Authors: Guy Claxton
It was a teacher that changed my life; not because he taught me my times tables but because he helped me rebuild my confidence through my parents’ divorce. I am Ruby, you are Ruby, we are all Ruby. Thank you Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas for breaking us out of the battery farm.
Richard Gerver, author of
Creating Tomorrow’s Schools Today
Good schools have always focused on ‘results plus’, helping children achieve their potential in examinations and at the same time developing confident and creative individuals who are keen to do their very best. Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas are absolutely right to remind us of the need for more expansive approaches.
is a timely reminder of how increasingly important it is not to focus on just part of what matters at school.
Brian Lightman, General Secretary, ASCL
It is essential that schools educate the whole child. I strongly support the line of argument made by Bill Lucas and Guy Claxton that schools are about so much more than examination results.
is essential reading for everyone who cares about the future of education in our country.
Tony Little, Head Master, Eton College
The UK school system is in urgent need of reform.
teems with practical, evidence-based, inspiring ideas for teaching and learning, that will brighten the lives of over-tested students, stressed-out teachers and concerned parents. And when politicians are finally ready to be pointed in the right direction, it’s just the book for them too.
Sue Palmer, literacy specialist and author of
A powerful, heartfelt and expert analysis of what’s going wrong in the education of our children and how to put it right.
Sir Ken Robinson
Examination grades are important, but they are only half the story of education. Parents send their children to schools like my own because they know we build the kinds of character and roundedness that this book puts its finger on. It’s what all schools everywhere should be doing. Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas speak for schoolchildren and their parents everywhere.
Sir Anthony Seldon, Master, Wellington College
The need for a knowledge-rich curriculum is beyond dispute but this provocative book should make all teachers and school leaders think deeply about what is taught and how. A broad range of ideas encompassing deep scholarship, character building and creativity are set out with passion and clarity including practical suggestions for schools and parents. It’s going to wind some people up – but that’s a good thing.
Tom Sherrington, Head Teacher, Highbury Grove School
The schools of tomorrow are here today – but are too few and far between. We won’t get the speed and scale of change without real political will which is currently lacking.
is a brave attempt to mobilise parent power to get that change to happen. I really hope it succeeds!
Matthew Taylor, Chief Executive, RSA
Most people believe schools should do their bit to help children become ‘rounded individuals’ as well as developing their intellectual strength. The obsession with measuring our schools through testing their pupils means that too many children are on a relentless treadmill which is self-defeating. Ruby and her friends need an education with all its richness, with teachers who bring learning alive and supported by parents who play their full part. It is not too complicated and
explains why the system needs to change and what everyone can do about it.
Mick Waters, Professor of Education, Wolverhampton University
What would schools look like if they taught children what they really need to know? Could we ever have schools like that?
is thoughtful, provocative and optimistic. As ever, Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas are wise and experienced voices on the cutting edge of education. All teachers and parents should read this book – they’d learn lots, and enjoy it!
Hilary Wilce, author of
Backbone: How to Build the Character Your Child Needs to Succeed
is a must read book for all stakeholders in education. Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas show how we can have happy, positive young people with skills, attitudes and ‘habits of mind’; who are knowledgeable
capable of passing examinations.
Sue Williamson, Chief Executive, SSAT
Whether you agree or disagree with
, you’ll certainly be engaged, stimulated and challenged.
Robert Wilne, founding Head Master, London Academy of Excellence
Kayla Cohen, Bryan Harrison, Tom Middlehurst and Hilary Mackay Martin.
All those who spoke to us so openly about their own or their child’s experiences of school.
The many head teachers and teachers with whom we are lucky to work, who are already putting these kinds of ideas into practice.
Our gurus: Professors Art Costa, David Perkins, Howard Gardner, Tanya Byron and Carol Dweck.
And our families: Henrietta, Jude, Tom, Bryony and Peter.
I struggled at school. It was a highly academic girls’ school, and its hot-house atmosphere didn’t suit me. At one teachers’ meeting, my parents and I were told, “Tanya will never be a high-flyer.”
Jo Malone, the multi-millionaire businesswoman and fragrance queen, was told by a teacher that she was lazy (Jo is dyslexic) and “would never make anything of her life”. Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and thousands of others were written off by their teachers – because their way of learning didn’t fit that of the school.
As a clinical psychologist working in child and adolescent mental health, I often meet children and young people who are struggling at school to such a degree that it has severely compromised their mental health and daily functioning. There are thousands of children today who are showing increasing rates of depression and anxiety disorders, struggling to hold on to a positive sense of self-worth. Some literally give up. And their parents are at their wits’ end wondering what to do for the best.
While the mental health of our young is a complex, multifaceted issue driven by biological, psychological and social factors, I believe that the current education system is out of date and out of step with the learning needs and habits of young people. Some 50% of all adult mental health problems start at the age of 14, a time of life when the prefrontal cortex undergoes huge changes in function,
when risk-taking is a developmental imperative on the road to individuation, and when puberty adds sexual, social and identity challenges. Children who struggle are not lazy, stupid or babyish; they just don’t fit with this antiquated system.
School should foster a love of learning and enquiry, a thirst to discover and uncover, a sense of fun and creativity, whether learning about the past or developing ideas for the future. Yet many academics, like myself, who work in the fields of child development, education and mental health are increasingly concerned. We are deeply worried that our young people are being force-fed, over-tested and misunderstood, and are suffering as a result. They are taught to pass exams but not necessarily taught to think in their own unique way and on their own terms.
Our digitally literate and highly curious young people sit in classrooms where learning is delivered in ways that do not connect with the ways they think, learn and create. Furthermore, children from disadvantaged backgrounds, those with learning difficulties, or simply idiosyncratic learning styles, are never going to leave school feeling successful and empowered to carry on learning and thinking for themselves. This is not ‘trendy sentiment’, as some would have us believe, but a matter of hard fact. Those of us who have raised these concerns have been called ‘The Blob’ by policy-makers and politicians, and the hostility that exists between them and teachers is at an all-time high.
Recent surveys by employers and higher education institutions in the UK have clearly shown that students are not well-prepared for the transition from secondary education to higher education and/or employment. Children and young people are being educated to become reliable employees,
when what we need are creative thinkers and problem-solvers.
report describes British schools as grim exam factories where “while average performance rises gently, too many are left behind”. It describes the education system as “too much of a conveyor belt – it moves children along at a certain pace, but does not deal well with individual needs … [This] means we fail to properly stretch the able, while results for young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are particularly troubling.” Their report says that there should be a major focus on cultivating the skills young people need in life.
So what are these skills?
Professors Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas are world-renowned academics who have dedicated their professional lives to answering this question. Their Building Learning Power programme is about helping young people to become more confident and sophisticated learners, both in school and out. Schools around the world – from Poland to Patagonia, from Manchester to Melbourne – are using these smart, practical ideas to give children the knowledge and the confidence they need to learn and thrive in the exciting and turbulent waters of the 21st century.
Guy and Bill have shown that it is perfectly possible for schools to systematically cultivate the habits of mind that enable young people to face all kinds of difficulty and uncertainty calmly, confidently and creatively. Students who are more confident of their own learning ability learn faster and learn better. They also do better in their tests and external examinations, and they are easier and more satisfying to teach.
It’s not either/or – either good grades or life skills. We have to go beyond the weary old Punch and Judy battle
between ‘traditionalists’ and ‘progressives’. Children and young people who are helped to become more confident and powerful learners are happier, more adventurous and take greater pleasure in reading – and they do better on the tests.
To thrive in the 21st century, it is not enough to leave school with a clutch of examination certificates. Students need to have learned how to be tenacious and resourceful, imaginative and logical, self-disciplined and self-aware, collaborative and inquisitive. Bill and Guy’s earlier book,
Expansive Education: Teaching Learners for the Real World
, gives dozens of examples of schools around the world that are already achieving this holy grail of education.
We need a radical rethink of our school systems to help our children get ready for the challenges and opportunities they will face. Without this equipment, many will flounder and become unhappy. But we can’t wait for the politicians and policy-makers – they will always do too little, too late. Teachers and parents have to help each other to regenerate what goes on in schools via an alliance and a quiet revolution.
This book provides a rallying call for that vital alliance, and a manifesto for the evolution that has to come. Please read it, join the alliance and give copies to your friends.
Professor Tanya Byron, Consultant in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, Professor in the Public Understanding of Science