Key Voices #111 – Day in, day out school improvement with Paul Ainsworth

“What I’ve learned is I don’t think there are silver bullets, I don’t think they exist. Sometimes you need to make changes but a lot of the time you don’t need to make a big structural change. Instead look at what you’ve got there and work out how you can make it just a little bit better, and then the next week a little bit better still…” 

This week we talk to Paul Ainsworth, School Improvement Director at Infinity Academies Trust. Paul talks to us about the philosophy that sits behind his book No Silver Bullets: Day In, Day Out School Improvement. He focuses on the importance of incremental and sustained improvement rather than magic ideas to revolutionise how schools work. We also talk about Paul’s career to date, his role as a system leader and how multi academy trusts can be an effective vehicle for school improvement. 

We talk about:
  • Paul’s diverse school leadership experience
  • Why Paul wanted to write a book that captured his school improvement “playbook” 
  • What Paul means by “day in, day out improvement” i.e. small regular improvements rather than trying to find that mythical silver bullet or quick fix
  • Why it can be beneficial to work on and with existing systems rather than replacing them 
  • Some of Paul’s techniques for conducting school improvement work across a trust 
  • Why Paul finds working as a system leader and having an impact in multiple schools especially fulfilling 
  • Paul’s thoughts about working in both primary and secondary schools 
  • The kind of support Paul provides to headteachers 
  • How a trust structure can support heads to improve their schools 


“Always remember that in any trust, we are only as strong as our weakest school, so if we’ve got 7 schools doing fantastically well and one is struggling, we need the other 7 schools to help, not say “Oh but it’s fine over here and you can’t have any of my support”  because we are a family, and if one of us is finding it hard we help that member.”

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