Saturday, 4 December 2010


I have been reading 'Could do better:Using international comparisons to refine the National Curriculum in England' and it makes depressing reading...                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
This report draws on examples to support an unhelpful and corrosive approach which is that the work that we have been doing here in Leeds and nationally over the last ten years hasn't achieved the necessary transformation in outcomes, that the curriculum is broken and the whole system needs to be fixed. The report fails to understand that we are at a stage in the development of teaching and learning because of the work we have been doing over the last ten years and a lot of that work has been outstandingly successful here in Leeds.  Ten years ago, no-one would have believed the transformation in outcomes we have achieved and our shared success has been driven by a dynamic and creative process that has taken the best of National Strategies programmes and the best practice from across the city, the region and the country to drive continuous improvement so that every school in Leeds becomes a great school.

And we haven't ignored international models because our relationship with Stockholm and Helsinki has been part of that learning journey. Interestingly, the report looks at the Finnish model where, like us, ten years ago there was little to celebrate in terms of international comparisons. What is important with any analysis of the Finnish system is their steady progress during the past three decades has been built on some important foundations: increased educational attainment and literacy within the adult population, widespread equity and fairness in terms of learning outcomes and the performance of schools and a culture which values and celebrates education and learning, within a system where private education simply doesn't exist.

And perhaps more significantly and unlike many other education systems, tests and external standards have not been part of Finnish education policies. Improvements in learning and student outcomes have been achieved through policies based on equity, flexibility, creativity, teacher professionalism, and mutual trust and respect. The conclusion we should draw is that educational success in Finland, and here in Leeds, has been built upon ideas that place an emphasis on teaching and learning, encouraging schools to work cooperatively and collaboratively, creating powerful learning environments and developing educational content and coaching and mentoring approaches that best help young people reach their personalised goals.

What we have achieved has been a learning journey and the trajectory of improvement has been impressive. We can't simply dismiss what we've learnt over the last ten years and like in Finland we must continue to riforously and relentlessly focus on teaching, learning and creativity rather than simply concentrating on passing tests and exams... and we must never lose sight of the values that have underpinned what we have achieved; equity, flexibility, creativity, trust and respect.

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