Book of the week : Everyone can walk on water

4th June 2004 at 01:00
Learning Without Limits
By Susan Hart, Annabelle Dixon, Mary Jane Drummond and Donald McIntyre
Open University Press pound;20.99

Here's a book that could change the world. The title says it all. Significantly different from the other great works on education, the book explains not the theory or thinking of one visionary individual (as in John Holt's How Children Fail, for example) but the painstakingly argued and agreed conclusions of a team of distinguished educators based on their team research. It deserves to be at least as influential as any other on education.

Susan Hart, Annabelle Dixon, Mary Jane Drummond and Donald McIntyre start with an assumption that views of ability as a predictor and determinant of future pupil performance are so pervasive, at least in England, among policymakers, teachers - and, indeed, pupils and parents - that they inevitably influence what happens in schools. The outcomes are often noxious and damaging.

I share that analysis; often I've cringed as a head has thrown open a classroom door while taking me on a tour of the school and confided: "This is the bottom set." Sometimes I've plucked up the courage to boom back, "Goodness, they look very clever to me. You must have a school full of stars." More often, in my embarrassment, I've smiled weakly while silently pitying the children who have the misfortune to attend a school that has so unthinkingly downgraded their chances in life.

Tim Brighouse is commissioner for London schoolsnbsp;nbsp;nbsp;nbsp;

Read Tim's review in fullnbsp;in this week's TES Friday magazine

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