This customer evidence paper considers four schools in England–one primary (elementary) and three secondary–where innovative approaches to teaching and learning on a large scale are continually being implemented. Each school is able to meet or surpass the expectations of the national government while creating richer experiences for local people, and each makes extensive use of technologies for particular purposes. The paper is based on an analysis of thirty-six existing video interviews with heads, teachers, governors, students and local authority representatives undertaken for Microsoft, and the author’s follow up telephone conversations with one representative of each school. It identifies common themes and their implications and then goes on to show in some detail how each school is addressing them.
The common themes identified in this paper are:
• Strong drivers for change include ‘push’ and ‘pull’ factors: poor results in terms of national measures together with a courageous leadership vision of new ways of schooling.
• A sense of developing communities of people who learn in many different ways through trying things out, reflecting on the results and working together day by day.
• A focus on developing socially competent as well as qualified learners, and a sense of urgency that national assessment must be broadened to value all attributes.
• Elements of depth and breadth are valued, such as including a whole geographic community with a lifelong view, and looking system-wide rather than at individual institutions.
• A sense of constrained innovation: while most leaders wish they had gone faster and further, all schools continue to take part in national measures.
• A wish to improve links between primary and secondary schooling.
The Government’s standard National Curriculum is a strong influence in most schools in England. It mandates subjects and topics for study at Key Stages 1-4 (broadly equivalent to the compulsory ages of schooling of 5 to 16 years), and is assessed through both teacher assessment and national tests at particular points. In the final year of...