Key Voices #131 – ‘The Next Big Thing in School Improvement’ with Professor Becky Allen, Matthew Evans and Ben White

““When any dominant idea in education becomes 'the solution' or something it’s important to be seen to be doing, then they can easily be implemented in ways that are not as effective as they could have been in their original context.” ”

This week we speak to Professor Becky Allen, Co-Founder of Teacher Tapp, Ben White, Assistant Headteacher of a secondary school in Kent and Matthew Evans, Headteacher of a secondary school in Gloucestershire, about a book they wrote together entitled, ‘The Next Big Thing in School Improvement’. We discuss the main themes of the book, namely: the complexity of the school system, the limits of our knowledge and the problems that arise when an approach to school improvement (that might well be effective in some contexts) becomes a generalised “fad” and actually has limited impact.

We talk about: 
  • How the three authors met and why they decided to write a book together on this topic
  • What it means when we say schools are “complex” systems and why they are difficult to improve
  • How administering reading assessments works and how the results are used to support pupils progress 
  • Some of the important things about learning and education that we just don’t know yet and may never know
  • Advice for headteachers contemplating school improvement
  • The limits of the education system as it has currently been designed and what some of the potential options could be for overcoming them
  • The group’s thoughts on the current focus on curriculum
  • How each of our guests think education research, time and funding could be spent to tackle some of the challenges they have identified around school improvement
  • Activities they have each participated in as part of past school improvement fads that they now regret

You can order Becky, Ben and Matthew’s book here 

“We’re not saying in the book that you can’t improve schools, that’s a really important point to get across. What we’re trying to do is make a case for why it’s as difficult as it is … but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, because it happens.”

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