I would like to highlight a few books, here, which I feel are of relevance to some of the book’s themes. Some of these are slightly off the beaten track: they are not all directly related to education.

Here is the beginning of a list:

– “The Tiger That Isn’t: Seeing through a World of Numbers” by Michael Blastland and Andrew Dilnot.

This is a fantastic book, I believe, for anyone interested in how statistics can and are misused, by both the Government and the media. It includes a brief section on school league tables, concluding “it is not clear in what sense they contributed anything to a fair comparison of school performance or teaching quality”.

– “Does Education Matter?” by Alison Wolf. Alison Wolf is always thought-provoking. This is a book that questions some of the assumptions on which education policy has been built, and looks at the often far-from-glorious history of vocational qualifications.

– “Motivation, Agency and Public Policy” by Julian le Grand. This sets out much of the thinking behind New Labour’s public services reforms, including the notion that public services should be designed with the belief that those who work in them are self-interested “knaves”, rather than altruistic “knights”. I interviewed Professor Le Grand and offer a critique of his book in mine.

– “Instruction to Deliver” by Michael Barber. This is Sir Michael’s last book, written in 2007. It offers detail on his enthusiasm for league tables and targets and the difficulty of driving through public sector reform. But for me, there is comparatively little about what this means for the quality of public services themselves (as opposed to the statistical indicators which are supposed to measure that quality). A better insight into Sir Michael’s views on education are contained in his 1996 book, “The Learning Game”.

– I have been reading a book on economics: “The Dismal Science: How Thinking Like an Economist Undermines Community” by Stephen A Marglin, one of several current books to challenge what is said to be one of the dominant assumptions of economics: that people are basically self-interested individuals. This has links to education because, as Professor Le Grand’s book illustrates, much of our school accountability system is set up on this assumption. It is, in my view, doing great harm.

– Guy Claxton’s “What’s the point of school? Rediscovering the heart of education” is on my reading list, as I hear it’s getting rave reviews from teachers.



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