Something in the new year worth shouting about

Canada's advert celebrates the country's educational achievements

It’s always good to recognise achievements, but this year above any other, we take great pleasure in offering our congratulations to three colleagues and also one country. 

The new year has brought with it another lockdown for those of us in the UK, a situation none of us would wish for and something guaranteed to put a dampener on any celebrations.

At times like this, we embrace any good news with vigour, so the New Year Honours has been a particular source of inspiration to us, in particular since three of our colleagues were recognised by the Queen for Services to Education and were awarded OBEs (Order of the British Empire). We would like to offer our congratulations to Amanda Bennett,  Executive Principal, Greetland Primary Academy, Calderdale and CEO, Great Heights Academy Trust; Cassie Buchanan, Executive Principal, Charles Dickens Primary School, Southwark, London and Trust Leader, the Charter Schools Educational Trust; and Angela O’Brien, Primary Director, Spencer Academies Trust and lately Principal of Wyndham Academy. 

They are all primary head teachers and have run schools rated outstanding by Ofsted. In addition, they and their staff have demonstrated a capacity to lead and collaborate with other schools. In terms we use, they have over many years demonstrated how to lead a system and be systemic leaders. They have demonstrated expertise in the two different sets of leadership skills as they move from direct responsibility in their roles as executive principals to influence others in their non-executive roles in Teaching School Alliances and other school improvement networks.  

This has been recognised with their school’s designation as Teaching Schools by the Teaching Schools Council and Research Schools by the Education Endowment Fund.  Amanda and Angela are also currently designated National Leaders in Education. 

They operate in different educational contexts. Amanda’s school is situated on the Pennines and serves a rural community. It provides support for schools in Oldham, which is part of Greater Manchester.  Cassie’s school is in a densely populated area of South London, within a mile of the Thames. Angela’s MAT serves a mixture of urban and rural schools around the East Midlands.  We have had the privilege of visiting all three of them in their schools.

For a number of years,  Amanda has been encouraging school leaders in Oldham to use evidence to inform the actions they take to improve their students’ performance.  Her approach is to encourage them to select activities for their students that had been shown to have worked for similar students and teachers. She is also a very active regional representative on the Teaching Schools Council. 

Cassie’s school has gained a well-earned international reputation as an exemplar of how evidence-informed practice can impact student performance and of working with schools to use research to secure the best outcomes for children, both academically and through their creative, social and emotional development.  It is the first point of call for visitors from abroad who wish to see an example of best practice for primary education in England. Cassie and her staff go one stage further by finding time to share their work beyond the norm, undertaking school improvement work in Africa. 

Angela worked with us in the development of leadership programmes at Challenge Partners with a particular emphasis on primary school leaders. She was instrumental with Dame Susan Jowett in developing the George Spencer hub in the Nottingham area. Now her work is predominantly with the Spencer Academy Trust. 

They are excellent role models of leaders of complex collaborative learning communities (CLC).  The type we described in our series of postings this time last year. They have led the development of their CLCs over many years.  Reaching a point at which they have integrated the three areas of knowledge, relevant research, emerging effective innovation and best practice to such an extent that their CLCs may be considered virtuous


One  country we also feel is worthy of our praise, and that is Canada. We came across the above advertisement displayed on a wall in Dubai International Airport.  We think it speaks for the pride the Canadians show in the success of their education service.  Our colleagues in the Western Quebec School Board are among the highest performing in this. The ad also demonstrates how, in our rapidly changing times, a word such as nerd can become a positive rather than a derogatory comment. 

We are sure that the school leaders mentioned above and the educationalists in Canada only represent a fraction of our colleagues’ work that should be celebrated.  This at a time when so many of you have been asked to work in such difficult conditions.


Thank you for taking the time to read this post. For at least the first half of the coming year, we expect to continue to report on the pandemic as it impacts our global community. We also plan to: 

However, we have an organic approach driven as much by you as by us. So if you feel you can contribute, please let us know. 

The next posting has been provided by David Godfrey, Associate Professor, UCL, Institute of Education, in which he describes why he decided to publish a book on peer review. 

We hope you have a good year. Take care and stay safe.