I regularly say to my colleagues that one of the best things about being a teacher is that there is always something new to learn. Each pupil and every teaching group has their own unique combination of strengths and needs and what works brilliantly first thing on a Monday does not always have the same magical effect on a Friday afternoon! Fortunately, there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained from reading research articles and books or from observing other teachers which you can then experiment with to refine and develop your own skills and strategies.
The same can be said of schools (or any organisation): we all need to keep listening, learning and reflecting on our existing practice so that we can evolve to meet the needs of our pupils, parents and staff ever more effectively. The process isn’t always an easy one as it necessitates a combination of openness, curiosity, receptivity and humility as well as the maturity to receive feedback or new ideas without becoming defensive.
The doctrine of marginal gains is the process of identifying and making small, incremental changes which add up to a significant improvement when they are combined together. It is perhaps most easy to understand by considering the approach of Sir Dave Brailsford. When he became performance director of British Cycling, he set about breaking down the objective of winning races into its component parts, believing that if it was possible to make a 1% improvement in a whole host of areas, the cumulative gains would end up being hugely significant. By identifying the weaknesses in the team's assumptions and the latent problems, he was able to improve on each of them and, as they learned more, they created further marginal gains. Team GB used to be ‘also-rans’ in world cycling but, in the last three Olympics, they have won 22 gold medals and British riders have won the Tour de France six times in the last eight years. This is the power of a questioning mindset and a commitment to continuous improvement.
In this spirit, we recognise and understand the concern and depth of feeling across the UK and globally in response to the death of George Floyd. We know that members of our own community, including pupils and alumni, have been deeply affected. We are committed to equality, social responsibility and inclusion and we recognise our important role as an educator and in protecting our community from abuse and discrimination.
We thank those who have already come forward with suggestions on this issue. The St James trustees will be considering our wider response to the Black Lives Matter movement, and the suggestions we continue to received (including to our systems for reporting and support, the promotion of diversity and curricular change) at their next meeting.