This paper from the RSA explores the experiences of schools in the UK that are bucking the trend and re-visiting the purpose, principles and power of education. It is a long read, but worth it!

This paper is about a group of schools that are bucking a growing and concerning trend: that of schools narrowing their focus, and hollowing out their teaching, in their desperation to meet the constantly shifting demands of the government’s accountability system.

This trend is understandable. The risks associated with leadership have become so high, with governors and trustees fearing for their schools and headteachers fearing for their jobs, that the task of clearing the latest threshold or hitting the next target has come to dominate almost everything many schools do; proof, if it were needed, that in high-stakes, low-trust systems, only those things that get measured tend to get done (with too few questions asked about how they get done).

But there are some school leaders who simply refuse to play this bureaucratic education-by-numbers game; leaders whose decisions are shaped, not by the government’s agenda, but by their own sense of mission – by the higher purpose to which they have dedicated themselves and their schools.

Download it here.

Julian Astle is the RSA’s director of education. Before joining the RSA, he worked for four years in No. 10 Downing Street, first as Deputy Director of the No. 10 Policy Unit, then as a senior advisor to the Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg.