

Although the researchers looked specifically at partnerships involving small schools, which have their own distinctive challenges ,some of the lessons learnt will be of interest  and utility to secondary schools.  The authors do not think that academisation and the establishment of teaching schools will , by themselves, address the problems and challenges facing small primary schools. There are 4,000 schools in England with fewer than 150 pupils and 1,400 with fewer than 75.

CFBT Education Trust provides school improvement support in Lincolnshire  and the report states ‘Lincolnshire provides a test-bed for how far it is possible to foster partnership working, address previous obstacles and build a school-to-school improvement model for small rural  schools’

 Ten Lessons for schools:  

Build on existing partnerships and relationships

Keep local partnerships geographically focused

Ensure that head teachers leading a collaboration develop strong relationships, shared values and commitment to each other

Be clear about governance, funding and accountability

Involve middle leaders in the leadership of partnerships

Use business plans and action plans to prioritise what partnerships will do together

Use action plans to prioritise and clarify what partnerships will do together.

Focus partnership activity on improving teaching and learning through teacher-to-teacher and pupil-to-pupil engagement and learning – including the use of digital contact between staff and pupils.

Focus any dedicated resources on providing dedicated leadership or project management time to organise activity and/or cover transport costs.

Be prepared to engage in multi-partnership activity and for the form and membership of partnerships to evolve over time.

Monitor and evaluate the impact of partnership activity


Ten lessons for local authorities:

 Provide a clear vision of the future in terms of school-to-school working.

Be flexible about the structural arrangements for partnerships but encourage a direction of travel   that moves to more structured arrangements – and formalise the arrangement, whatever form it takes.

 Expand the use of executive headship, using soft influence and hard levers (for example, intervening when schools are failing or struggling to recruit a new headteacher) to reinforce the growth of local clusters and the recruitment and retention of high quality school leaders.

Insist on schools agreeing on measures of progress and success – which they track and monitor

Focus any allocation of ring-fenced resources on providing some dedicated leadership or (start up) project management time to coordinate partnership activity and/or cover transport costs.

Reinforce a partnership strategy by the way that other policies on areas such as children’s services and place planning are framed and implemented.

Use simple practical initiatives to help foster partnership depth – such as time at headteachers’  briefings for cluster heads to work together, appointing the same professional link adviser to all the  schools in a partnership and enabling partnerships to jointly procure CPD.

Identify headteachers to champion the strategy, build ownership among their peers and provide a guiding coalition for change.

Support networking and communication between schools and partnerships through newsletters,  micro-websites and conferences.

Stick with the initiative – recognising that elements of the programme will evolve and that the full benefit will take time to come through.

Ten lessons for policymakers:

Set a clear, consistent vision and strategy for primary schools – and small primary schools in particular – to work together in small clusters but without being prescriptive on the form it should take.

Recognise in the way that policies are developed that schools are likely to engage in partnership with other schools on a number of different levels.

Affirm the role of local authorities in steering and enabling clusters to develop and grow.

Work with faith bodies to encourage and facilitate cross-church/community school partnerships.

Aim to develop 3,000–4,000 executive leaders of primary schools and provide a career path and training and development to match this ambition.

Encourage governors to work and train together across clusters, and encourage moves towards exercising governance at cluster level through federations, trusts and multi-academy trusts.

Reinforce the strategy of cluster working by enabling school forums to allocate lump sums to clusters as well as to individual schools.

Communicate the value of partnership working to parents and the wider world in order to provide more support for the efforts of small schools in developing partnerships.

Ensure that the accountability regime balances the competitive pressures among schools to recruit pupils with measures that value partnership working.

Evaluate the impact of partnership working at national level and provide tools to help schools assess the impact of partnership initiatives.

 There is a spectrum of partnership models in evidence. This ranges from loose, informal collaboration between schools, through informal collaboration underpinned by a memorandum of understanding , to more  formal collaboration, for example, including  a management agreement with an executive head, and on to a Federation or multi-  academy trust with  executive head teacher  and single governing body.

 Of the 99 small schools in Lincolnshire just 7 are in no form of collaborative arrangement.

As far as outcomes are concerned, the report says ‘Identifying the impact of Lincolnshire’s partnership programme is both difficult and easy. It is relatively easy to establish whether there has been progress and improvement but much more difficult to be sure about the causes for that improvement. There are three useful sources of evidence that deal with the first issue – whether there has been improvement.’

‘In 2009 the performance of pupils in small schools was significantly below that of their  peers in larger schools and was lagging behind the national performance.(As   measured by the proportion of pupils achieving level 4 or above in English and mathematics (and, for  2013, in reading, writing and mathematics). However,  in  2012 pupils in the  smallest schools were matching the national benchmark and also the achievement of the largest  schools in Lincolnshire. In 2013 results indicate that small schools were just above both the national performance level and the average for other groups of Lincolnshire schools – apart from those with  181 to 270 pupils.’

Second, the number of small primary schools with fewer than 90 pupils falling below the government’s  floor target for primary schools fell from over 20 to single figures in 2012 and to just one in 2013. This is despite the threshold for the floor target having been raised twice during this period.

Third, the Ofsted inspection outcomes of the smallest primary schools inspected during the school years 2011/12 and 2012/13 show significant improvement. The number of ‘outstanding’ and ‘inadequate’  (respectively Grade 1 and Grade 4) small rural schools in Lincolnshire has remained the same but  there has been a sizeable reduction in the number of ‘satisfactory’/’requiring improvement’ (Grade  3) schools and a corresponding increase in the proportion of ‘good’ (Grade 2) schools. The 65 Lincolnshire schools, taken as a group, have moved from having inspection outcomes that are much  poorer than other primary schools in England to having, on average, better inspection outcomes. ‘

Partnership working in small rural primary schools: the best of both worlds Research report Robert Hill, with Kelly Kettlewell  and Jane Salt-April 2014



Lincolnshire has 21 Special schools, 276 Primary schools and 59 Secondary schools, including 83 Academies. In addition, Lincolnshire remains one of the few areas in the UK to retain Grammar Schools and there are also a range of Primary and Secondary schools provided by the independent sector. CfBT Education Trust  took responsibility for school improvement in Lincolnshire in 2002 and since then the performance of schools and settings has shown sustained improvement year on year.

In 2012, CfBT won the Education Investor award for ‘Best School Improvement Service’ for its work in Lincolnshire.


The US Sanders and Rivers study still has legs and is  often referenced


An extensive and highly influential 1996 US study in Tennessee, by William Sanders and June Rivers , found, interalia, that ‘ Differences in student achievement of fifty  percentile  points were observed as a result of teacher sequence   after only three years.’

‘The effects on student achievement are both additive and cumulative with little evidence of compensatory effects.’ ‘Groups of students with comparable abilities   and initial achievement levels may have vastly different outcomes as a result of the sequence of teachers to which they are assigned’.  ‘Regardless of initial achievement level teachers in the top quintile facilitated desirable academic progress  in all students’ …Whereas,  ‘regardless of their  entering achievement levels  students under the tutelage of teachers in the bottom quintile  made unsatisfactory gains’…

In short, ‘The single most dominant factor affecting student academic gain is teacher effect’   Bad teachers do  retard the academic development of students. Its hardly rocket science , but the days when you state the ‘obvious’ without reference to evidence are long gone.

Cumulative and Residual effects of Teachers  on future student academic achievement


What Got You Here Won’t Get You There


Leadership expert Marshall Goldsmith says  that the very traits that enabled you to become   a successful leader  in the first place might, paradoxically, ultimately  lead to your downfall. He  suggested to leaders  that ‘what got you here wont get you there’.

Now that you are a leader, your behavioural quirks and weaknesses take on more weight and significance, and can do more harm than they could when you were an up-and-comer. The premise is that by continuing to do what we are doing we will not  be likely to  move to the next level.  We may, of course, enjoy continued success  but if we stop doing some things and start doing other things, there’s a better chance for even greater effectiveness and a higher level of success. Charles Handy in his book the Empty Raincoat (1995) expressed it as the paradox of success: ‘what got you where you are, won’t keep you where you are, is a hard lesson to learn.’ (page 58)

Lessons here maybe for some school leaders?



All Party Social Mobility group and Centre Forum say Character counts

Manifesto promotes importance of Character and Resilience


Why do some talented children grow up to fulfil their ambitions while others never realise their full potential? How do we create a country in which a person’s life chances are determined by their talent, not the circumstances of their birth? These are some of the difficult questions that the APPG ‘ Character and Resilience Manifesto’ aims to tackle.

The Chair of the APPG ,Baroness Claire Tyler, wrote:

‘There is a growing body of research linking social mobility to social and emotional skills, which range from empathy and the ability to make and maintain relationships to application, mental toughness, delayed gratification and self-control. These research findings all point to the same conclusion: character counts.’ She continued

‘The evidence also makes clear that people are not just born with or without Character and Resilience traits. Rather, a person learns to develop and use these abilities throughout their life. They can be taught and learnt at all stages of life. This means that policymakers and practitioners have a key role to play in encouraging the development of Character and Resilience throughout the population.’

The report says that there is growing evidence linking life chances to things beyond just test scores – that is ‘non-cognitive’ skills. In simple terms, these are attributes such as a belief in one’s ability to succeed, the perseverance to stick with a task and the ability to bounce back from life’s inevitable setbacks. In short, ‘Character and Resilience’.

At a summit last year, The APPG on Social Mobility heard evidence on how these so called ‘soft’ skills lead to hard results: where you are on the character scale will have a big impact on what you achieve. This Manifesto is an attempt to take the next step. It contains what we – as a cross party group – believe to be the best policies to enhance Character and Resilience across the life course.

In doing so, it is both a ‘call to arms’ to policy makers and an attempt to begin a wider national conversation on how developing Character and Resilience can help break down the stubborn blight of social immobility and enable people from every walk of life to realise their full potential.

 Character and Resilience manifesto

In the early years, the APPG calls on government to:

1. Introduce an Early Years Premium, extending the Pupil Premium into early years education;

2. Support development of a best practice tool-kit for the early years focussing on interventions that aid development of the crucial non-cognitive base in early child development;

3. Roll out evidence based parenting initiatives nationwide;

4. Encourage the development and implementation of an innovative campaign to convey simple but crucial child development messages to parents; AND

5. Develop a robust school readiness measure at reception that includes Character and Resilience.

In school, the APPG calls on government to:

1. Ask Ofsted to determine how to factor Character and Resilience and ‘extra’-curricular activities more explicitly into the inspection framework;

2. Make participation in ‘extra’-curricular activities a formal  aspect of teachers’ contracts of employment;

3. Create a respected, official ‘School Leaving Certificate’ that reflects a child’s achievement across a broad range of activities rather than just exam outcomes;

4. Incorporate Character and Resilience into initial teacher training and CPD programmes;

5. Support development of a best practice tool-kit for  interventions that aid Character and Resilience for specific  use in conjunction with the Pupil Premium; AND

6. Encourage all private schools to share their professional expertise and facilities that promote Character and Resilience with schools in the state sector, in keeping with  private schools’ charitable status.

In the transition to adulthood and employment, the  APPG calls on government to:

1. Encourage the growth of the National Citizenship Service and ensure that this has the explicit purpose of building

Character and Resilience at its heart;

2. Establish an officially recognised and valued National Volunteering Award Scheme to give adult volunteers formal recognition of their contribution to the lives of young people;

3. Seize the opportunity of the raising education participation age to use Character and Resilience programmes to re-engage the most disengaged 16 and 17 year olds back into learning; AND

4. Make Character and Resilience a key focus of the National  Careers Service.

In this area the APPG also calls on employers to:

5. Actively encourage staff to participate in CSR activities that develop Character and Resilience in young people;

6. Implement internal training programmes that help develop the Character and Resilience capabilities of staff; AND

7. Develop alternative routes into advanced professional positions that reflect the importance of Character and Resilience skills rather than raw academic achievements.

The chairman of the Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission, Alan Milburn, described the report as “valuable”.

“Schools must do more to promote character skills as well as academic attainment,” he said.”It is not a question of either-or; the core business of a school must be to do both.”

The report has been welcomed widely, with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg saying it would help to “drive innovative thinking”.

In a speech last week, Education Secretary Michael Gove stressed the importance of extra-curricular activities.

“As top heads and teachers already know, sports clubs, orchestras and choirs, school plays, cadets, debating competitions all help to build character and instil grit, to give children’s talents an opportunity to grow and to allow them to discover new talents they never knew they had,” he said.

Shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt said the report “tackles one of the most pressing questions currently facing our education system: how do we educate resilient young people that have a sense of moral purpose and character, as well as being passionate, reflective learners?”

Edward Timpson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Education said, in the Commons on 10 February,” Schools play an important role in providing character-building activities for their pupils. Sports clubs, orchestras and choirs, school plays, cadet forces and debating competitions all help to build character and give children opportunities to flourish. Schools are best placed to determine the needs of their pupils and how best to meet them”. He added that “We are also removing unnecessary health and safety rules that prevent children from going on expeditions and seeking adventures”

Character and Resilience Manifesto Chris Paterson, Claire Tyler  and Jen Lexmond

The all-party parliamentary group on Social Mobility and Centre Forum -Feb 2014


James O Shaughnessy, formerly deputy director of the think tank Policy Exchange and adviser to David Cameron, has established Floreat Education which aims to open a number of Primary schools  which focus, interalia, on  developing  ‘good character, including virtues such as honesty, resilience and service to others’. Floreat Education has  just been chosen to open a new primary school on the site of the Atheldene Day Centre in Earlsfield.


It was a reaction against one size fits all teaching-placing the needs of individual learners at the heart of the system

But dropped off the agenda

Does it still have utility?


The term personalised learning was probably coined in a September 2004 speech in Britain by  David Miliband, then minister of state for schools, who pronounced that “Personalised learning demands that every aspect of teaching and support is designed around a pupil’s needs” (Hargreaves 2004). This speech was driven by the then Labour government’s desire to reorganize the way services were delivered, to make them more efficient, and responsive to ‘customers’ needs,  given a concern that public institutions and government were lacking legitimacy,  in the public’s eyes.

Over time, the government’s reorganization entailed moving from the universal provision of services, by government, toward a more personalised approach that was hinged on each citizen’s actions- in short, more bottom up than top down.  Thus, in the UK, personalised learning has been bound up in a larger framework for the personalization of all public services. In both the healthcare and education sectors, the appeal is to the consumer side of a citizenry, looking for a promise of choice, greater flexibility and efficiencies for the individual. People ,or rather citizens,   should be participants in the design, delivery and co-production of those public goods that they feel are of most worth to them. This was   clearly part of  thinking too that informed the  Big Society agenda. Of course, the benefit to  a financially strapped state is to encourage citizens to take on more personal responsibility for the public good. In this framing of personalised services for the citizenry, UK policy makers do not necessarily distinguish between children and adults.

Professor David Hargreaves had been instrumental in defining this idea in the education sector by establishing nine gateways to personalising learning. In David Hargreaves’ view, personalised learning represents a larger movement that needs to be put forward on several fronts to (re)shape teaching and learning. His nine gateways to personalising learning are assessment for learning; learning to learn; student voice; curriculum; new technologies; school design and organization; advice and guidance; mentoring and coaching; and workforce development (Hargreaves 2006).  The close association of personalized learning and new technologies was a central strand since the inception of the idea, and is part of the all-embracing creed of technocrats looking to enter system level educational reform. The arrival of web 2.0 technologies was supposed to allow for greater and more innovative uses for those new technologies in schools. But it only dawned slowly  on politicians that the use of ICT in schools has tended to fall  way below its potential to transform the learning environment and to foster innovation. Of note is that David Hargreaves was a former chair of the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency, which was the UK government’s main partner in the strategic development and delivery of its information and communications technology (ICT) and e-learning strategy. BECTA, a quango, was   of course shut down by the Coalition government because it was seen as wasteful and bureaucratic, rather too close to big producers and, somewhat ironically, slow on the up-take ,in a fast changing environment.  In Hargreaves  vision of 21st-century schooling, pupils help make the curriculum, tell the school how to use information technology, set standards and learning objectives, assess their own and one another’s work, spend half or whole days on collaborative  team projects,  and sometimes work at home . Teachers in this new landscape are mentors or coaches who comment on students’ work rather than grading it constantly. ie (more formative assessment than summative). Subjects become “essential learnings”, such as communication, thinking or social responsibility; or “competencies”, such as managing information or relating to people. Schools become part of a network, working with other schools or colleges or even employers . The sum becomes greater than the individual parts.  It was a big vision, too big it seems for the government of the day. But it was also hampered by various vested interests hijacking the concept and putting their own self- serving spin on  the concept.

But’ Personalisation’  wont go away. To some it remains the key to tackling the persistent achievement gaps between different social and ethnic groups.  It means a tailored education for every child and young person, that gives them strength in the basics, stretches their aspirations, and builds their life chances -“It will create opportunity for every child, regardless of their background.” It means seamless working with the childs interests paramount.  Hargreaves ideas were certainly radical which goes some way to explaining why his vision of personalising education really hasn’t quite taken off. A Select Committee hearing into Personalised Learning in 2008, so about four years after its launch, found little substantive  progress  or indeed consensus on its meaning, and much confusion over what the term actually  looks like  in practice. Professor David Hargreaves bemused MPs when said he had struggled for the past four years to define it but had now concluded that it was “a total waste of time trying to find a definition” .He suggested it was more helpful to see it as a constant challenge rather than a particular state a school could ever say it had reached. He favoured the analogy with business, which had geared itself to meet a “customised” market, rather than a mass-production system. He then, reflecting his own frustration at how the term had been misused, hijacked  and misunderstood delivered a devastating blow to “personalised learning”, saying “I think it has outlived its usefulness”.  The Labour Government had, when it realised what the full vision was and what it might mean in practice, backed off and sought to water down that vision to something quite different –in short seeking the reshaping of teaching and learning through assessing the strengths of individuals and then addressing the specific needs and learning styles of each student applying differentiated teaching.  The mantra was increased  ‘flexibility’. The effective  use of ICT, though, which was very much part of Hargreaves vision seemed if not to drop off the agenda, to take a back seat.

Other countries though have too focused on ICT and personalisation. So what is happening abroad?

In  Canada –Alberta- the ministry of education’s 2010–2013 business plan addresses personalised learning  and articulates the intent to “support a flexible approach to enable learning any time, any place and at any pace, facilitated by increased access to learning technologies (Alberta Education 2010a, p. 70). In the plan, personalization is addressed in the same breath as technology, where one is the facilitator of the other. In many ways this is a natural reaction of a government looking to create/support public services in a more digitized society, where people are experiencing (or perceiving) greater choice, more voice and increased scope for self-organization throughout their (digital) lives. In the more recent recommendations from Inspiring Action on Education (2010b), Alberta Education’s vision for policy directions, legislative change and transformational shifts for education in the province, personalized learning is not equated solely with emerging technologies, but positioned as extending students’ learning experiences into community. “Personalized learning means that … students have access to a greater variety of learning experiences that include and extend beyond traditional education settings and benefit from increased community involvement in their learning” (Alberta Education 2010b, p. 14).

In the United States the idea of personalisation is focused  mainly, it seems, on utilising  technology. The Charter schools movement is taking a lead on using ICT to personalise learning . A recent CFBT Education Trust report-Making the most of Free school Freedoms’ looked interalia at innovation taking shape in New York Charter schools. The report says that ‘The ‘School of One’ uses  sophisticated technology and algorithms to find the best matches between students,  teachers and resources, and thereby generates a unique timetable for each student every  day. This provides a new level of personalisation for students and ensures they never move on from a concept until they have demonstrated mastery.’ The report continues ‘Technological innovation in a number of US charter schools in particular, is taking the form of what are known as blended or hybrid models of learning wherein computer and face-to face learning take place more and more in parallel’.  It mentions the Rocketship Education which is one such small but growing network of charter schools which is having resounding success serving an overwhelmingly low-income immigrant community in San Jose. Rocketship is at the cutting edge of school reform thanks to its vision for how technology will integrate with, and change, the structure of the school.’

The exciting thing about Academies and Free schools, the independent schools being created as part of the UK education reforms, is that with their new freedoms they have the potential to seek to reshape the learning environment and to innovate around personalising education revisiting and redefining the whole concept. They could act as incubators for innovative ideas and practice, which could help drive system wide reforms.  Personalised learning is not a pedagogic theory nor a coherent set of teaching approaches, but an idea that is struggling for an identity.  But it is a reaction against the ‘ one size fits all model’ and accepts the importance, identity and needs of individual learners, and that they learn in different ways and at different paces and respond differently to their learning environment.  To be effective personalised learning also requires a joined up collaborative approach, at least according to Hargreaves model. No silos here, its all about joined up thinking and delivery. Collaborative working, of course ,is supposed to be at the heart of our self-improving school system.    The fact is all good schools will seek to personalise learning  for their pupils but some will have a clearer idea of what it in means in practice, than others .One thing it doesn’t mean, by the way, is simply giving each pupil an Apple Mac.Or accepting too readily  all the claims made by computer salesman on the effects that technology has on individuals  learning.

But perhaps we should revisit the concept and , here is a radical idea,put the individual learner at the heart of system.

Alberta Education. 2010a. Education Business Plan 2010–13. Edmonton, AB:

Government of Alberta. Retrieved August 12, 2010, at

Inspiring Action on Education. Edmonton, AB: Government of Alberta. Retrieved August 12, 2010, at

School of One

Rocketship Education




The latest Ofsted Report on schools referred to “the long tail of underperformance of white children from low-income backgrounds” (page 24).  Compared to other ethnic groups of similar class backgrounds, this ethnic group remains largely socially immobile (Strand, 2008; Demie & Lewis, 2010; Evans, 2006; Gillborn & Kirton, 2000).

As Michael Wilshaw has recently argued, over the past six years improvements have been seen among deprived children from every other ethnic group, but such progress has been too slow in schools which have significant white working-class populations. It has been widely argued that the central reason for white working-class pupil underachievement remains social deprivation which is largely characterized by:

poor attendance,

low aspirations parents have of their children,

feelings of marginalization,

low-literacy levels and

lack of targeted support to break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage.

The government has made disadvantaged pupils a priority. In November 2010 Secretary of State for Education, Michael Gove, declared it imperative for the UK to become an “aspiration nation” (BBC News 2010) where schools must become “engines of social mobility providing every child with the knowledge, skills and aspirations they need to fulfil their potential”( The Cabinet Office 2011: 36)Indeed when Michael Gove was  shadow education secretary many of his attacks on the (Labour) governments policies focused on its perceived failure to improve  the performance of the most disadvantaged pupils and to narrow the achievement gap. The government believes that increasing poor children’s attainment can break the inter-generational cycle of poverty, and so  education reforms are focused on both raising attainment for all and closing gaps between disadvantaged pupils and their peers. School results  clearly show pupils from low-income families perform less well than all other pupils at key stage 2 and key stage 4, including  specifically white pupils.

The government’s main policy to address this is the pupil premium.  White working class pupils are not specifically targeted, although some argue they should be, and as a matter of urgency given the consistency of data.

The Pupil Premium, by giving schools extra funding to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils, aims to improve social mobility in the longer term. The pupil premium was introduced in April 2011. In addition the structural reforms namely the academies/free schools scheme is supposed to target the most disadvantaged areas, although some say that it is not doing so enough.  Lord Nash in a PQ on 20 January said ‘We have given school leaders greater autonomy to drive improvement in their schools; around half of the 174 free schools are located in the 30% most deprived communities. In addition we are reforming the accountability system so that schools are held to account for both the achievement and progress of all their pupils. The new national curriculum and reform to GCSEs will also make sure that all pupils are taught the essential knowledge that matches expectations in the highest performing jurisdictions.’

Some argue that a significant obstacle to raising white working-class achievement is the failure of the central government to recognise this particular population as having  very specific  and distinctive needs that continue not  to be met by the school system (Demie and Lewis 2010; Gillborn 2009). Lib Dem MP David Ward has said that most ethnic groups had representatives to speak up for their children’s education needs. But there were few pushing the cause of white working class children. The Select Committee is currently taking evidence on this issue, with one panel addressing the extent to which vocational education can help to address White working class underachievement, and a second focused on the ‘bigger picture’ of the problem of underachievement in education by this group, in terms of connections with   the wider social issues.



Demie, F. and K. Lewis (2010). “White working class achievement: an ethnographic study of barriers to learning in schools.” Educational Studies 33(2): 1-20.

Evans, G. (2006). Educational Failure and Working Class White Children in Britain. New York, Palgrave MacMillan.

Gillborn (2009). Education: The Numbers Game and the Construction of White Racial Victimhood.

Department for Education (2010). White paper: The importance of teaching. Norwich, TSO. 91.

Reay (2009). Making Sense of White Working Class Educational Underachievement.

Strand, S. (2008). “Educational aspirations in inner city schools.”Educational Studies 34(4): 249–267.

Hansard- Lords -Lord Nash- 20 January



The government recognises the importance of school to school collaboration



In its response to an Education Select Committee report  on school partnerships and co-operation the government said:

‘The government’s vision is for a self-improving, school-led system where schools and teachers are able to respond to local need through school-to-school support and collaboration. These principles form the basis of the teaching school model, where partnerships are formed through alliances and, in some cases, through more formalised networks. We will continue to explore whether there is a greater role for government in helping schools to identify and understand the characteristics of effective partnership and collaboration to support more school-to-school working.’

‘The evidence shows that, rather than having a negative impact on a school’s attainment levels, working with others improves a school’s outcomes. Chapman’s research for the National College on federations showed that in this model both the weaker school and the strong supporting school see an increase in performance.’

Note 1 Recent research suggests that one example of successful school collaboration across a system, driving improvements in performance, is the London Challenge.

Introduced in 2003,  it was a partnership between central and local government, targeting intensive support on the capital’s most deprived boroughs. Between 2003 and 2006 the proportion of students with five or more GCSE passes at A* to C rose faster in London than nationally – and even faster in the disadvantaged boroughs.

Note 2 Chapman et al, (2011) A study of the impact of school federations on student outcomes, National College

Source- Government response to Education Select Committee report  School Partnerships and Cooperation -20 January 2014




Huron surveys look at what choices the richest Chinese are making

UK Secondary  education rated above US

The Hurun Report  which surveys the choices and preferences of  the Chinese elite – also publishes  ‘The Best of British Education . The Best of British Education  is part of the Schools Guide Series, and is targeted at affluent Chinese parents intending to send their children to boarding schools and universities in the UK. Hurun. Report Founder and Director of the Schools Guide Series, Rupert Hoogewerf said, “British boarding schools are leaders of elite education across in the world, and are greatly acknowledged by Chinese entrepreneurs” In 2011, more than 50,000 UK student visas were issued by the UK Border Agency/Home Office in China, an increase of 20% from 2010. British boarding (secondary) schools are the first choice for Chinese entrepreneurs seeking an international education for their children. (the US is second)

The most recent consumer survey  found that 28.7% prefer UK as destination to educate children at high school level (secondary), slightly ahead of the US at 26%. 36% favour US for undergraduate and above education

The Schools Guide Series is an extensive and growing collection of guides, which provide Chinese parents  ‘with unrivalled insight into the education systems of seven countries, including the UK, US, Canada, Singapore, Australia & New Zealand and Switzerland with Hong Kong on its way this year.’

The top two concerns for the Chinese entrepreneur is their child’s education and leading a healthier life. 4 out of 5 millionaires in China are considering sending their child overseas to study and among industry experts, it is accepted that sending a child abroad is often the first step to much greater investment.

TEL:+86 (0)21 5010 5808 ADD:6F, Zhongrong Jasper Tower, 8 Yincheng Road, Pudong, Shanghai 200120, China




According to Daniel  Pink- the three elements of true motivation are —autonomy, mastery, and purpose

Need to rethink our approach, including in education?


Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink  In his provocative  new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Scientific management was been based on the premise that all work consisted largely of simple, uninteresting tasks, and that the only viable method to get people to undertake these tasks was to incentivise them properly and monitor them carefully.

Put simply, in order to get as much productivity out of your workers as possible, you must reward the behaviour you seek, and punish the behaviour you discourage – otherwise known as the carrot-and-stick approach.

Scientists have long known that two main drives power human behaviour – the biological drive including hunger, thirst and sex and the reward-punishment drive already discussed. However in 1949, Harry F. Harlow professor of Psychology at the University of Wisconsin, argued for a third drive – intrinsic motivation – the joy of the task itself.

Pink demonstrates that with the complex and more creative style of 21st century jobs, traditional rewards can actually lead to less of what is wanted and more of what is not wanted.He provides evidence to support the notion that this traditional approach can result in:

Diminished intrinsic motivation (the third drive);

Lower performance;

Less creativity;

“Crowding out” of good behaviour;

Unethical behaviour;

Addictions; and

Short-term thinking.

Pink proposes that businesses should adopt a revised approach to motivation which fits more closely with modern jobs and businesses, one based on self-determination theory (SDT).SDT proposes that human beings have an innate drive to be autonomous, self-determined and connected to one another, and that when that drive is liberated, people achieve more and live richer lives.

In ‘Drive’, he examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose—and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action. Along the way, he takes us to companies that are enlisting new approaches to motivation and introduces us to the scientists and entrepreneurs who are pointing a bold way forward.

Autonomy – provide employees with autonomy over some (or all) of the four main aspects of work:

When they do it (time) – Consider switching to a ROWE (results-only work environment) which focuses more on the output (result) rather than the time/schedule, allowing employees to have flexibility over when they complete tasks.

How they do it (technique) – Don’t dictate how employees should complete their tasks. Provide initial guidance and then allow them to tackle the project in the way they see fit rather than having to follow a strict procedure.

Whom they do it with (team) – Although this can be the hardest form of autonomy to embrace, allow employees some choice over who they work with. If it would be inappropriate to involve them in the recruitment/selection process, instead allow employees to work on open-source projects where they have the ability to assemble their own teams.

What they do (task) – Allow employees to have regular ‘creative’ days where they can work on any project/problem they wish – there is empirical evidence which shows that many new initiatives are often generated during this ‘creative free time’.

Mastery – allow employees to become better at something that matters to them:

Provide “Goldilocks tasks” – Pink uses the term “Goldilocks tasks” to describe those tasks which are neither overly difficult nor overly simple – these tasks allow employees to extend themselves and develop their skills further. The risk of providing tasks that fall short of an employee’s capabilities is boredom, and the risk of providing tasks that exceed their capabilities is anxiety.

Create an environment where mastery is possible – to foster an environment of learning and development, four essentials are required – autonomy, clear goals, immediate feedback and Goldilocks tasks.

Purpose – take steps to fulfil employees’ natural desire to contribute to a cause greater and more enduring than themselves:

Communicate the purpose – make sure employees know and understand the organisation’s purpose goals not just its profit goals. Employees, who understand the purpose and vision of their organisation and how their individual roles contribute to this purpose, are more likely to be satisfied in their work.

Place equal emphasis on purpose maximisation as you do on profit maximisation – research shows that the attainment of profit goals has no impact on a person’s well-being and actually contributes to their ill-being. Organisational and individual goals should focus on purpose as well as profit. Many successful companies are now using profit as the catalyst to pursuing purpose, rather than the objective.

Use purpose-oriented words – talk about the organisation as a united team by using words such as “us” and “we”, this will inspire employees to talk about the organisation in the same way and feel a part of the greater cause.

 This is relevant to all workplaces. Given the discussions over merit and performance related pay, in teaching, its worth looking in some detail at Pinks research. How do you motivate and incentivise teachers? Pinks research challenges some myths .

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us [Paperback] Daniel H. Pink 



Time to move away from the Factory model of schooling, says Professor Mehta


Jal Mehta, an assistant professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, is the author of the book “The Allure of Order: High Hopes, Dashed Expectations, and the Troubled Quest to Remake American Schooling.”

He makes the familiar claims  in his book that the way schools are organized, and what happens in classrooms, hasn’t changed much in the century since the ‘Progressive Era’. His proposition is that the US still has the same teachers, in the same roles, with the same level of knowledge, in the same schools, with the same materials, and much the same level of parental support.(Professor Ken Robinson has said much the same thing, as has Anthony Seldon here)

He writes in the New York Times ‘Call it the industrial-factory model: power resides at the top, with state and district officials setting goals, providing money and holding teachers accountable for realizing predetermined ends. While rational on its face, in practice this system does not work well because teaching is a complex activity that is hard to direct and improve from afar. The factory model is appropriate to simple work that is easy to standardize; it is ill suited to disciplines like teaching that require considerable skill and discretion.’

This echos concerns, shared by other educators, that the teaching profession, rather than improving its status, is being de-professionalised. Unions have little influence in shaping policy and have failed to raise the status of the profession.

Mehta  continues ‘Teaching requires a professional model, like we have in medicine, law, engineering, accounting, architecture and many other fields. In these professions, consistency of quality is created less by holding individual practitioners accountable and more by building a body of knowledge, carefully training people in that knowledge, requiring them to show expertise before they become licensed, and then using their professions’ standards to guide their work.’ Some of these arguments are being used by those in the UK who advocate a new professional body for teachers (Royal College of Teaching etc).

By these criteria, his conclusion is   that American education is a failed profession. There is no widely agreed-upon knowledge base, training is brief or non-existent, the criteria for passing licensing exams are much lower than in other fields, and there is little continuous professional guidance (and development). It is not surprising, then, that researchers find wide variation in teaching skills across classrooms; in the absence of a system devoted to developing consistent expertise, we have teachers essentially winging it as they go along, with predictably uneven results.

The top systems recruit the top graduates (Investing in Human capital -see Professor Hargreaves and Fullan on this)). Training in these countries is more rigorous, more tied to classroom practice and more often financed by the government than elsewhere.

In America, both major teachers’ unions and the organization representing state education officials have, in the past year, called for raising the bar for entering teachers; one of the unions, the American Federation of Teachers, advocates a “bar exam.” Ideally the exam should not be a one-time paper-and-pencil test, like legal bar exams, but a phased set of milestones to be attained over the first few years of teaching. Akin to medical boards, they would require prospective teachers to demonstrate subject and pedagogical knowledge — as well as actual teaching skill.

He continues ‘Tenure would require demonstrated knowledge and skill, as at a university or a law firm. A rigorous board exam for teachers could significantly elevate the quality of candidates, raise and make more consistent teacher skill level, improve student outcomes, and strengthen the public’s regard for teachers and teaching.

We let doctors operate, pilots fly, and engineers build because their fields have developed effective ways of certifying that they can do these things. Teaching, on the whole, lacks this specialized knowledge base; teachers teach based mostly on what they have picked up from experience and from their colleagues.’

The ‘Allure of Order’, explores the power of ideas  in shaping politics. When a new paradigm arises “Newspapers, legislative debates, and other forums where issues are debated and decided take up issues different from those they did before. Existing actors’ identities are reshaped as the new problem definition changes the way people think about an issue. … New actors and groups are also created.”

But, unlike a number of current narratives on the problems of education, Mehta goes further by offering guidance for the route to universal good schools. He discusses four elements needed for a successful school system:

 practice-relevant knowledge,

 strong human capital, (Hargreaves and Fullan etc )

 school-level processes of improvement, and

 external support and accountability.

He ends by looking for new institutions to try new approaches and old institutions to reform themselves: “We can only hope that they have learned from the lessons of the past and seek not to control but to empower, creating the infrastructure upon which talented practitioner can create the good schools of the future.”

The changes needed to professionalize American education won’t be easy, he admits. They will require money, political will and the audacity to imagine that teaching could be a profession on a par with fields like law and medicine. But failure to change will be more costly — we could look up in another 30 years and find ourselves, once again, no better off than we are today. Several of today’s top performers, like South Korea, Finland and Singapore, moved to the top of the charts in one generation. Real change in America is possible, but only, he says, if they stop tinkering at the margins.

Its interesting how many of the perceptions about what needs to change in the United States are shared by educators here in the UK when championing the need  for reform. There is a consensus building here that a new professional body is required to elevate the status of the profession, independent of  both unions and government.;jsessionid=985C8A681F1ABEA4DBBE353E3C9D56FB?cc=gb&lang=en&