Sir David Bell says “boldness matters” in further education


Sir David Bell addressed the education sector on the history of reform at the British Library yesterday.

The vice chancellor of the University of Reading, speaking at a lecture organised by Tribal, was introduced as “one of the most influential educators of his generation”.

The underlining theme of Sir David’s speech on education reform was the inevitable tension between politicians acting with pace and constantly aware of the need to push reform forward, and the rhythm of schools and colleges, where big changes cannot simply be made in a year.

The former chief Ofsted inspector said that the “real test” for ministers, civil servants and others seeking to drive reform is to stay focused and not “litter” the political landscape.

Sir David, who previously worked as permanent secretary at the Department for Education (DfE), highlighted three significant aspects of successful reform. He stated that “certainty can be overrated”, “boldness matters” and that “culmulative effects matter”.

The importance of “boldness” was particularly referenced throughout his speech. He said that his idea of short notice inspections was based on a “hunch”, but were not “a mad idea”. He warned the audience to “be wary of those who push too hard on the evidence question”, explaining that it can be a sophisticated way of blocking change and innovation.

A paper detailing further insight can be accessed on the event organiser’s website.


Paul Champion

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Twitter: @blogapprentice
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