12: WORST SCHOOL IN THE COUNTRY
Accompanying me is David Price OBE. The OBE, he is quick to tell me stands for is ‘Other Buggers’ Efforts’. It turns out he keeps his in the downstairs toilet. ‘I didn’t know where else to put it.’ I’m in David’s company because I’ve been looking for a guide to help me investigate our education system, its various problems and consider how we might build a better one. It is perhaps the most emotional, controversial and tricky topic in popular political debate. Nowhere else have I come across quite the levels of passion, bitterness, anger, frustration and antagonism that typifies exchanges between those who hold differing views about what we should do with our schools. David, therefore, is something of a find…
David on twitter: @davidpriceobe
David’s website: Engaged Learning
David proceeds to tell me the story of his friend Larry Rosenstock receiving a call from President Obama. Larry’s the headteacher at San Diego’s High Tech High. A group of thirteen superstar schools, whose students are chosen by a blind zip-code lottery, High Tech High achieves 96% college entrance for its 5,000 pupils and is regularly hailed as one of the most progressive educational establishments in the world, turning out creative, curious, self-starting students. The President wanted to know how he might scale that kind of success nationally. ‘You can’t’, was apparently Larry’s response. ‘It took me decades to get this team together. I want to be remembered for the quality of my schools, not the quantity,’ Rosenstock says.
You can visit High Tech High’s website by clicking on their logo. There’s also a good movie about the school’s approach called “Most Likely to Succeed” – the website of which you can visit by clicking on the image.
In 2008 John Hattie set the rational cat amongst the prejudiced pigeons. Professor Hattie upset traditionalists and progressives alike by, ironically, telling them they were both right. For the last twenty-five years he’s been collecting every study he can find on student achievement, analysing it and trying to find patterns. He’s amassed data on over 195 influences on our children’s education, from the effect of uniforms to the impact of various teaching philosophies – culled from over 70,000 studies spanning 50 years and involving over 250 million students. It’s by far the largest and most ambitious analysis of education research ever undertaken.
Carl Jarvis is happy to see you. It doesn’t matter who you are, he’s genuinely glad you’re here. From the moment you’re in his company until the moment you leave you get the very real impression he finds you interesting and insightful. This attitude, I shall find out, is one of the reasons he’s become considered something of a miracle worker…
Recalling his first trip to Hartsholme Academy he describes it as ‘completely broken’. What happened next has become the stuff of legend…
David had told me: “If Hartsholme can come from the worst possible start to where they are now, and do it without firing anyone, it means their success is likely to be replicable. That’s the reason we’re on a train to Lincoln and not a flight to San Diego.’
Carl on twitter: @carljarvis_eos