The Diminished Confidence of Teachers

The third contribution to our set of launch day posts comes from one of the Natural Connections Demonstration Project local hub leaders, Nicholas Garrick. He is Director of Lighting up Learning and is Associate Head teacher of a primary school in Bristol. Over the past 15 years, Nicholas has taught Reception to Year Six; been an Advanced Skills Teacher for Creativity, and now leads Lighting up Learning (, a learning and change consultancy. He and his team’s work focus on making connections and collaborations that lead change within the wider education sector. Lighting up Learning work locally with individuals school and organisations, nationally as part of the Natural Connections Demonstration Project and English Heritage’s Heritage School Project, as well internationally as a leadership and curriculum design specialist predominantly in South East Asia. He also has a Boarder Terrier called Womble.

The Diminished Confidence of Teachers

There is a lot of noise about ‘raising standards’, ‘Ofsted’, ‘new curriculum’ (to name but a few) that mask the biggest threat to our educational system: teacher confidence.  As discussed by John Hattie, teacher expertise one of the most limiting factors to education, and yet schools have more freedom, autonomy and power then ever before. Sir Ken Robinson, creativity and risk guru, suggests the enablement of creativity within schools is at it’s all time lowest. Although this is not exactly news to most School Leaders, it does pose the question about how to support teachers to enhance knowledge, acquire new skills and build confidence to take the risks?

One size does not fit allEmpty_Classroom_104_FotoPlus

The difficulty with education is that everyone thinks they are an expert. The vast majority of people have been to school at least to age of 14, and some have continued their relationship with the sector into working lives. Everyone has an opinion, but these are often based on an experience at least 20 years out of date. Educational organisations often produce lesson plans and packs with links to the national curriculum, as though this is the most alluring thing for teachers. Quite frankly: we don’t care if it enables us to teach Science, or Art, or English. We want things that inspire in bursts, things that spark ideas. Mini, modular pockets of inspiration that I, as a teacher,, can then build onto and around, adapting it to harmonise with MY curriculum, not someone else’s lesson plan is much more interesting.

How not to do it

So the challenge everyone in education all face is how we turn this brave new world into huge opportunity. How do we do this? Well, having asked hundreds of teachers, I am clear how not to do it: outside the classroom targets, wildlife lesson plans and educational packs are not going to build confidence, they simply fill short term gaps.  If we truly want to empower teachers to choose to teach Maths in local woodland because it’s the most powerful place to do it, we have to work with them, not provide for them.

Collaboration not competition…

will in my view, have the greatest, most sustainable affect on the system. Teachers need to have regular opportunities to connect with local and regional collaborations of like-minded, cross sector people: events, meetings, fairs, festivals, local walk and talks. The more we connect, the more opportunity, the better the collaboration which ultimately leads to greater teachers awareness and therefore courage to innovate.

Nicholas Garrick

March 2015


Nicholas Garrick

Nicholas Garrick

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