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An Intelligent Person's Guide to Education

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Tony Little is The Headmaster of Eton. One of the most progressive and imaginative people in British education today he has hitherto kept a low profile. This book accompanies a three part television series to be screened on BBC 2 but differs from it significantly. There is a crisis in the British education system. Year on year GCSE and A Level pupils post better exam result Tony Little is The Headmaster of Eton. One of the most progressive and imaginative people in British education today he has hitherto kept a low profile. This book accompanies a three part television series to be screened on BBC 2 but differs from it significantly. There is a crisis in the British education system. Year on year GCSE and A Level pupils post better exam results, with more students achieving top grades. Yet business leaders and employers complain bitterly that our schools are not producing people fit for purpose. What we have become is a nation 'Over schooled and under educated'. Far from being locked in an ivory tower, a bastion of privilege, Mr Little has used his time as a teacher and headmaster to get to grips with fundamental questions concerning education. He wants to produce people fit to work in the modern world. How do children absorb information? What kind of people does society need? What is education for? Not only is the author one of the great reforming headmasters of our time but he has planted Academies in the East end of London, founded a state boarding school near Windsor and yet is a passionate advocate of single sex schools. This book is not a text book for colleges of education- it is a book to enlighten the teaching profession and just as much for anxious parents. The book is simply arranged under topics such as authority, expectations, progress, self-confidence, sex, crises and creativity. Tony Little thinks it is time to ask some fundamental questions, and to make brave decisions about how we make our schools and our schoolchildren fit for purpose.


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Tony Little is The Headmaster of Eton. One of the most progressive and imaginative people in British education today he has hitherto kept a low profile. This book accompanies a three part television series to be screened on BBC 2 but differs from it significantly. There is a crisis in the British education system. Year on year GCSE and A Level pupils post better exam result Tony Little is The Headmaster of Eton. One of the most progressive and imaginative people in British education today he has hitherto kept a low profile. This book accompanies a three part television series to be screened on BBC 2 but differs from it significantly. There is a crisis in the British education system. Year on year GCSE and A Level pupils post better exam results, with more students achieving top grades. Yet business leaders and employers complain bitterly that our schools are not producing people fit for purpose. What we have become is a nation 'Over schooled and under educated'. Far from being locked in an ivory tower, a bastion of privilege, Mr Little has used his time as a teacher and headmaster to get to grips with fundamental questions concerning education. He wants to produce people fit to work in the modern world. How do children absorb information? What kind of people does society need? What is education for? Not only is the author one of the great reforming headmasters of our time but he has planted Academies in the East end of London, founded a state boarding school near Windsor and yet is a passionate advocate of single sex schools. This book is not a text book for colleges of education- it is a book to enlighten the teaching profession and just as much for anxious parents. The book is simply arranged under topics such as authority, expectations, progress, self-confidence, sex, crises and creativity. Tony Little thinks it is time to ask some fundamental questions, and to make brave decisions about how we make our schools and our schoolchildren fit for purpose.

30 review for An Intelligent Person's Guide to Education

  1. 5 out of 5

    Katia N

    Not too bad, but nothing special. I thought, he would write more about Eton. But it is a more or less glorified brochure (though over 200 pages) about the UK independent sector education. All usual debate points are considered: rounded person, character building; co-ed vs single gender, etc. There is a chapter about how to tackle difficult teens' years (for parents) and a few other bits and pieces such as suggested reading list for a "polymath" teen. All in all, it is useful if you are considerin Not too bad, but nothing special. I thought, he would write more about Eton. But it is a more or less glorified brochure (though over 200 pages) about the UK independent sector education. All usual debate points are considered: rounded person, character building; co-ed vs single gender, etc. There is a chapter about how to tackle difficult teens' years (for parents) and a few other bits and pieces such as suggested reading list for a "polymath" teen. All in all, it is useful if you are considering an independent school for your child in the UK, otherwise not much insight there.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Josh Laird

    Insightful read into the mind of the former headmaster of Eton and his opinion on the UK's education system. It has a heavy leaning to independent schools as that's where the majority of his experience lies but explains how they're trying to become more meritocratic; particularly liked that the school has started rejecting pupils if they're under par regardless of whether their family has an extended history with it. Also interesting to hear that slightly over 5% of boys have their full fees cov Insightful read into the mind of the former headmaster of Eton and his opinion on the UK's education system. It has a heavy leaning to independent schools as that's where the majority of his experience lies but explains how they're trying to become more meritocratic; particularly liked that the school has started rejecting pupils if they're under par regardless of whether their family has an extended history with it. Also interesting to hear that slightly over 5% of boys have their full fees covered with over a third having some kind of financial aid. A step in the right direction but not quite Harvard levels of funding yet. ...but let's ignore the unfortunate name of this series of books.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    I wanted to hate this. Posh boy goes to posh school then goes to posh university then becomes head master of said posh school then tells people about it. However despite my many years teaching in the inner city I found myself agreeing with a great deal of what he said. No jargon - just intelligent analysis and good advice. Worth a read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    John

    Good message to start with - education > than academia, but then it gets a bit similar and essentially ends up as a elongated prospectus for Eton! He doesn't address why there should be fee-paying schools at all which would have been interesting. Good message to start with - education > than academia, but then it gets a bit similar and essentially ends up as a elongated prospectus for Eton! He doesn't address why there should be fee-paying schools at all which would have been interesting.

  5. 5 out of 5

    5H3MS

    В общем есть конечно хорошие мысли, но не совсем по моей тематике, поэтому я не особо заценил. Завучам, директорам будет полезно, читается легко, в конце есть еще список на хорошую литературу.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Saturnine Spectator

    Overall this book isn't bad. It gets entertaining about 50+ pages in, and is an interesting perspective on education from the head of a school. But I have a few criticisms that I'd like to address here. First of all, the title. "An intelligent person's guide to..." seems to be a series of books by various authors, but it just sounds a bit pretentious. "Only INTELLIGENT people would read this book!". This isn't a major concern, but the writing reflects this - many sentences could have been written Overall this book isn't bad. It gets entertaining about 50+ pages in, and is an interesting perspective on education from the head of a school. But I have a few criticisms that I'd like to address here. First of all, the title. "An intelligent person's guide to..." seems to be a series of books by various authors, but it just sounds a bit pretentious. "Only INTELLIGENT people would read this book!". This isn't a major concern, but the writing reflects this - many sentences could have been written more clearly, but instead sounded like an aspirational speech by a school principal, sprinkled with sentences such as "Nothing could be FURTHER from the truth!". This isn't a major hurdle, but this style of language seems to get in the way of the actual message. Another point is that this book isn't actually a guide to education. Instead it's a series of various reflections by the head of a boarding school called Eton, and many chapters are dedicated to describing life at Eton and why certain choices were made. This is entertaining and educational, but someone wishing for a more practical book may want to look elsewhere. The book also isn't very international. It focuses on the British education system, and goes on at length about how highly-regarded it is in the world, while at the same time criticising it extensively. There are some interesting observations, but may not be of much interest to non-UK readers. Many claims in the book are made, but not really substantiated. To the author's credit, many points are backed up by some research and reasoning. But some are stated forcefully with no justification. Why should boys be forced to have short hair styles? Is school uniform actually helpful? Does mandatory religious attendance actually make students happy? These things are stated to be Good, yet I know from my own school experience that they didn't help develop me as a child. It sometimes feels that large parts of the text are dedicated to propagating the author's personal views as the head of a school. This book is the perspective of a headmaster - not someone detached from the educational institution. As such, it is rather biased, and doesn't really offer a fresh view on the topic. Overall the book was interesting to read and had some nice points, and I'd recommend it to anyone curious. My favourite chapter was on the psychology of teenagers, and why they act the way they do. I do not regret reading it, as it gave me insight into the perspective of a school head. But it wasn't as useful as I have initially hoped.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Loay Leon Hady

    A wonderful book which may be mistitled I bought this after reading a couple of the ‘education is broken’ numbers doing the rounds from non-educators. I was in need of something with depth and authenticity, so I swung my pendulum all the way over to the other end of of the spectrum and thankfully found some wise words from a long time Head of England’s most well know school. Tony Little has disguised this book as something for parents and the ‘intelligent’ but I can’t for the life of me see why e A wonderful book which may be mistitled I bought this after reading a couple of the ‘education is broken’ numbers doing the rounds from non-educators. I was in need of something with depth and authenticity, so I swung my pendulum all the way over to the other end of of the spectrum and thankfully found some wise words from a long time Head of England’s most well know school. Tony Little has disguised this book as something for parents and the ‘intelligent’ but I can’t for the life of me see why either notion is used or needed . Yes parents may benefit, but would-be leaders would do so far more, as would teachers and in fact almost anyone committed to a career in education. Little does much to cover changes, thoughts and considerations of the educational landscape and you are left with a feeling that common sense has prevailed in all instances. I stress again the idea leaders should be given this as a primer, it’s such and accurate portrayal: from the 3 unfortunate events that opened his first week in headship to the bizarre contradictions of parent comments. As a former Head I found myself nodding in agreement often: at the philosophical underpinnings in the opening chapters, and then the growing list of relatable anecdotes in the latter half. Little’s tone is distanced and he makes observation without emotion, it’s clear this is written wistfully and with a great sense of responsibility towards the reader. No jibber jabber, new age fawning or acronyms - imagine a wise uncle ‘telling you how it is’ and then giving you space to take it or leave it, that’s how his experience is dished out here. There are a couple of odd beats: the over egging of the benefits of Finnish system, (which is tumbling down rankings now, their crowing about how good they were and subsequent flatline and fall could contaminate readers thoughts on other items Little mentions) and the ever mentioning of: ‘Eton does this and Eton does that’ which of course serves if this were part memoir, but doesn’t add much to the supposed ‘parent’ reader or the ‘intelligent’ assumption of them. Regardless if we forgive the above and safely assume the title and ‘intelligent’ focus were publisher demands - this book is packed with wisdom, stories and framing of a world view sure to delight anyone interested in education. People with this much insight are more often than not too humble to put such thoughts into words, absorb as much of this as you can… the non-educationalists are falling over themselves to tell us how education or edutainment or discovery profiling (?!?) can change the world. Little powerfully reminds reading, communication, character and trust are the keys to the education we crave for our children.

  8. 4 out of 5

    O

    The author has several interesting views on education and education practice, "in spite of" his background as headteacher (he uses the rather more ancient word headmaster) of prestigious schools, such as Eton. However, it feels as it feels as if his views have been contorted by seeing only a part of the system. He spends a lot of space talking about the benefits of boarding schools; how teachers and school staff can mould young boys (his experience is mainly from boys' schools) and influence the The author has several interesting views on education and education practice, "in spite of" his background as headteacher (he uses the rather more ancient word headmaster) of prestigious schools, such as Eton. However, it feels as it feels as if his views have been contorted by seeing only a part of the system. He spends a lot of space talking about the benefits of boarding schools; how teachers and school staff can mould young boys (his experience is mainly from boys' schools) and influence them much more than state schools, where they only see students for 35 hours a week. The fact that this is possible I obviously do not dispute, but I miss a discussion on the merits for parents of *not* being the actual people influencing their own children. I would have thought this would have been a basic factor, when explaining the pros of boarding schools to possibly reluctant parents. When he talks about the 'genius of good boarding schools' being that they offer 'an answer to contemporary concerns about social cohesion' I can only shake my head. How many boarding schools in the UK have an intake that is truly representative of the population of the UK? I dare say there are few, and, hence, any 'social cohesion' must be limited to more or less only the upper socio-economic groups. Maybe I am being stingy by only giving it two stars - the first few chapters might possibly have earned three stars.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Theo

    Written by an ex school headmaster the book is his reflections on certain aspects of teenager education. This includes essential tips that one can follow. Topics covered include alcohol, drugs, reading, and co-education. Parts of the book I liked are his tips for dealing with teenagers and his questions that parents should ask schools and themselves before selecting a school.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Wendy

    Different from what I expected and pleasantly surprised. I was led to believe it would be more information on dealing with teenagers rather than the education system itself, but as a teacher myself I found it very interesting.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jorge Gorostiza

    Buen libro. Buena guía

  12. 4 out of 5

    Shweta Agarwal

    good tips for parents and educators

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    As a teacher on a career break looking to re-enter the profession, I found Little's thoughts on teaching and teacher quality very helpful. Also gratified to read that I was, virtually without exception, in agreement with him. A thoroughly good, helpful and well-wriiten book; easy to digest by a wide readership and without the use of impenetrable jargon that the profession can be noted for. As a teacher on a career break looking to re-enter the profession, I found Little's thoughts on teaching and teacher quality very helpful. Also gratified to read that I was, virtually without exception, in agreement with him. A thoroughly good, helpful and well-wriiten book; easy to digest by a wide readership and without the use of impenetrable jargon that the profession can be noted for.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Amy Smith

    Very easy to digest but nothing ground-breaking.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    Being written by a headmaster of Eton would be enough to dissuade many from reading this book and while Little writes from a privileged perspective, he acknowledges this very humbly and makes a great effort to recognise and consider all areas of the British education system. In doing so, Little has delivered one of the best books about the purpose of education to have been written for many years. Many of his ideas are common sense to a teacher like me who's had the luxury of autonomy in the clas Being written by a headmaster of Eton would be enough to dissuade many from reading this book and while Little writes from a privileged perspective, he acknowledges this very humbly and makes a great effort to recognise and consider all areas of the British education system. In doing so, Little has delivered one of the best books about the purpose of education to have been written for many years. Many of his ideas are common sense to a teacher like me who's had the luxury of autonomy in the classroom which has enabled me to 'grow' confident boys and girls academically, spiritually, socially and physically. Many books aimed at teachers use the same, tired, pessimistic rhetoric bemoaning workload, behaviour, Ofsted and all the rest. Little makes the point that teaching is a vocation, not merely a profession. Teaching is about so much more than pupils' academic progress and attainment and without the holistic nurturing of a young person, their academic capability will inevitably be stifled. New teachers sorely need to hear Littles's positive, uplifting message as they embark on their careers.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cropredy

    I selected this book due to my one-step-removed affinity with Mr. Little's last school where he was headmaster. Who might be interested in this book? a) People in the UK who have a serious interest in improving education of the 13-17 year old cohorts b) People looking for any insight into what goes on from a management or leadership point-of-view at English boarding schools - particularly if they had gone to one themselves or have a family member or friend's family member at such an institution Lit I selected this book due to my one-step-removed affinity with Mr. Little's last school where he was headmaster. Who might be interested in this book? a) People in the UK who have a serious interest in improving education of the 13-17 year old cohorts b) People looking for any insight into what goes on from a management or leadership point-of-view at English boarding schools - particularly if they had gone to one themselves or have a family member or friend's family member at such an institution Little is a serious and thoughtful man and his commentary on the state of UK education and his experiences at being the head man at a prestigious boarding school are interesting , and to professionals in the field, well worth reading. Since I have almost no interest in a) , I gave the book 2 stars -- those with a keen interest in UK secondary school education would rate it higher Note - This is not a book for juicy gossip or tell-all-exposes.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Azat Sultanov

    Personal account of the Eton's ex-headmaster. He writes about different aspects of school routines in general and boarding school in particular. Writes a lot in support of boarding school and how society can benefit from them in the long run. I was amazed how involved teachers can be in the lives of teenagers. Little himself tells about pleasures of the profession and mentions how they would invite all senior boys in groups for lunch in his house. This is something I can not relate to in Russia. Personal account of the Eton's ex-headmaster. He writes about different aspects of school routines in general and boarding school in particular. Writes a lot in support of boarding school and how society can benefit from them in the long run. I was amazed how involved teachers can be in the lives of teenagers. Little himself tells about pleasures of the profession and mentions how they would invite all senior boys in groups for lunch in his house. This is something I can not relate to in Russia. One of his main points is that a lot of it comes from teacher-student relationship. Teaching is an unusual profession which often requires going that extra mile without thinking. A Must-read for anyone related to boarding schools and leadership in education.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Harry

    Naturally it’s hard to take at face value the ministrations of a man who headed the literal bastion of privilege (when looking up the word in a dictionary, I’m certain pictures of Eton would be there). But it’s enlightening to see how, given the perfect conditions, schools can run but more so how by contrast state schools have decided to embrace compliance and measurements at the expense of a holistic approach to their charges...is this all the symptom or the cause of such wildly different educa Naturally it’s hard to take at face value the ministrations of a man who headed the literal bastion of privilege (when looking up the word in a dictionary, I’m certain pictures of Eton would be there). But it’s enlightening to see how, given the perfect conditions, schools can run but more so how by contrast state schools have decided to embrace compliance and measurements at the expense of a holistic approach to their charges...is this all the symptom or the cause of such wildly different educational environments? Not sure, but my feeling is that if it’s your money you can spend it how you’d like and this book has some interesting lines from one who I assume empathises with that position!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dave Hartley

    For me the best was in the first half of the book; which included the revelation that he thought GCSES should be abandoned. Not an elitist book at all and now, having spent some time working in school, i a can confirm he talks a lot of sense.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Gavin

  21. 4 out of 5

    Tim Jefferis

  22. 4 out of 5

    CRaig

  23. 5 out of 5

    Susanna Polakov

  24. 4 out of 5

    Paul

  25. 5 out of 5

    Suzie

  26. 4 out of 5

    Violet-Finn

  27. 5 out of 5

    Siobhan

  28. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Calder

  29. 4 out of 5

    Lucy

  30. 5 out of 5

    Adam O'Dolan

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