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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Different strokes?

As Heath Monk’s piece in the Guardian yesterday, "The Mossbourne way is not the only way to be an 'outstanding' schooland the subsequent response on Twitter suggested, there seem to be some pieces missing from the collective education jigsaw.  It can’t be the case that there is only one way to achieving the best education for our children schools.
Putting aside context or 'theory x' vs 'theory y' or ‘command and control’ vs. ‘enabled models’ for the moment.  I think there is a more fundamental problem here as evinced in my daughter’s school’s motto,

“Excellence for all”

I think we ought to pause for a moment for that to sink in…

It is one of the those statements that at first glance appear to be very much what schools should be aiming for but then, like nails down a blackboard, should set your teeth on edge at the appalling sloppiness of the thinking.
In the bluntest terms; all cannot excel! Because if everyone is doing it, it is not ‘excellence’, it is ‘average’.  Now, there is nothing wrong with below average schools aiming to do tomorrow what those deemed to be ‘excellent’ do today, provided that it is applicable to the context of the school and children in question.  But it places an awful burden on those few deemed to be ‘excellent’ to continue to stride ahead and find the solutions for next year and the year after that.
 Better that schools set their sights on becoming their own sort of brilliant - educating radiant children, rather than trying to shoehorn themselves into someone else’s models. Doing this creates multiple future models from which we can all pick,  chose, amalgamate and improve upon.
Interviewing someone for a headship on the basis of a candidate “knowing what ‘outstanding’ looks like” is naive to the point of being almost funny, if it weren’t so tragic.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Brand and the suspension of disbelief

I have been thinking about brands and their impact on us.  I am an Apple fan.  My first ever computer was an Apple... well actually my first ever computer was a ZX Spectrum but you know what I mean.  Then, when I bought a laptop for work in the 90's I defected to Microsoft.  I stayed with Windows until the lunacy of waiting 5 minutes for your computer to start only to crash every hour or so drove me back to Mac.

I loved (and still love) my Mac mini.  I love my MacBook Pro.  But the full conversion, when last year I ditched my Blackberry and bought an iPhone 4 was a step too far.  My smart phone fails to meet even the most cursory definition of a 'phone' let alone being 'smart'.  I have looked in chat rooms on the internet and have learned about the 'death grip', I have switched off unnecessary applications, I have bought a case...  On average my "phone" drops 60% of calls at some point and fails to get through on 3 out of 4 dial attempts and the battery lasts for about 2/3rds of a day.  It is quite simply not a phone.  It is useless.

And yet I persist with it.  My 'love' for Apple has thus far enabled me to overlook the abject failure of the dreadful device.  My belief triumphs over the reality and keeps me going.  This belief exists simply as a result of the branding genius that is Apple.  The emotional commitment to a product that makes me feel special and ignore the set backs.

I wonder if instilling self-belief in children has a parallel with this.  The motto we devised for the Elliot Foundation is, "where children believe they can because teachers know they can".  If we can create a personal brand in children where this is strong enough to allow them to overlook the setbacks of life and keep going then we create better life chances for young people.

Having written down my half formed thought, I have a sneaking feeling that this is actually blindingly obvious...

Oh well.