Not another educational acronym? But this time it’s different …

I read a great book yesterday. It was called “What makes a great school?” by Andy Buck (see here for a presentation about it).
what makes a great school.001

Not only was it well written, but it attempted to tackle a question to which many of us want to know the answer. I think it did very well. It also has an interesting formula to help describe the answer:


note: the 5l should be superscript for ‘the power of’ but WordPress won’t let me do this.

This is a bit too long for me to remember easily so I have reverted to a shorter acronym, which is based on 2 sub-themes the author describes, plus something extra from me.

CHT used to mean for me: Carlton House Terrace. It was short-hand we used when we wrote about my previous work address at the Royal Society in London.

Carlton House Terrace

Carlton House Terrace

Now it has taken on a whole new meaning.

The C stands for consistency. In the book it is an important part of the way the best schools (and I would say parents) operate. It  is very much about consistently applying agreed rules of conduct – without this communities and societies cannot operate effectively.

The H stands for humility. Again the book picks this out as a key leadership quality.  A good example is a leader who ‘walks the talk’ and is always prepared to operate as an ordinary member of the team as required – this inspires confidence and trust amongst others.

Finally the T stands for tolerance. This isn’t specifically singled out in the book, although it is alluded to in places. To my mind it is key because it can be read a number of ways.

One view is that tolerance means anything goes in a school – lets a thousand flowers bloom, think laterally, be radical etc. I would argue that this is more about stimulating creativity and needs to be done in a highly organised way in an educational setting. The opposite view is ‘zero tolerance’, which implies rigid discipline and adherence to fixed norms – popular with right-wing politicians and ex-army officers.

What I mean by tolerance relates to measuring and monitoring agreed limits to standards, about which I have blogged previously. My concern is that in England at least this is being forced down on the education system from above by state-appointed regulators and accountability systems.

If school leaders have the confidence to set their own tolerance limits, with input from ALL key local stakeholders, then surely this will be a step in the right direction?

But first they need to show consistency and humility.