This week my book ‘Lessons Learned?’ has been published by John Catt Educational.
I have enjoyed the privilege of a career in education where I have spent nearly four decades teaching, in various leadership positions in maintained schools across England and Wales, five years leading the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), and now a period as a freelance consultant playing a small part in supporting school leaders in their unerring quest to change the lives of their students for the better. It has been, and continues to be, both a pleasure and a privilege.
Throughout my working life our education service has been on a constant conveyor belt of reforms largely driven by successive governments. Some of those have been highly desirable, some informed by robust and reliable evidence, others less so. With hardly any exceptions however, the vast majority have not been given time to embed before the next initiative replaced them. Equally significant is the fact that policy memory seems non-existent. As soon as there is a change in government all of the work done by the previous one is filed away and, with few exceptions, dispatched into policy oblivion. Sometimes these forgotten ideas resurface as shiny new ones for which their initiators proudly take credit!
Successive governments and secretaries of state arrive with new priorities, which they are keen to drive forward before they move on, often after not much more than a year. I have met many of them and without exception felt their passion and commitment to do what they believe is the very best for young people.
Nevertheless, lessons from best practice and failures are often not learned leading to many missed opportunities. The challenge for school leaders has been and remains to find a way to ride on the crest of that wave without getting drawn down into the undertow.
My book therefore sets out to do three things:
- Through the narrative of my own experience and reference to theory I have reflected on the lessons that might be learned from that period.
- I have tried to draw from those reflections some practical advice and suggestions to teachers, policymakers and school leaders. I would not presume to have all of the answers and certainly do not claim to have got everything right. Nevertheless, I hope that this book might be useful for future generations working in education and those who are deciding on future policy
- I have taken a look into the future, which highlights what needs to be done in order to build on the many strengths and successes of the education system that we are lucky enough to have in Britain. Whatever the challenges and wrong turns might have been I remain deeply optimistic about the future.
I hope that the book will be of interest not only to those who were previously or are currently involved in the world of education but also to those who might shape future policy and practice.