Back to school

It’s back to school week for thousands of British children and young people, as well as all the teachers and support staff who work in our 24,000 schools and colleges. Uniforms are being pulled out of bedroom corners. Folders are being dusted off.  The first hints of autumn are being carried in the air, even if we’re still being embraced by the longest, sunniest summer in a decade.

All of which makes it the right time to post this video of Ken Robinson speaking at the RSA earlier in the summer. I squeezed in right before they closed the doors. It was a delight to hear him saying that creativity should be embedded into every school – especially as that’s at the heart of Thomas Tallis School in Greenwich, where I’m proud to be a (relatively new) school governor.

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It’s worth watching the whole video, but here’s a taster of what he said.

Why, he asked, do we ‘do’ education? His answer came in four parts: economic, cultural, social and personal.

Education, he said, has powerful economic purpose, contributing to health, vitality and sustainability. We want to make our children economically independent – so what does industry want? An IBM report from 2011 of 1,800 leaders in 80 countries said they wanted adaptability and creativity.

The world is complicated and increasingly conflicted. Value systems are knocking against each other head on.  We need forms of education that respond to and reflect culture  – that allows you to see your own identity and to understand others’.

He points to evidence of political disengagement. It’s important we take part in civil engagement. You do this by having a culture of participation – and schools are a vital part of this.

And finally, it’s about people.  “Anything not nuanced to diversity will increase alienation.”

His belief is that change needs to come from the ground up. “We need policy makers to think differently. They appear to believe that you improve things by issuing directives. It’s a false consciousness of how education actually works. If we do something different, government will respond.”

“You cannot improve education,” he said, “by vilifying teachers.”

Too right!



I went to hear Khoi Tu, author of Superteams, speaking at The RSA a few weeks ago. He was sharp, smart and very interesting.

The best thing you could do is just to go straight to the podcast.

But if you want more of a taster, here goes. His premise was to go and spend time with some of the most successful teams in the world including the people behind Pixar, The Red Cross, The Rolling Stones, The SAS and Ferrari’s Formula One unit. He found out what made their teams so wildly successful.

There were too many delightful nuggets: Pixar appreciate the value of ‘creative abrasion’, where team members are tasked with positively pulling apart work that has been created. The Red Cross embody the motivating power of shared purpose. The Rolling Stones contain four essential elements of a superteam – a leader (Mick), an individualist (guess who), a diplomat (Ronnie) and a stable element (Charlie). It went on, brilliantly, including the suggestion that successful teams are between four and twelve deep; that teams who work together remotely need physical or at least visual hanging out time, and Mandela’s brilliantly understated observation about FW De Klerk in answer to a question about how to make difficult relationships work: “We get on, but we don’t hang out.”

And the best bit? He’s donating the profits from Superteams to The Red Cross. Now that’s putting your money where your mouth is.

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