Thursday, 23 May 2013


We are in real danger of creating a negative and destructive culture where bullying, command and control and high stakes testing are seen as the only way to achieve excellence. Those in control dismiss anyone who disagrees with them as the 'enemies of ambition' despite evidence from the best performing systems across the world which reinforce the need to nurture, develop and support learning leadership, beautiful systems and intelligent accountability.

Every school I visit is trying to build and develop real excellence where every child is a reader, writer, mathematician, scientist, singer, artist, designer, creator and learner. They are building on the foundations of wonderful early years provision and immersing children in a rich, diverse and creative curriculum where they are exposed to the wonderful worlds of Shakespeare, T. S. Eliot, Alan Alberg and Roger Hargreaves, the incredible music of Beethoven, Mozart, the Beatles and Adele, the extraordinary stories of physics and cosmology illuminated by Brian Cox, the incredible world of biology brought alive by of David Attenborough and the magic of mathematics, number and algebra!

It is deeply insulting to the professionals who deliver the education service in this country to constantly dismiss any criticism and to use the media to treat the critical voices as the enemies of ambition or argue that they aren't as determined as anyone else to achieve excellence. Especially when the reality is that these very people are in classrooms everyday doing the work necessary to achieve world class outcomes. Headteachers and teachers have been worn down by constant criticism, change and contradiction, by command and control, by a cruel and toxic inspection system and by the systematic destruction of local authority support services.

We need to find another way! The vast majority of the workforce in our schools have the ability to be outstanding and simply need to find themselves in a supportive, developmental culture which nurtures excellence, expect high standards and has high expectations. We need to nurture, develop and support learning leadership, beautiful systems and intelligent accountability which are the real keys to success according to OECD, PISA and colleagues in Finland, Canada, Singapore and Korea.

We need to create a learning community where we constantly strive for excellence and where we share and network and learn from the things that work. This isn't rocket science and we already have a powerful evidence-based toolkit which can be used to drive change and focus resources. The challenge for those in control is to provide strategic leadership and direction and then get out of the way and let colleagues in schools deliver for their children, their families and their communities.

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