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Transferable expertise and contextual realities: does the independent schools sector really have all the answers for state school improvement?
Presented by Jon Coles, Group Chief Executive of United Learning
Chaired by Lord Lucas, Conservative Peer and Owner, The Good Schools Guide, with panel contributions from Sam Freedman, Director of Research, Evaluation and Impact at Teach First, and Richard Harman, Chair of the Headmasters' & Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) and Headmaster of Uppingham School (plus an additional panellist, tbc)

When: Wednesday 19th August 2015, 6.15 for 6.30 to 8.30pm
Where: 2 Lord North Street (Great Peter Street entrance), Westminster, London SW1P 3LB

This event is open to the public, but is a ticketed event. Please register here.

Transferable expertise and contextual realities: does the independent schools sector really have all the answers for state school improvement?

Faith in the capacity of the independent schools sector to effect improvement in state school provision has been an enduring feature of the policy debate about how to raise pupil attainment for many years. Since the introduction of the Academies programme, securing independent school leadership and resources for the most challenged schools in particular has been a key part of the government’s strategy. But is this faith well placed?

Jon Coles, Group Chief Executive of United Learning, argues that this strategy is flawed and has had far-reaching, negative consequences for the effectiveness of England’s school improvement strategy. In his experience it is in fact unusual to find a great teacher from an academically selective school that performs as well in an inner-city comprehensive school where pupils' attainment on entry is well below the national average. Equally, excellent academy teachers are often ill-suited to the private-school classroom. In other words, context really matters in education.

Though the personal qualities required are not completely different, in Jon’s experience this is all the more true at the leadership level. ‘Once you've spent 20 or more years of your career successfully leading one type of school, you have acquired a set of behaviours for school leadership that are well embedded and thoroughly learned. Changing those behaviours and habits to suit another context is not easy.’

At this event, Jon and panellists explore the implications of these contextual realities for assessment of the English system’s capacity for improvement on its own resources, the public benefit provided by independent schools, the export potential of British education expertise, improving higher education access, and for the relationship between central government and autonomous state schools.

If you would like to attend, please register here.

About the speakers

Jon Coles is Group Chief Executive of United Learning, which position he has held since 2012. Prior to this, he spent much of his career in the Department for Education, including four years on the Board as Director General for Schools and then Director General for Education Standards. Previously, as Director of 14-19 Reform, he led work to raise participation post-16 and attainment at 19 and reduce NEET numbers. As Director of London Challenge, Jon was responsible developing and implementing the strategy to improve secondary education in London, which also led to similar approaches in other parts of the country. During his time at the Department, Jon was responsible for various Green and White Papers and for taking the 2002 Education Act through Parliament.

Sam Freedman is Director of Research, Evaluation and Impact at Teach First, where he is responsible for evaluation and optimisation of Teach First’s impact. Previously he was an adviser to the Department for Education. Prior to this he was Head of Education at Policy Exchange, where he oversaw an extensive research programme on increasing choice and competition in the school system, and on increasing the supply of good teachers. He was previously Head of Research at the Independent Schools Council (ISC).

Richard Harman is Chair of the Headmasters' & Headmistresses' Conference (HMC) and Headmaster of Uppingham School. Richard began his teaching career at Marlborough College, where he taught English and Drama, before a move to Eastbourne College. He progressed from Head of English to Housemaster of a Sixth Form girls’ house, to a member of the senior management team, before becoming Headmaster of Aldenham in 2000 and then Uppingham in 2006.

Past events

Real Finnish Lessons: the true story of an education superpower
Tim Oates in conversation with Gabriel Heller Sahlgren

When: Wednesday 22nd April 2015, 6.30-8.30pm
Where: 55 Tufton Street, Westminster, SW1P 3QL

At this joint event, co-hosted by The Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education (CMRE) and The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS), and sponsored by Cambridge Assessment, Tim Oates and Gabriel Heller Sahlgren considered Finland's rise, and demise, in the international PISA rankings, drawing lessons for policymakers, educational practice, and research.

Read more about the lecture and access a video of the event here.

The Inaugural CMRE Friedman Lecture:
'School choice matures: lessons for policymakers'

Presented by Professor Julian Le Grand

When: Tuesday 27th January 2015, 6.30-7.45pm
Where: Hoare Memorial Hall, Church House (Great Smith Street entrance), Westminster

Read a summary of the lecture or listen to an audio recording.

Good teachers are crucial – so how can we make them better?
Presented by Professor Olmo Silva
with a panel discussion chaired by Gabriel Heller Sahlgren and panel contributions from David Weston and Laura McInerney
When: Thursday 27th November, 6:30-9.30pm
Where: 23 Great Smith Street, Westminster, the offices of the Adam Smith Institute.

Read more about the event here.