Doing away with the Ofsted style of management: how to reduce high stakes accountability and increase teacher autonomy

We Are In Beta
Aug 4 · 46 min read

By Niall Alcock — Founder, We Are In Beta

If you’ve come here from my newsletter, you’ll find the full transcription of Jeremy Hannay’s We Are In Beta Podcast interview at the bottom of this post.

If not, and you work in education, the chances are you’ll have heard of the Headteacher at Three Bridges Primary School, from Twitter. His latest update has (at the time of writing) been ‘liked’ over 4.5K times and retweeted over 1K times).

If you haven’t seen it, you may have read his article in the Guardian, where he called “bullshit” on high-stakes accountability, which also caused a bit of a splash.

But when Clare Rees, Headteacher at Havelock Primary school in Ealing, nominated him to be a guest on the We Are In Beta Podcast, I hadn’t yet begun following him, he hadn’t written that article, and when I interviewed him, Three Bridges hadn’t yet been paid a visit by Ofsted.

So it has been fascinating, and inspiring, to see how, since recording he has never wavered from his message there is another way; that you can do away with the Ofsted style of management by reducing high stakes accountability and increasing teacher autonomy.

Listen to his interview and read the transcription in full below.

Spotify | iTunes | Stitcher | TuneIn | Lybsyn | Podbean | Newsletter

Listen to Episode 11 of the We Are In Beta Podcast

(For the full transcript please head to the bottom of this post)

In his interview, Jeremy shares his thoughts on:

  • How a trip to see the London 2012 Olympics gave him his life’s mission
  • The best bits of the UK and Canadian education systems
  • How teacher recruitment and retention crises could become a thing of the past in every school
  • The false dichotomy between high performance and happiness that exists in schools
  • What performance management has been replaced with at Three Bridges
  • How they have fostered the autonomy and trust that has been key to the success at the school
  • The curriculum programmes they run and how they have adapted them to suit their context
  • The importance of ‘building cathedrals’ rather than ‘cutting stone’.
  • How co-construction can make accountability redundant
  • The biggest challenges Three Bridge has had to overcome and what still stands in their way
  • The conflict interests he sees between Ofsted’s two main functions and how that compares to the Canadian system
  • How they have designed their programs of professional development
  • The multi academy trusts he holds in the highest regard
  • The book that has given him his mission and what that mission is
  • How Three Bridges is supporting other schools
  • The national and international trips he has made to find best practice
  • How he uses the phrase “Teach me everything” along with Twitter to meet the needs of his school
  • How he’s using external support to help his team drill down into their own strengths and weaknesses
  • The question he wants every headteacher to ask themselves and why
  • What he thinks the future of education will look like and why he is optimistic about it

Listen: Spotify | iTunes | Stitcher | TuneIn | Lybsyn | Podbean|Newsletter

Listen to Episode 11 of the We Are In Beta Podcast

If you want to access this podcast before anyone else along with the links to the organisatons and resources guests mention, along with some free give aways, every other Sunday, subscribe here. This episode Jeremy shares his favourite education book, his favourite piece of research and links to the external support that was crucial to Three Bridges’ success.


Who are we?

I’ve been working in partnership Teach First, the Young Foundation and Super Being Labs to build a community of teachers and senior leaders who are solving big challenges in their schools.

You can read more about We Are In Beta and how you can get involved here.

To stay up to date with interviews from the community when we release them, sign up here.


Three Bridges Primary School.Image credit: Three Bridges

Niall Alcock: [00:00:00] Jeremy Hannay, welcome.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:00:01] Hey, morning.

Niall Alcock: [00:00:02] Before we get into the main meat of the conversation, tell us a little bit about your education and how you end up in teaching.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:00:09] Yeah, sure. So, maybe a bit of a funny journey to the UK. So, I started my career in Ontario, Canada. I was born and raised there. Born in Toronto, grew up in Ottawa, worked for the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board for a number of years before making a trip over to the UK. In a number of roles, projects, leading behaviour specialists, project development around positive and progressive discipline and behaviour support. So, really interested in urban schools with challenging environments.

Niall Alcock: [00:00:37] Back in Canada or here in the UK?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:00:37] So, that was in Canada. Came over here, I was finishing a master’s degree, thought that I would stay for a couple of years. No interest really in delving into leadership or leading anything. Happy to have a couple of years to think, and research, and distil some of my thoughts, and maybe catch the Olympics and head back on to Canada.

It didn’t turn out that way. I started a doctorate, found Three Bridges by chance and through those experiences, I realised that perhaps that I had some of the answers to the questions that are burning across the UK around what’s working and what’s not and decided that I would stay.

Niall Alcock: [00:01:16] When we’re talking offline, you mentioned a couple of the messages you see when you first start teaching here.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:01:21] Sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:01:21] You made it your mission to address those questions.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:01:24] Yeah, I mean it’s-

Niall Alcock: [00:01:25] What were those?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:01:25] It’s very likely that these messages would be sent and received in many different countries around the world. So, I wouldn’t want to characterise as just a UK thing. But the reality was that when I came over here, I have a very different set of schema. I was raised in a different country, brought up in a different education system, started my journey as a teacher and a school leader in a different education system. So, when I came to the UK, I had a different lens on. My map of the world was just different. So, I think, at first — well, I know, at first — that the message was, yeah, I mean, “If you don’t like the way we do things here, jog on back to Canada!”

Niall Alcock: [00:02:01] No way. That’s the feeling you got when you started teaching here?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:02:03] Absolutely, absolutely. And I may be made of tougher things than that and thought that, “No.” I mean, one of our phrases at Three Bridges is that if “better is possible, then good is not enough”. And while there are lots of really incredible and amazing things happening in England in education, there are also a lot of things that aren’t great.

And Three Bridges has become a bit of a hybrid of my experiences in Canada, my experiences in the UK, what I think are some of the silver linings in the best education systems in the world that I’ve been able to read and research about. Three Bridges is the child of that thinking.

Niall Alcock: [00:02:42] So, what are the best bits of the UK and the best bits of Canada that you’ve taken?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:02:44] Yeah. So-

Niall Alcock: [00:02:44] If that’s not too big a question to ask.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:02:46] No. I mean, it’s a massive question. I mean, there’s lots and lots of things. So, in the UK, I think one of the nice things is that there’s lots of autonomy. There’s lots of freedom. So, I think, some of both country’s best strengths can also be their greatest weaknesses. So, schools and school leaders in England, we have lots and lots of freedom over whom we hire, whom we don’t, how long teachers stay with us, what roles they play in schools, and how we use leadership effectively, what areas of focus we’re going to have in schools. I think that we’re quite autonomous. There’s nothing that gets in my way. I can do basically whatever I’d like along with the governing body.

In Ontario, I mean, it’s not the same. Things are quite heavily regulated, centrally controlled. The Ministry of Education passes down messages to local school boards. School boards, then, have directions and individual schools have much, much less autonomy over what they’re teaching, how they’re teaching it, and how all of us manage.

So, I think there’s lots of strength in that. So, we’ve been able to design and devise programs in English and Mathematics, for example. And, at the moment, our broader curriculum, our bold curriculum that I think are world class, that are responsive to our local community in the moment. Rather than waiting three, four, or five years for a Ministry initiative to pass through parliament and then, maybe it comes down and trickles down a bit of a time. Then a decade later, we’re maybe getting to there. You can make and enact change here quite quickly.

But, I mean, on the flip side of that, the things that are of focus in a place like Ontario are of a deep focus. So, when things are rolled out, they become embedded in the DNA of schools. And I think that finding that balance of making change that’s appropriate, and that’s effective, and that’s impactful, but then sustaining that, so that it’s not constantly in a culture of flux. So, that it becomes part of the school’s DNA I think is really important. So, having the courage to make changes, but then make refinements, make adjustments, always improving, but the core programs in your school, the core ideas, your core purpose never ever changes.

Niall Alcock: [00:04:57] And those are the positive elements from your Canadian experience that you try to weave into Three Bridges?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:05:02] Yeah, absolutely. So, there’s that. I mean, the other side of the Ontario equation is that the professional teacher is highly valued, highly regarded, highly paid, and highly skilled. But all of that comes through a really intentional system of training, development, and strategy around recruitment and retention, which when I came to the UK, it was non-existent. So, there isn’t, nor has there been in the last nine years I’ve been here, a really great strategy around any of that because each school, as I said, it’s our greatest strength and our greatest weakness because every school has such autonomy. The school down the road and our school here are completely different.

Niall Alcock: [00:05:45] You said you don’t have a teacher recruitment and retention crisis here.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:05:48] No.

Niall Alcock: [00:05:49] And I’ve been talking to other headteachers about teacher retention.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:05:53] Sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:05:53] Nationally, it appears we have a crisis.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:05:57] Yeah, sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:05:58] And what do we need to do at a national scale? And what do you do here that’s been particularly effective at making sure that you don’t face any problems?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:06:06] We do not have a recruitment retention crisis at Three Bridges. Full stop. It doesn’t exist.

Niall Alcock: [00:06:12] Good news.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:06:12] And my belief is, that over time, that actually it could be absolutely the case overall. Now, I can’t speak directly for things like high school because I get that you’re looking for subject specialists. And if those people just don’t actually even exist, there aren’t enough roles to fill the roles we have in the country, that’s a very different problem.

I guess, the problem that I’m talking about is putting out an advert for a job and getting two applications. And-

Niall Alcock: [00:06:33] That’s a low number you mean?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:06:35] Very, very low. So, I put out a job for a teacher and maybe I get two applications. Maybe one or neither of those are very strong. I’m struggling to fill those roles. And then, going to people like me, foreign people from other countries, to fill those roles, which are temporary because they only have such a long stay in the country before they’re turning over, which causes massive disruption in the school. That problem doesn’t exist here anymore. We don’t have that. If we put out a job advert, we’ll get 20 applications and 15 are rock solid.

Niall Alcock: [00:07:04] What’s the secret to achieving that?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:07:05] Well, I think, the secret’s in the culture that you create in your school. I would say, at this point, now that you know we’ve done work over the last four or five years around culture, values, growing, and developing staff, that people now know that Three Bridges is a great place to work.

And I think that there’s, often, been this false dichotomy that was created for whatever reason. I’m not quite sure why. But, basically, the idea is that you can have a really high-performing school that is militaristic. We have very, very clear policies, very clear procedures. Everybody knows what to do. You will do this and if you don’t do it, somebody will be in to tell you and you need to stay on top of people. You can’t trust them because if you let a teacher do whatever they want, they’re going to do very little. So, you stay on top of people, you run a tight ship, and your school will do well. OR… you can have a happy school.

Maybe not as sharp on the monitoring and sharp on everybody. You, kind of, run a nice place but your results won’t be great. So, it’s a bit of a trade-off. And since Ofsted is really concerned about results, you should probably run the other ship. You know, really tight and really, really serious.

Niall Alcock: [00:08:13] I guess, I get a sense that you don’t run option A?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:08:14] I think, yeah. So, it’s not option A or option B. It’s this false dichotomy. It doesn’t exist. We’ve been led to believe that this is the real world. It’s one or the other. But, actually, if you’re treating your staff well, you trust them as professionals, you collectively and collaboratively create programs, you don’t over monitor, over scrutinise, you give them autonomy and agency over what they’re going to be doing during their day, that they stay. There’s no really incredible secret formula, but if you develop your staff, you treat them well, they want to stay here. [00:08:47]

Niall Alcock: [00:08:48] What are the tools and techniques do you have to treat them well aside from your school processes, systems?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:08:53] Yeah, I mean, the answer to this is not much. I mean, I think people always — I think people assume that maybe we have this giant wellbeing committee, we have yoga, and we have people coming and giving massages to teachers all the time. And that’s sort of thing-

Niall Alcock: [00:09:12] I think, I read the same thing on your Twitter!

Jeremy Hannay: [00:09:12] It doesn’t exist here, right. The teachers at Three Bridges are not working any less hard than everybody else. They’re not checking in at 8:45 am and leaving at 3:16 pm. They’re working long hours and working really, really hard. But I think that they’ve moved from what, historically, they considered meaningless work. So, spending four hours a night marking books, submitting and planning a week in advance to somebody who’s critiquing it and wanting you to redo it; they’re not forced to do either of those things.

If you want to plan on a post-it note, be my guest. The policy in our school is if written feedback, as a professional, you believe is the best kind of feedback for that child, or that context, or that lesson, or that situation, then use it. If you don’t, then don’t. That there isn’t some heavy program of robotic or militaristic rules that are in place for the teaching staff, that they’re given professional autonomy because they’re professional knowledge workers.

I mean, that stuff exists, but we changed as well the way that performance is managed here. So, they don’t have data targets. They don’t have somebody holding a carrot in front of them and a stick behind them saying, “85% of your children must meet this kind of standard by the end of the year.” Because the reality is that there’s a thousand ways to get an outcome. If all we’re focused on is outcomes, there’s a thousand ways to do that.

And there are stories all across the country about schools cheating, about schools off-rolling, about schools doing all sorts of horrible things to make the outcome the thing that matters most. But, I mean, the outcomes, when everyone is moving forward together, the success takes care of itself.

So, we don’t focus on the outcome. We focus on the process. So, teachers here, their performance management are lines of inquiry. Those lines of inquiry are a mixture of professional interest and school development. So, they’re taking a line or two from our school development plan, and how they can move that forward. They’re also taking lines that they’re personally and professionally interested in that may have nothing to do with where our school is at. [00:11:11]

Niall Alcock: [00:11:12] So, do you give them the what, and then they work out the how?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:11:14] So, the school development plan provides a bit of a framework for that. But they come up with the questions themselves. And my job, then, is to help coach, and mentor, and monitor them along that process because asking great questions is a tricky business. Answering great questions, so that you feel that there’s a question that comes from that is trickier even. I mean, I’ve been a researcher now for a number of years, and I would say that I’ve never been involved in a research project or study whereby, at the end, we answer a series of questions and didn’t come up with a whole bunch of other ones.

And so, helping manage that process for teachers, I think, is important. But if the professional teacher is growing, if the professional teacher is able to flourish and become a professional they want to be, our school improves and results improve consequently.

Niall Alcock: [00:12:00] It makes perfect sense. I’d love to talk to you a little bit more about Three Bridges and detail, if you don’t mind.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:12:07] Sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:12:07] If there was one core thing you were going through everything you’ve done at Three Bridges, what’s it been? And maybe as a little bit of context, describe where Three Bridges was when you first came here, and where it is today?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:12:22] One thing, well, I would say there’s probably — I mean, there is — absolutely a really strong culture at Three Bridges of earned autonomy, trust. Within that trust, a real sense of collaboration, a real sense of professional collegiality that we’ve done our very best to roll out and instil in everything that we do.

So, as an example the programs that we use in this school, ‘Talk for Writing’, ‘Maths — No Problem’, these sorts of core approaches to pedagogy and practice, none of those things were done to this school. All of those things were done through reading, through research. What does a great reading program look like? What does the writing program look like? Let’s distill that information, see what we’re doing well already, find something that fits the needs that we have around oracy, around child initiation, around constructivism. How can we involve the child in the centre of their learning in a better way than we’ve been doing historically?

Niall Alcock: [00:13:21] When you say “we,” do you mean the leadership team? The entire staff?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:13:24] I mean, the whole staff. So, my job, I think, when I came in was to see the school in five years, where do I think we could be? What was the culture going to look like? What was the curriculum going to look like? What was the pedagogy and practice going to look like? What we’re professional relationships going to look like?

And I think that that’s a big part of my job; to make sure that I’m five years ahead of where we are. Then, my job is to help our school through the professional team. So, that’s all of our teachers, all of our TAs, our office staff, everybody that’s in the building, is then being able to build that cathedral because I think that schools can get into a habit of cutting stone. It’s a busy place. Schools are busy-

Niall Alcock: [00:14:07] What do you mean by cutting stone?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:14:08] Well, I guess, what I mean is that if you don’t see the cathedral, as a teacher, if you don’t see the cathedral, as a TA, or anybody else in the school, then you can often feel like you’re just coming in, and you’re putting in your hours. We’re coming in-

Niall Alcock: [00:14:19] So, cutting stone as opposed to building a cathedral?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:14:21] That’s it.

Niall Alcock: [00:14:21] Okay.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:14:22] So, I think that that’s it, that my job is to see what I thought we could be in five years or three years, longer-term than just today, or next week, or next month, and really help embed those things. But that came through a culture of collaboration. So, as we start to identify our strengths and our weaknesses pedagogically, for example, what we then did was go out, I would go out, I would find some more information about programs that might help fill those gaps that we had. And then, we would go away and have a play.

So, teachers would be given time, three, four weeks to go away with an element of learning, try that in their classroom, see what it was effective, see what wasn’t effective. Come back as a group and in staff meetings really, really unpick where we were going, and what was strong, and what was weak.

So, that by the end of those processes, we, together, had collectively designed our English program or our Maths program. So that programs of monitoring, scrutiny, accountability measures start to become redundant because if you’re involved in creating a program, if you feel a high degree of ownership over what it is you’re doing every day for your professional life, you don’t need to be monitored to make sure that that’s happening. And so, developing that culture of professional collaboration, of trust, I mean, I think was of the utmost importance.

Niall Alcock: [00:15:34] You talked about your five-year plan, and building a cathedral, and moving on that journey. How are you doing in terms of that work? How far have you gone to? And where are you going next?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:15:41] Yeah. I mean, I think the reality is that it is probably far different than I ever envisioned, but that’s the joy in working with and hiring people that are better than you. That, I think, is also one of my key roles, it’s to create a vision that we can all align to and that we can all drive towards. I can galvanise us towards a common idea. But then, really, surrounding myself with people that are faster, smarter, stronger, more intelligent, more creative than I am to help that idea. That initial draft thinking becomes something that’s real.

So, I started at Three Bridges seven years ago. And did I see the school we are today? No, definitely not. But the core, I think, of who we are in terms of what the ethos of our school is about, what we value as a staff, I think those things are true. The bits and pieces that lie around that, I think were always going to be different. And I was happy for that from the start.

Niall Alcock: [00:16:36] Along that journey, what’s been the biggest challenge? And how did you overcome it?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:16:42] I think the first was probably around expectations. So, when I started at Three Bridges a number of years ago, I wasn’t the headteacher. The children: about 60% of children were getting to the expected standard, about 10% to the higher standard. And that was the old level four, level five, that sort of system. And the teachers here were awesome. The staff were brilliant. They worked really, really hard. However, their expectations were askew. Our children come from a very challenging community. One of the communities we feed from is in the second percentile for violence and crime.

Niall Alcock: [00:17:17] Wow.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:17:19] 60% of the children come from the highest quintile of deprivation in the country. A high percentage of children are on the pupil premium with free school meals. High proportion of our children don’t speak English as a first language at home. Lots of transiency; a third of our children, by the time they get to year six will have turned over — a brand new class. So, there are lots of challenges that I think that our school faces.

But I think there was a time when those are the reasons we didn’t achieve rather than, “So what? Now what?” kind of mentality. And so, that, I think those were some of the challenges — just deeply embedded beliefs about what was possible here. And then, really galvanising people on this mission that better is possible. So, I think those are challenges at first.

The challenges today, there’s always a little bit to be said about finance. I mean, as our school has changed, our school has grown, as our school has become more successful, the community has changed, money has changed, those sorts of things have changed.

I would say today, now that our results are quite good, they’re quite consistent, I would say the things now that get in the way are things that are slightly out of reach. So, high-stakes testing, high-stakes monitoring and accountability through arm’s length organisations that the government has. Those are the sorts of things that now are starting to get in the way of becoming a bolder school, having bolder targets than getting to such and such a percentage in English, and such and such percentage in Maths. But I don’t think that’s helpful anymore.

Niall Alcock: [00:18:51] Yeah. Well, let’s talk about this. You put out a couple of strongly word Tweets lately about-

Jeremy Hannay: [00:18:54] Sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:18:54] … the changes on the Ofsteds framework.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:18:55] Yeah.

Niall Alcock: [00:18:56] What are your thoughts on the change and how would you do it?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:18:59] Yeah. I, guess, for me, it’s about track record. I don’t know. I’ve never seen a huge value in Ofsted or what the work that they do. I don’t think that it’s improving education across this country. I don’t think that it’s structured or organised in a way that it truly helps schools become better.

So, yeah, I think that they’ve talked more recently about a deeper focus on the wider curriculum. And I think that that’s all — I mean, I think it’s lovely. It sounds really nice that they’re going to be a little bit less focused on some of the data-driven things they’ve had in the past. But I think that one of the challenges that I have with things like Ofsted or maybe some certain DfE mandates or policies, is that it very rarely seems to account for the unintended consequences of their decisions.

So, when we’re looking at things like high-stakes testing, I mean, or in Ofsted, in general, I mean, if you tell people that the penalty for chewing gum is death, everybody will die of starvation. And I think that it’s that idea. That maybe gum chewing is a bad thing, but, now, everybody’s going to stop anything that resembles chewing to begin with because they don’t want to be caught out, or called out, or in a situation where their job is on the line and their life is on the line. People with families, kids, mortgages. Lots of headteachers get made invisible by these processes, which is not helpful.

In countries like Canada, in Ontario, where things are more successful nationally or provincially, in our case, there isn’t a system of top-down, high-stakes scrutiny and monitoring. When schools are struggling on things like national tests or provincial tests, money is sent in, specialists are parachuted in, coaching, resources. They want the school to flourish…

Niall Alcock: [00:20:48] The support is offered.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:20:49] … rather than the opposite approach, which is finger pointing and finger waving. Because, again, when I think about my beliefs about education, when school leaders point fingers at teachers, teachers point fingers at children. And so, then, one would ask, “Well, why are headteachers pointing fingers at teachers?” Well, because somebody is pointing a finger at the headteacher. And it’s just an unintended consequence. But if thought through, there are absolutely measures and practices, I think, that could improve schools and improve systems. This is not the one in my view. I mean, I don’t think that that works.

Niall Alcock: [00:21:30] What would they be and what would they would look like?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:21:31] Well, I think, for a start, I mean, any organisation that has got a remit for accountability or monitoring should not be the same organisation that is designed to help improve and develop. So, I don’t think that we should be looking at an organisation like Ofsted as one that improves standards. It doesn’t. I checks on standards.

In the same way that it’s really difficult to be like a police officer and a counsellor. Those roles are misaligned. I don’t believe that there should be a heavy emphasis on the policing. There should be a much greater emphasis on the social, on the support networks, on the school to school support, on the local authority support, but in a supportive way.

Niall Alcock: [00:22:15] You’ve mentioned support, you mentioned getting better. Before we started recording, we’re talking about your professional development program.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:22:23] Sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:22:23] What does that look like? What makes it unique? Why is it effective?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:22:27] I mean, so, one of our key tenets in the school is around research, study, collaboration. So, we do things like Learning and Lesson Study. At the moment, actually, across a school, there’s a Learning and Lesson Study going on right now. But that, I would say, is one of our primary drivers for development. It’s really putting teachers in situations where they develop the lines of inquiry based on areas they’ve identified as struggling or strength, and they themselves involve themselves with a knowledgeable other or a knowledge base to help improve those things. There’s lots of research that shows that teachers, who engage in that reflective practice, that inquiry-based learning, are far more successful.

But I would say that a lot of, I think, what we do here is on developing teachers, giving them an opportunity to be trained, to be developed in a certain aspect of pedagogy of practice. And then, be sent off to the classroom to give it a go, and see what works in their context, and then get professional support from other teachers.

So, there are no heavy programs of scrutiny, monitoring, accountability here. Experienced teachers do not get a lesson — a formal lesson — observation every year Because those are not bringing up bits of information that we don’t already know or that we can’t get in another way.

And I think, actually, that maybe leads to what I believe is one of the most unfortunate circumstances in many schools. Because of this really high-stakes finger-pointing culture, that we don’t often get ourselves into a situation where we can point the finger back at ourselves and say, “Is there another way?”

If the purpose of observation is to gather information about the quality of teaching in a school, and give feedback to teachers to help them improve, surely we can all agree that that’s an important part of our job? Gathering feedback and moving teaching and learning forward. But the question that doesn’t often get asked is: is there another way? Is there a better way? It doesn’t mean it’s going to be more convenient, it doesn’t mean it’s going to be as quick, but if it’s going to last longer, surely, we should be adopting that?

Niall Alcock: [00:24:35] Can I reflect that question back at you?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:24:36] Yeah. So, what do we do to do that?

Niall Alcock: [00:24:39] Yeah. What is the other way, in your mind?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:24:41] Yeah. So, I would say… Okay. I would say that, at the moment, we’ve been convinced that school inspection and school improvement are synonymous, and they’re not. So, school inspections, school improvement are not the same thing. There are development and growth activities that we can and should be taking that do not involve, on any level, schools inspection. We don’t ask the people who come in and do those one, two, three, four, five health and safety ratings to improve kitchens. We put in place in organisations, mechanisms for support and development that work.

So, at our school… it’s absolutely essential that I, and my team of leaders, know what’s going on in classrooms. It’s an important part of our job. But that can be done through asking questions. That can be done through team meeting. That can be done through informal walks in and out of the classroom. Taking a look through books, that sort of thing. But, I guess, the idea is that very, very rarely, far less frequent than is common in lots of places, do teachers need to be individually hung on the line and put on the line for any of that information?

So, most often, for example, if I’m taking a walk through the school, we will later, we’re going to be in and out of classes. If I noticed something that I think is not where I like it, then there’s a document that sits in behind the scenes, called the Support and Development Plan, that the teachers don’t have access to, and they don’t need to know about because they’re working as hard as they possibly can.

They don’t need me coming in and saying, “Oh, by the way, thanks for working so hard. But this, this, and this are a real problem. Fix tomorrow”. What we can do is identify that that’s an area of weakness. We can host a team meeting the next week or the week after, where that area becomes an area of focus. Everybody can be involved in collectively designing what might be, let’s say, the standards for presentation in the books, if that’s the problem that we noticed today.

And then, we can bring examples of our absolute worst situation. What does it look like? And everybody then is in the same situation. Nobody is better than anybody else or worse than anybody else. Nobody’s on the line. And then, three or four weeks later, we can do the exact same thing after having devised what success looks like, they can go away, trial that out, and then they can bring back their most improved situation.

So, the message is given, teachers are improving, we’ve got an understanding of what’s going on in classrooms, but nobody needs to fill on the line. And I would say 99% of the time, that works. That the teachers’ practice improves, we move things forward, a not at any point in that journey did somebody feel like they were being — you know their job was on the line, that their pay was on the line. Everybody felt like they were stewards of all of our children and that, together, we were going to move forward.

Niall Alcock: [00:27:28] That makes perfect sense. You mentioned a few other organisations that are doing amazing things. Part of what we’re doing here is to shine light on good practice and make people more aware of it.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:27:39] Sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:27:39] How do you go about doing that? How do you discover about these organisations? And would you say to people to to encourage them to find out the practice, and then share that practice?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:27:47] Yeah. So, I think, again, I see one of my primary jobs is being able to connect with people in schools, organisations, leaders that are more experienced, that are just better than I am. So, I spend a good deal of my time searching for people like that, whether that’s on the internet, or on Twitter, or looking for people that have an alignment with what it is that we’re talking about as a school. Then, granularly digging deep about them and finding out what they’re all about, so that we can learn. I go and visit. So, I mean, I said the Inspire Partnership. So, I mean, Rob Carpenter is doing incredible work in the south of London.

Rob Carpenter, CEO, Inspire Partnership. Image credit: Inpsire Partnership

Niall Alcock: [00:28:25] He’s the first person I interviewed.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:28:27] Yeah. Just an…

Niall Alcock: [00:28:28] Great guy.

Gary Wilkie, CEO Learning In Harmony Trust. Image Credit: @grwonline

Jeremy Hannay: [00:28:29] … absolutely incredible stuff that inspires me. Gary Wilkie who’s at Learning in Harmony Trust doing incredible things with that group of schools. John Grove at the Quality First Education Partnership in the south of London, again a just growing organically and leading with values. Not the kind of values that people spout out and never think about again, but these are organisations I believe that have put values at the heart. So it’s no longer just about “values are the things that we say and we write onto a wall, but values are actually about the way we make other people feel, and the kind of people that we’re trying to help uncover”.

John Grove, Executive Headteacher, Quality First Education Trust. Image credit: Q1E

But when I started at Three Bridges, that was actually one of our things. The idea was that our single school’s job, in urban settings, we want to prepare our children for the broader world. I thought, it’s a really nice sentiment, but I think it’s really — it’s just low balling what I think is possible. Because you listen to the news on any given day, and you’re hearing about sexism, or racism, or extremism, or any of the other ‘isms’ that exist in our world, but the reality is that I’m not interested in creating or helping uncover the kind of children that are going to go and join the broader world; I want to deliver a curriculum, I want them to have experiences here at Three Bridges that are going to allow them to go out and change the world.

Niall Alcock: [00:29:55] Yeah.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:29:55] And I mean, that’s what it says on my wall.

Niall Alcock: [00:29:59] A shiver just went down my spine.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:30:00] Yeah. That is the purpose. That is what we’re here to do. The only way to do that, the only way to do that effectively and sustainably is to connect, is to lean in, right? Lean into other schools. I tell my staff, “Lean into each other”. I tell them to lean to the kids and the community. My job is to lean into other schools. To go, and to learn, and to show up completely humbly regardless of any success we may have had here. But to turn up on somebody’s door and say, “Hey, I love what you’re doing there, please teach me everything.”

I mean if I’m able to give in any way, obviously, I would do that too. I’m not a completely greedy, selfish human being. But I think that is the future. The future is through connection and through partnership.

And in Ealing, actually, at the moment, there are some really interesting movements towards partnership. And I’ve been quite interested in all of that — that Ealing is forming a new learning partnership. I think what these partnerships need are courageous leaders and courageous schools at the forefront, helping other schools find their way.

You know Stephen Covey — ‘Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’, right? Written three decades ago, like a really long time ago, still relevant today. And then, about a decade ago, maybe slightly more, he wrote the Eighth Habit, right? Which is, once you have found your voice, it’s helping other people find theirs.

That’s why I say, “This is now the story of Three bridges and everybody should be like Three Bridges”. I don’t believe that. I think anybody who believes everybody should be like their school is a bit crazy and highly egotistical. But I think, what is great about Three Bridges is that we’re not saying that everybody should be like us. My mission is not to convert everybody to be like Three bridges. It’s to help other schools find their voice.

Niall Alcock: [00:31:45] Jeremy, you were talking about always wanting to learn from others, and keep learning from others ,but also to share what you’re doing here. I know you mentioned before that you had quite a lot of visitors through the school, and you do some consulting work with other schools.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:31:58] Sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:31:58] How does that work? What does that look like?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:31:59] Yeah. So, we host between 300 and 500 people here at Three Bridges a year. And that’s-

Niall Alcock: [00:32:03] 300 to 500?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:32:04] Yeah. 300 to 500. A that’s the predominantly looking at pedagogy and practice around English and Mathematics. I mean, that’s where lots of schools are interested in. How do we get our results up? How do we get progress to be better? And because we have quite well-established and well-delivered programs here, and our results are quite good, what we’ve done is opened up the school.

For example, we run a Singaporean approach to Mathematics, and I’m somebody who believes that you need to really invest yourself in understanding all the bits and piece of that. I went to Singapore for 10 days, went to six different schools.

Niall Alcock: [00:32:41] No way.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:32:41] I saw what they were getting up to, like really tried to get to grips with the nuances. I’m both interested in what they were doing in mathematics education to make it successful, but I’m also interested in system comparison, looking at things from a system, at a school system level. So, what are the things that were going on in Singapore, that were going on in Ontario, that we could also have going on Three Bridges that would allow things to flourish?

In looking at these programs, then when we came to actually to rolling them out and try to create a tighter framework around them, the first thing I wanted to do was go and see other schools, who were using this kind of pedagogy as a practice in action. It’s nice to see things live in Singapore. It’s also really nice to see things live in the UK.

When I called the companies at the time that we’re producing resources and materials for that approach, I mean, the answer basically was there’s nobody to see. There’s a school that’s maybe not too far from you. Now, we’re going back to 2013–2014. We started making these changes in preparation for the new curriculum and also just in thinking, “Yeah our results in maths are good, but it’s not about results,” or like “If we’re not giving the children a platform from which they can propel themselves into later mathematics in life, we’re not doing our job.”

So, we started making those changes way back then. But they said “Oh yeah! There’s Northwood Prep, you could go and see them doing it there”. I thought, “Yeah. I mean, I’m sure they’re doing a brilliant job. Slightly different community to the one I’m serving.” So, I just decided at that moment that once I thought that we had our feet on the ground with this, we weren’t perfect, we weren’t best of the best of the best, but that we had our feet on the ground, and I thought “Well, surely then, part of this ethos in our school around leaning in and community is opening our doors and saying, “Hey, we don’t stand up here, and say we’re perfect, and we got it all figured out. But what we do know is that we figured out some pieces. If you want to come, and see it, and then go back to your own school, and make that’s something that works.. hey, awesome!”

So, we do that for English, we do that for mathematics. Now, we do it around workload, well-being, lots of visitors, and I make lots of visits around the country talking about school operations. What are the things we can do operationally in our school to change things? So, definitely, the workload is better, but the teachers are engaging in more meaningful practice.

So, that’s been a part of our journey as well. I think that what it’s really done for our staff is lifted them because, now, they know that — they’ve always known in innovative school, and we like to do things differently — but now they know that other people are interested in what we’re doing. I think it lends them a real sense, as it should, a real sense of professional pride.

Niall Alcock: [00:35:14] For people that are interested in finding out more, how are they go about doing that?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:35:17] Just on our website. If you go to threebridgesprimary.co.uk, there’s a support school tab that you can take a look at. We do support work in the early years. We do i in mathematics, we do it in English, we do it in leadership, workload, wellbeing, all those sorts of things. And we do it in research. And they’re run not by suits like me, they’re run by everyday normal, incredible, extraordinary class teachers.

Niall Alcock: [00:35:41] Great stuff. We’ve spoken about shining light on great practice and finding it. We live in a very fragmented system. What’s the secret or what’s your approach to finding a need, going out to the market, deciding who to work and bringing it in?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:35:52] So, for me, I guess there are a couple of steps. The first was identifying schools that I thought had similar communities, similar context, they were doing better. And then, approaching them humbly and saying, “Teach me everything.” I think it’s a really important phrase as a leader. Then making decisions about what that would look like in our context, in our school, in our community. I think, that one of the dangers as a school leader is saying, “Well, the school down the road is performing better than us. And what do they do? All they do Read and Write Inc., or they do Talk for Writing, and we’re going to lethally mutate that into our school, exactly as it stands in their school.

I think that often comes with lots of problems. And then those programs fail, or they fall away, and nothing really gets better. So, I think, really analysing at a granular level what it is that’s working there, and how that would work in your school is really important. So, that was always step one, find great schools and learn.

Then, I guess, the next step was, really, as the leader of learning in the school was fully, deeply understanding everything that we’re doing. So, I do have people who lead Learning and Teaching, or lead English, or lead Mathematics, lead subject areas, but I fully immerse myself in what they are doing and what’s going on. Not in an inspection style way or with a microscope, but, so that I understand the needs of the staff. When somebody comes in and says, “Oh, this timetable isn’t working,” or “That strategy is not working,” I have an idea of what that means and how it fits in context. So, that we can have deeper conversations about change, about how that might be managed in our school.

What else do we do? I guess, from that point on, it’s scanning the broader world for stuff that works and having conversations with people. So, Twitter, sometimes, is really helpful for that sort of thing. I mean, the honest truth is I think there’s lots of noise on Twitter, and lots of stuff that I’m not interested in at all.

And I think, sometimes, people look at my profile and say, “Oh he doesn’t follow very many people.” And that has nothing to do with my own ego. It just has to do with I’m not interested in all the noise and all the nonsense that exists on there. But I’m interested in connecting with people, who are like-minded and, who have a similar set of values and views about what education could be like in this country, not people who are interested in just complaining, or moaning, or wingeing, or seeing how terrible everything is.

I mean, I have no time for it. Like there’s always going to be things that suck, but so what? Now what? That’s the Linda Cliatt-Wayman, just really powerful thinking about, “Yeah, there are always going to be times that aren’t great, and things that don’t work. I mean, that is our role, but moving forward is the key”.

So, I think, yeah. I think there are opportunities like that. And also thinking internationally, thinking outside just what geographically is convenient, or just the local schools, or just the schools in England, looking at Singapore, looking at Canada, looking to Australia, looking to New Zealand, looking to Finland.

Niall Alcock: [00:38:47] That’s a huge piece of work.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:38:49] Yeah.

Niall Alcock: [00:38:49] To what extent do you think technology can help get over those barriers?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:38:52] Yeah, massively. I mean, we, as a school, even just the children, like when I was a kid I had a pen pal. I lived in one city in Ontario and we were writing to a city that was probably a hundred kilometers away and getting a letter was like this massive thing. It was a really big deal. And a couple of years ago, we had partnered with a school in Canada 5000 kilometers away, and they were doing flip grids, and little video shares, and mystery school activities that I thought were really, really awesome.

But I think in terms of finding great practice, I think that there is absolutely scope in the educational market for a platform or for a resource area where schools, school leaders, teachers can go to align themselves with what it is that they are interested in that, at the moment, it doesn’t exist. It doesn’t exist in the same way that it exists in nations that are successful.

Niall Alcock: [00:39:40] It blows me away that you’ve traveled to multiple different countries and around this country to find the great stuff that’s helped you get to to where you are. That’s a huge piece of work, and if we could distill it down to save heads time [that would be great]. Leadership development…

Jeremy Hannay: [00:39:57] Sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:39:57] You said you’ve recently just started looking at some coaching. Tell us a little bit about that, the genesis of that, and how it’s going, and how it’s helped.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:40:04] Yeah. So, one of the reasons that I speak nationally at conferences about workload, or well-being, or leadership, or schools in general, I would say is like 5% to feed to my giant ego and 95% to meet other incredible people. Like just meet people, who are gifted thinkers and have been in context that are similar and different to my own. At one of these conferences, I met a gentleman named Alex Bell, and he runs a consultancy called Portland Education. He works with a variety of, actually, educational groups around the world that are doing innovative and creative things. And it was through speaking at that conference and having a conversation with him that I brought him to Three Bridges. And after a walk around Three Bridges and a talk, we realised immediately that there was a deep alignment about our philosophies of education.

He offers a coaching. He’s a very well-experienced and trained coach, and I thought that having somebody like that in the school, somebody who asks really important questions, and allows the conversation with professionals to help distill what’s important to them, and what’s important in their career and their life, I mean, I think that fits really, really closely with our own ethos and system of change in the school, our metric for change. So, having him work with our school, it was really a no-brainer. Yeah, he’s an incredible, incredible human being, and we’re very, very blessed to have him.

Niall Alcock: [00:41:27] What benefits have you seen from his work so far?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:41:29] Sometimes about voice, there are things that if you think of it in an analogy of like parents to child, right? There are things that parents can say to their own children that the children listen to, and follow, and become embedded in their own lives. Then, there are things you just don’t want to hear from your parents. Then, you hear it from that one teacher, or you’ve talked it through that one teacher, and you go home, and as a parent, you’re probably thinking, “Yeah, I said that to you a year ago, and you weren’t interested. Now, you’ve talked to Mr. Smith. And, now, you’re really interested.”

Sometimes just about the voice and positioning. I think what Alex does, and that’s not to say that I have all the answers, but I think what Alex does really well is he knows the school, and he knows the people, and he’s able to ask questions that allow them to drill down into their own strengths and their own weaknesses.

And I think that once you can start to distill those things, and see some of your strengths as weaknesses, and some of your weaknesses maybe become strengths, I think that as you can start talking through the journey you want to take as an educator or the journey you want to take as human being, I think that only leads to growth and all these positive things.

Through speaking with the senior staff after having been with Alex now for a number of sessions, each of them has come out feeling exceptionally driven towards goals that matter to them and that development points that matter to our school in a way that I would never ever be able to to uncover. So, it’s important.

Niall Alcock: [00:42:53] That’s a ringing endorsement.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:42:54] I’m not impressed by many, if I’m honest. But I am always, wholeheartedly impressed by Alex. I think he is of the highest caliber of human being. Very, very, very, very great.

Niall Alcock: [00:43:05] You mentioned a couple of times about finance and budgets.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:43:09] Sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:43:09] What advice would you give to all our listeners about making a sustainable school, generating income, reducing cost, and balancing books?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:43:18] I mean, our situation perhaps is unique. Our pupil numbers based on our community are falling because the birthrate in this community is lower…

Niall Alcock: [00:43:30] Oh, wow.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:43:30] … and there are just fewer children than there were five years ago. As our school has become more successful, at the same time, our number of premium children has decreased. So, the money that we’re losing is, often, far more about pupil numbers or pupil context than a funding formula.

Niall Alcock: [00:43:52] School management, yeah.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:43:52] For us, that’s been the challenge. So, really looking at school operations. What’s necessary? What’s perhaps extra and above? And part of that as well comes from just my background. Having grown up in the Canadian system, for example, where there are very, very, very few teaching assistants. So, there are between 400 and 500 hundred children in my school at Three Bridges. A school of the exact same size in Ontario might have one or two teaching assistants, whereas, at Three Bridges, we have 15.

Niall Alcock: [00:44:23] Wow.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:44:25] So, part of it is just the framework that I grew up with knowing that the TAs in our school do an incredible job, and they provide a brilliant and remarkable service for our children, and looking at the value, what is the value that we’re gaining there. Balancing the books sometimes has to do with staffing. Sometimes, it has to do with things like colour photocopying.

I mean, I was looking at that the other day. When I left Canada, coloured photocopying had come into schools, but it was very, very regulated. I was a budding teacher at that time. I didn’t really think through those things. But if I look today, I know that a black and white photocopy costs 10 times less than a colour photocopy.

So, it’s funny things like that where my black and white photocopying bill is £190 for a term, and my coloured photocopying bill is two grand for a term. It’s really thinking about why are we using coloured photocopies? Coloured photocopies is not going to save the world, it’s not going to change education. But I think really looking through details, finer details like that, I think, for schools, for all of us is a worthwhile practice.

Niall Alcock: [00:45:31] If you could ask every headteacher any question, one question, what would it be?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:45:39] Oh dear. I think maybe it’s along the lines of what I said before. I think all of us need to ask these questions. I think probably something along, why am I doing what I’m doing when it comes to the school? Is there a better way? Maybe the better way is less expensive, if that’s what is of interest to you at the moment. Maybe that better way is about building staff morale, and increasing your capacity to recruit and retain people?

But I think that whatever question we’re asking ourselves, I think that we need to be acutely aware of the narrative in this country right now for teachers. That teachers, regardless of whether or not we believe it to be true, teachers are feeling overworked, over pressurised, untrusted, micromanaged, constantly scrutinised and monitored, and they’re leaving in droves.

So, whatever questions we’re asking ourselves surely have to be answering some of those statements. We can call it Ofsted, we can call it the DfE, we can call it all sorts of things. But the reality is that, as I said at the beginning of this, we have ridiculous degrees of autonomy as school leaders in this country. And-

Niall Alcock: [00:46:55] To our advantage?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:46:58] It can be, it can be. I think that’s part of the story. Part of the narrative of Three Bridges has been just that. Moving away from traditional practices that have always been done. Three to six observations of teachers a year, termly book scrutinies, termly planning and monitoring, marking in four different colours, and highlighting things, and all sorts of things. Moving away from practices like that, and actually sitting down with the staff and saying, “Hey, what is it about the marking that you’re finding challenging, or that you don’t like, or that you find meaningless?” and being open to whatever responses they give you.

I surely know that in schools I worked in before I worked at Three Bridges that that was not happening. There was lots of “Well, maybe our school’s in situation we’re being told we have to do this. It’s being said that we have to do more of this” or, actually, a deeply imbued belief that the more I do these things, the better our results will be. And the better our results will be, the less somebody will be on my back.

But I think that is just a toxic cycle. At some point, as a school leader, you need to make the decision to break free from that. If we want our schools and we want our nation to move forward educationally, professionally, we need to ask ourselves better questions about how we’re leading, and what’s influencing those decisions, and what impact that’s having on our people.

Because when I was a class teacher, I saw it as my absolute responsibility to take parental level care of the 30 children that were in my care, but I truly don’t see the children as my main job anymore. I see my main job as taking care of the people who take care of my children. I know as a headteacher, I’m responsible for the 450 amazing young people that I have in this building, but if I want to have impact on them, the reason that I moved into headship was so that I could help support, develop, grow, nourish the adults that are now responsible for them because I am no longer one of them.

Niall Alcock: [00:49:16] Above and beyond all the things you’ve talked about, for supporting and developing your staff, what else do you do to make sure that happens?

Jeremy Hannay: [00:49:26] So, we don’t… So, okay. Staff meetings, as an example now are no longer talking about school operations. So, we don’t take time during the school week to go through a lot of school ops, nuts and bolts, whatever you might call it in your staff meetings. Our staff meetings are now staff development sessions. And those development sessions are often characterised by professionally collaborative work.

That means that there is an end in mind and there is somewhere that we’re trying to go, but I don’t have full control over that. And some people call me crazy for that. Some people, that would make them very, very anxious and very nervous. And if I’m honest, like when I started this journey, yeah, it makes you a bit anxious, and you feel like, “I don’t know exactly how this is going to end up.” But the reality is that whatever way it does end up, if you’re at the helm, it ends up better than you would have thought anyways because the people, the adults in your care feel deep ownership over it. So, I think that’s one of the ways, really focusing in on spending professional time to develop the school and move the school forward.

We do through extra income that we raise the school through consultancy and advisory. We do our very best to make sure our staff are supported. So, there has been yoga in the past. There’s fitness clubs that we put on for the staff after school. We have extra money for our CPD budget for them to go and study other things that may be of interest to them. We’re able to operate things like a Forest School and have an arts and dance specialist come in. There are a variety of other things that take place.

There’s no magic formula at work here. It’s really just, I guess, that my staff know that I care about them. I think that that’s probably a big thing. We try, and I try and have a bit of a theme to every year. What is every year going to look like? What’s the area for our staff that I want to really focus on? And so, this year’s theme was leaning in. To us, that’s about taking care of each other. We’re taking care of our children, our parents, our community because I think that teaching is a really busy job, and it can become overwhelming quite quickly. There’s a lot to do.

And, very often, when people are under pressure or feeling stressed, they step away. They lean back because they don’t want anybody know they’re struggling. They don’t want to be called out or caught out for not being at their very best. And they want to put on a persona of excellence. And while I think that can be a really great way to be, I think that one of the big challenges is that, actually, when we’re struggling or we’re at our weakest, when we’re not doing well, the trick to moving forward, the trick to having a healthy life, a successful school, being a great teacher is actually connection. It’s leaning into the people around you.

Once that’s been established, staff then are leaning into kids. It’s no longer a culture of “Well, I taught it, so you should have learned it.” The culture, actually, has shifted completely away from “What is it that I want to teach?” to “What is it I want them to learn?” And, now, teachers see it as their job to see within their children the future that they can have. That in every single class, there are doctors, and lawyers, and teachers, and bin men, and like all sorts of jobs. Our job, our staff, is to lean into our kids and see that before they can see it themselves.

Niall Alcock: [00:52:52] You talked about asking the right questions to make sure that we find the other way within the system, and you’re talking about leaning in to help kids see their futures. What does the future of education in this country look like? Why are you optimistic about it? And what do we need to do to make sure it happens?

Yeah. I think that, for me, I mean, that’s the mission for the rest of time I’m here in UK, whether that’s a year, 10 years, the rest of my life. Some of the things that we’re doing at Three Bridges, there are other incredible schools doing incredible things too. I mean, there’s the Inspire Partnership in Southeast London doing amazing things, Learning in Harmony Trust are doing incredible things. There are groups of schools that are really moving forward on this agenda.

But the idea being that one of the ways that I think our system fails or that evil wins is that when great people, when great thinkers, and great leaders do nothing. And that there are great groups of schools, whether they’re state schools, or whether they’re academies, or federations of schools that are doing things. I think that, for me, that is the mission. The mission is to help schools see that there is another way. It doesn’t need to be the way we’ve always done it. That the reason the teachers are leaving en masse, the reason the teachers are unhappy in this profession, that actually has solutions that will still garner great results for our children.

You can still get great English and Maths results, and have a happy school. You can still build a bolder curriculum about social justice and social responsibility, critical consumption and creation, being courageously converse, you can still create the kind of young people that we want and be a happy school. [00:54:31]

I’d actually say that it goes further than that. That the only way to grow incredible teachers — I mean, I said to you that I’ve been able to hire great people that surround me because this is not the show of one man, it’s not the ship of one person, this school runs on the backs of 23 teachers, and 15 TAs, and two office staff. That’s who runs this thing. But there are lots of teachers here who are homegrown — but you cannot grow incredible teachers to be courageous if they are only passive and compliant.

So, I would say if you want an incredible school, then you have to move away from those other things. You have to move away from the heavy monitoring, the heavy scrutiny, the heavy accountabilities, and turn towards responsibility, and collective efficacy, and collective and collaborative movement. [00:55:22] And I think that the mission for the rest of my working life is going to be to help share that with other schools.

Niall Alcock: [00:55:30] Jeremy, it’s been an absolute pleasure speaking to you. Thank you so much for asking challenging questions and providing such an intimate insight to your role, and being so passionate about education, they should be done, and where you should be going in the future.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:55:40] No, thank you.

Niall Alcock: [00:55:41] Thank you for your time.

Jeremy Hannay: [00:55:42] Thank you for speaking to me.


Who are we?

I’ve been working in partnership Teach First, the Young Foundation and Super Being Labs to build a community of teachers and senior leaders who are solving big challenges in their schools.

You can read more about We Are In Beta and how you can get involved here.

To stay up to date with interviews from the community when we release them, sign up here.

If you want to access this podcast before anyone else along with the links to the organisatons and resources guests mention, along with some free give aways, every other Sunday, subscribe here. This episode Jeremy shares his favourite education book, his favourite piece of research and links to the external support that was crucial to Three Bridges’ success.


If you enjoyed this interview, check out Episode #10 of the We Are In Beta Podcast with Stephen Munday, Chief Executive of the Cam Academy Trust and President of the Chartered College of Teaching on how moral purpose and collaboration could help solve the big issues facing schools.

Spotify | iTunes | Stitcher | TuneIn | Lybsyn | Podbean | Newsletter

Listen to Episode 10 of the We Are In Beta Podcast
We Are In Beta

Written by

‘We’ the education community ‘Are In Beta’ always learning

Welcome to a place where words matter. On Medium, smart voices and original ideas take center stage - with no ads in sight. Watch
Follow all the topics you care about, and we’ll deliver the best stories for you to your homepage and inbox. Explore
Get unlimited access to the best stories on Medium — and support writers while you’re at it. Just $5/month. Upgrade