Book Review: Manifesto for Excellence in Schools


Rob Carpenter




Bloomsbury Education (18 Oct. 2018)



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Learning by trial and error is how I learned pretty much all of my IT skills, it’s how I’ve taught myself to play the piano, and it’s an approach I have steadfastly promoted in the classroom. Whether teaching Scratch, Kodu or Python, I believe children learn best when they are allowed to explore. Successful teaching, then, is a mix of instruction and opportunities to play creatively, to practice, to make mistakes - and, crucially, to learn from them. What makes Carpenter’s book so powerful is the way in which he blends pedagogy with personal accounts of his own experience in school leadership.

As such, you aren’t just reading a series of heady ideal-world strategies. You’re reading practicable, useable ideas which have truly changed and shaped the fortunes of real schools. What we’re looking at in this book is a total shift in paradigm. Carpenter talks about accountability and the “proving culture” in which learning is viewed in terms of levels rather than skills. Education has become a machine designed to align children with numbers: children are judged not on their learning or their individual development, but on whether they have made expected progress. They have or they haven’t. Yes or no.

Revolutions, Carpenter reminds us, begin in classrooms. Expertise in learning – and, by extension, in school leadership – comes from the confidence to experiment, to shape new ideas, to cultivate collaboration. If you're interested in starting a revolution in your own school - or even simply in your own teaching practice - Carpenter's book is an excellent way to start!

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