Essential Pieces: the jigsaw of a successful school

31st March 2006 at 01:00
Essential Pieces: the jigsaw of a successful school

By Tim Brighouse

Download or order hard copy at, free (donations requested for Ted Wragg Memorial Fund) Tim Brighouse has legendary status as an enigmatic leader. I haven't met him or heard him speak, but I immediately warmed to him from this small, free booklet made available by RM.

Given Tim Brighouse's credentials as director of education in Oxford and Birmingham, and more recently as commissioner for London schools, it's no surprise that the advice in this book is spot-on. It uses the (unnecessary, to my mind) metaphor of a jigsaw to show the ingredients of a successful school. The corner pieces include getting the language right: talking about "we" rather than "..." (except when taking blame); never using the insulting term "non-teaching staff", because it's "as offensive as it would be to refer to non-white staff or pupils". He knows it's often the details - making pupils' toilets civilised, reducing lunchtime queues - that make a school exceptional.

The straight-sided pieces of the jigsaw include managing (indeed, welcoming) complex change, visiting other schools, refusing to make mediocre staffing appointments. Then there are wiggly pieces and a piece that fell on the floor (about creativity).

None of it, apart from the jigsaw theme, is new. But the clear, simple synthesis in a tone so passionate, so drawn from experience, is a pleasure to read, and a reminder of what great books for teachers should be like.

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