Zoe James shares her thoughts on John Tomsett’s book;
Building on his blog, John Tomsett’s book comes fully endorsed by the educational Twitterati. As such, it embraces the current zeitgeist: growth mind-set, research led practice, and the end of top down approaches to CPD: it’s all here. This is not a text, however, to leave you charged with revolutionary zeal: the title of the book epitomises its tone: reflective, thoughtful, eclectic and, dare I say, a bit rambling. There are sections which I found a whole heartedly disappointing: his advice on how to deal with difficult classes seems to be accepting that ‘boys fart a lot’ and ‘they are always hungry’. Albeit realistic, I was hoping for something a bit more inspiring than a peg and a packet of digestives to get me through Year 8 on a Friday afternoon. However, there is no doubt that John Tomsett is a great and eminently sensible headteacher and there are vignettes of really marvellous advice which we should definitely consider adopting. To save you the rather steep £16.99, I’ve summarised them here:
- Schools should be values driven. Everything you do in school must be about improving teaching and learning: focus every system on this.
- If you want a truly great school, you must make time for teachers to work on their teaching.
- Establish growth mind-set across the school, in every lesson and with every student.
- Don’t ever use the term or think in terms of ‘most able’ (and certainly not ‘gifted and talented’). Instead use ‘high starter’ for each key stage. Identifying both for students and teachers that a child may begin with high attainment but that his/her progress in the next stage is not a given; they must work hard to achieve.
- Bureaucracy should always be kept to a minimum: meeting time should be about focused, collaborative training.
- A headteacher can only be as good as the relationship she forges with her colleagues.
If nothing else, this book pulls together the strands of current educational thinking. Tomsett provides a coherent vision of a values driven comprehensive school in which student and staff efforts are galvanised by a clear common goal. He creates a vision of a school in which high attainment is not distinct from, but the product of a deeply humane, nurturing and aspirational environment: even if the text isn’t compelling, the message certainly is.