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The Progressive Policy Think Tank

We have a one-dimensional education system in a multi-dimensional world.

Peter Hyman calls for changes in the way schools run to achieve a more multi-dimensional education of ‘head, heart and hand’

Writing as part of a forthcoming publication to be published by IPPR, the progressive policy think tank, Peter Hyman, former government adviser and head teacher argues the UK education system is too rigid and needs to change.

He argues that as a nation, we believe that more exams with even higher stakes is the route to a better education system and that this is merely the route to getting better at taking exams. Peter Hyman says we need an education of head, heart and hand:

  • An academic education (head) that gives people knowledge of key concepts in science, maths and design as well as history and culture;
  • A character education (heart) that provides experiences and situations from which young people can develop ethical underpinnings, resilience, kindness, tolerance and an open mind;
  • A can-do education (hand) that nurtures creativity and problem-solving, that gives young people the ability to make and do and produce work that can be applied outside the classroom.

To achieve this multi-dimensional education will require fundamental changes in the way schools are run. A revolution in curriculum planning, timetabling, the role of the teacher and perhaps most of all our attitude to young people:

  • There needs to be a belief that students are capable of producing work of real value and a focus on respect, rather than compliance, to build a strong learning community;
  • The curriculum should connect learning to the real world, giving students real experiences and placements that develop eloquence, grit, spark, professionalism, expertise and craftsmanship;
  • Speaking should be given the same status as reading and writing so that pupils can develop the confidence and tools to articulate their ideas and critique others;
  • Schools should build the character and wellbeing of children through coaching and giving pupils a wide range of experiences to help shape their personalities;
  • The assessment regime should reflect the growth of the whole child as it is not right, fair or useful to judge a young person on the basis of two hour written exams;
  • We need to create the structures for collaboration, a peer-led feedback culture where teachers grow because of the constant, supportive feedback on their practice.

Peter Hyman, Head teacher and co-founder of School 21, writes:

“We are living in an age of extraordinary new opportunities, an increasing number of perils, a bewildering amount of information and a series of troubling moral dilemmas. We need to prepare young people for the uncertainties of tomorrow.

“This is a world that requires generations of young people to have a strong ethical grounding, be able to engage, analyse, empathise and evaluate these developments.

“It calls for an education system that requires both more and different skills from the educator, schools set up to be centres of learning not churning, crippling accountability to become lighter and smarter, and young people to have the ceiling lifted on what they can achieve.”



Becky Malone 07585 772633

Editor’s notes:

  1. Copies of the essay ‘Success in the 21st Century: The education of head, heart and hand’ are available here.
  2. This piece will form part of a forthcoming edited collection of essays on the future of education, to be published by IPPR later this year. The views of the authors remain their own rather than being those of IPPR.
  3. A short-form version of the essay first appeared in the Times Educational Supplement and can be accessed here.
  4. IPPR aims to influence policy in the present and reinvent progressive politics in the future, and is dedicated to the better country that Britain can be through progressive policy and politics. With nearly 60 staff across four offices throughout the UK, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.

    Our independent research is wide ranging and covers the economy, work, skills, transport, democracy, the environment, education, energy, migration and healthcare among many other areas.