“Only connect” was the great motto of novelist E.M. Forster. It is excellent advice in schools as well.
Fifty teachers gathered in Blackburn last week to watch a primary maths lesson in the hall of Lammack Primary School. We had travelled from across Lancashire, but the teacher – Mrs Zhang – had come much further, from Tianshin No. 1 Primary School, Shanghai.
LRGS is lead school for the North North West Maths Hub, which covers Cumbria, north Lancashire, Blackpool and Blackburn-with-Darwen. Several teachers from the region have participated in Maths Hub teacher exchanges with Shanghai.
East Asia tops the PISA international educational ranking tables. That success has prompted the government’s drive to learn from schools as far away – and as far apart – as China and Singapore.
There are plenty of cultural differences between the UK and Shanghai. Class sizes are larger, and teaching loads are lower. Open lessons are a normal part of ongoing professional development, sometimes with up to 250 teachers observing!
But the essentials of excellent teaching in Mrs Zhang’s lesson were very familiar: precise use of language, meticulous progression, and lots and lots of practice.
The quality of English education also has a global appeal. Our overseas boarders are hugely important to LRGS, and the Boarding Schools Association is lobbying the government to keep our schools open for boarders from the EU and beyond.
There is also much to learn – both ways. Only connect!