One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire Cat in a tree. ‘Which route do I take?’ she asked. His response was a question: ‘Where do you want to get to?’ ‘I don’t know,’ Alice answered. ‘Then,’ said the Cheshire Cat, ‘it doesn’t much matter.’
Lewis Caroll, Alice in Wonderland
Unless we are clear about the destination we’re headed towards, education reform will be as directionless as Alice’s meanderings in wonderland. This blog is about what works in education. It draws lessons from the world’s most successful school systems, and distils the best ideas for reform. From this, we can get insights into what a great education system would look like in England.
My central argument is that great teaching depends on a great curriculum, great training and great assessment. In these areas, there is some consensus and some confusion.
There is a clear consensus in education…
- No school can be better than its teachers
- No education system can exceed the quality of its teaching
- Teachers struggle without good leadership and governance
- A school system in which 40% of school leavers underachieve academically isn’t good enough
…but we still need clear answers to some key questions
We need to clarify:
- What makes a great education system?
- What makes great teaching?
- What makes a great curriculum?
- What makes great training (CPD & ITT)?
- What makes great assessment?
- What makes great school leadership?
To answer these questions, we can use the best ideas, evidence and systems globally and ask what we can learn from:
- McKinsey & Sir Michael Barber on school system reform
- Teach First & Brett Wigdortz OBE on teacher recruitment
- Core Knowledge & E.D. Hirsch on the curriculum
- Cognitive Science & Daniel Willingham on effective instruction
- Direct Instruction & Siegfried Engelmann on how best to teach
- The Learning Revolution & Michel Thomas on what and how to teach
- Education, Education, Education & Lord Andrew Adonis on the status of teaching
- Ofsted & Sir Michael Wilshaw on school improvement
- Visible Learning & John Hattie on what works best in classrooms
- Bad Science & Ben Goldacre on evidence-based practice
- Assessment for Learning & Dylan Wiliam on how to help students improve
- Cambridge Assessment & Tim Oates on summative assessment
- Mindset & Carol Dwek on motivation and achievement
- The Curriculum Centre & Daisy Christodoulou on myths in education
I’ll be posting on one of these topics every Saturday to spark debate about how to improve our education system.
- Why isn’t our system working?
- How do pupils learn best?
- Why does London outperform England?
- How do schools succeed against the odds?
- How can we improve behaviour in English schools?
As the episode of Alice and the Cheshire cat shows, we must be clear about our desired end point if we are to choose the right path towards a great education system.
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