John West-Burnham

Educational Leadership Development

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Although the English education system has made significant progress in terms of achievement the lack of equity remains the greatest single challenge facing educationalists.  The lack of equity, the gap, might be best understood in terms of the most vulnerable groups in society and closing the gap will only be achieved through the recognition and explicit engagement with their needs.

There is no doubt that the historical model of incremental improvement has made a significant difference in parts of the school system but the improvement trajectory is not consistent for all learners because it is influenced by a wide range of variables all of which need to be addressed to secure equity in education. In the early years of the 20th century the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein was working on the mathematics of the propeller. Over time the efficiency of the propeller was improved through theoretical and practical research. However the purpose of a propeller is to power an aircraft (not just to be a better propeller) and eventually there is a limit as to what the propeller can achieve in terms of speed. The next stage of development for powering aircraft was not an improved propeller but the jet engine –in other words a paradigm shift, a totally new way of thinking. The Pony Express operated in the American west in 1860/61. It was the fastest way of communicating across the prairies to California. Launched in 1869 the Cutty Sark was the fastest ship afloat and held numerous records for carrying tea from China and wool from Australia. In their time these three examples were the optimum in terms of speed and efficiency yet in a few years they were effectivelyobsolete.

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