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Bren's Blog - November 2017

A pocket of excellence isn’t enough

If you were at the Link2ICT Learning Technologies Conference recently, can I apologise if you have struck up an annoying habit of looking out for a certain type and colour of car every time you are out and about. For those of you who were not there, I also apologise for wasting the last thirty seconds of your time reading this!

blog 01The main thrust of the ramblings of my keynote at the conference was to try to help headteachers, curriculum leads and network managers to focus on getting the best out of everything they have and do, within the context of using technology appropriately to improve outcomes for young people. I made reference to no longer accepting “pockets of excellence” schools. It is a theme I have developed further in my own thinking since hearing Baroness Sue Campell CBE, speak at the Learning To Shape Birmingham conference earlier in the term. Baroness Campbell spoke passionately about the success of various Team GB sports at recent Olympic Games and championships. She touched on how changes to the way individual sport governing bodies work together, brought tangible wider benefits.

TdFThe GB cycling team, for example, had been making great progress and achieving wonderful things – so what lessons learned in that discipline could be shared with swimmers? And what secrets of success of swimmers are appropriate to help cyclists? In other words, don’t keep your secrets of success compartmentalised, but make sure they are shared and used across a raft of disciplines to help the overall greater Team GB performance.

My own earlier thinking around this concept in schools is found easily in this analogy. Why, when we know a teacher is using methods and systems that make a difference far greater than their peers elsewhere in a primary school, do we simply say, “Isn’t that teacher great?” What we should be doing is recognising and praising that great practice and making sure that it can be developed with other staff across the school – why should other youngsters miss out? Why shouldn’t they be offered the same chance to improve faster, more deeply, as those youngsters “lucky enough” to have that great teacher? Similarly, in secondary schools with department-based teaching and learning, it is important to grab the great practice of that brilliant English teacher and ensure that other members of the English department are similarly equipped and able to deliver such fantastic lessons – and if what is being done in English can be transferred to History…why wouldn’t the school leadership want it to be cascaded across the entire learning community?

Baroness Campbell shared the most simple of advice – every day, no matter how small, make an improvement. Tiny steps, every day. Incrementally they build up and great things are possible. If you have some stories of how using technology in a way that improves learning better, faster, deeper – let me know, I’d like to share your excellence with others!

Please get in touch with me, Bren Taylor ( with your ideas – I’d love to talk with you.

This blog post is available via  or the November 2017 edition of School News. Click the buton below if you want to see the rest of the newsletter.


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