Book Review: A Manifesto for Excellence In Schools

Reading time: 2
Manifesto for Excellence

Paul Ainsworth

Paul has been writing for the Teacher Toolkit website since 2012 and is the author of 'No Silver Bullets: Day in, day out school improvement'. He is a system leader supporting primary schools, secondary schools and MATs currently with with Infinity Academies Trust as Education...
Read more about Paul Ainsworth

What can Rob Carpenter’s ‘Manifesto for Excellence’ help improve your school?

It is always fascinating to read stories of head teachers who have risked their professional reputation by stepping into failing schools, with the aim of turning them around.

Why lead a challenging school?

I was eager to understand Rob Carpenter’s ‘Manifesto for Excellence’, especially after spending the last five years of my career working with many such schools on similar journeys.

Carpenter had spent ten years as the headteacher of a London primary school, building all the trappings of educational success through an Ofsted acknowledgement, being a national support school, consistently high performance and his personal ‘national leader of education’ stamp. He swapped all this for leading a school in chaos, and within two terms had taken on a second challenging school.

This type of school may have broken many colleagues, especially after it was placed in ‘special measures’ two weeks after he had taken up the executive headship position.

Carpenter’s description of that inspection process is one of ‘What could go wrong?’

What did go wrong, actually did, and his personal approach of ‘wearing his favourite summer linen-suit’ to demonstrate the days of sunshine to come was soon replaced by the creased and sweat-stained jacked slung across the office desk! The journey of turning around the school begins with his description of the rapid action plan mapped out for the first 90 days. He describes a plan based on the philosophy, that lasting improvement can only be delivered through collaboration and successfully building team, networks and followers.

Research and transformation

A ‘Manifesto for Excellence’ then takes us through the transformation of a school, combining narrative of research evidence with beautiful photographs and practical diagrams with tables which school leaders can use in their own schools.

I particularly enjoyed the chapter on the learning environment, providing a range of ideas, which you could implement, in your school to ensure classrooms are vibrant and support learning. Each idea has a glossy photograph of how it could look! His school improvement model for the future is firmly based in the classroom and that is where revolution must begin!

What can you learn from this book?

For all leaders who are striving for school improvement, whether it is the battle to climb out of an ‘inadequate’ judgement, through to striving to retain an ‘outstanding’ judgement, this book will prove much food for thought; ideas to implement and it may be just the manifesto you need to deliver educational excellence for your school.

Carpenter strongly believes that the secret of school improvement is not simply in actions, but instead the interactions between members of the school community.

Review by Paul K Ainsworth: an experienced system leader and facilitator. He is available to work with school leaders, MAT leaders and their staff to help them improve their school.  He is also the author of Bloomsbury’s, ‘CPD Library: Middle Leadership’ and is well versed in developing Middle leaders. You can follow him on Twitter at @pkainsworth


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