Knight who really shines

16th January 2004 at 00:00
Seldom has an honour been as well deserved as the knighthood awarded to Dexter Hutt.

As a former schools inspector, I have first-hand knowledge of his work and educational achievements in inner-city Birmingham.

The most important factor in those achievements is the 15-year commitment to Ninestiles school to realise a vision underpinned by the premise that "good is the enemy of excellence", and with zero tolerance of anything less than the best.

In an era when the national educational agenda increasingly seems to be driven by quick-fix solutions linked to short-term political gains, we need to understand the following: there is no substitute for sustained commitment and hard work backed up by the necessary resources over a long period of time.

Keeping headteachers of Sir Dexter's calibre in post, and extending their influence as practitioners rather than promoting them out of their schools, should be given a much higher priority within our education system.

This is why the federating of schools is potentially such a good strategy.

Certainly all three schools that make up the Ninestiles federation benefit from Sir Dexter's outstanding leadership.

The Radcliffe federation of schools in Bury education authority, under a single executive headteacher, is similarly emerging as a successful model.

In general, we need to become sharper at identifying the characteristics of our best educational provision and thinking through the wider implications for school improvement and raising standards.

All the more reason, then, for a clear, analytical presentation of how and why schools like Ninestiles and Radcliffe, with the support of their LEAs, are educating pupils who attain at a level far in excess of other schools in similar circumstances.

Not to learn important lessons from the best contexts is to fail to maximise the vast potential in all of our schools.

David Scott

HMI retired

9 Casares del Mar

Estepona

Marbella

Spain

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