Nick Gibb: Good manners and ‘no excuses’ discipline is the recipe for successful schools

Schools should adopt a “no excuses” culture based on strong academic standards, a tough stance on discipline and an emphasis on good manners, Nick Gibb said today.

The schools mininster pointed to the likes of the Michaela Free School in North London, which has introduced a “family-style lunch” where children learn how to socialise over a meal and serve food to one another, providing them with the “character traits needed to succeed in life”.

And he urged other schools to follow suit by using the freedoms made available by the government to “improve academic standards and behaviour”.

“At root, it is not autonomy that really matters, it is what autonomy allows you to do differently that counts,” he said. “The real genius of school autonomy is that when one thousand flowers bloom, we are able, given time, to see which flowers bloom brightest. Current research points in the same direction – it is the traditional, academic, disciplined, ‘no excuses’ approach to education that will truly allow pupils to fulfil their potential.”

Mr Gibb was speaking at the Freedom and Autonomy for Schools National Association autumn conference in London, where he said schools were in danger of “losing sight” of the value of school autonomy.

“The fundamental premise for school autonomy has always been that the current mode of education, the orthodoxy that governs how schools are run and how lessons are taught has not been good enough,” he said. “For decades, too many English schools had been tarrying in mediocrity. The only way to challenge such schools is innovation through autonomy.”

And Mr Gibb called on academy chains to use their freedoms to adopt a “clear vision and a distinct model of teaching”.

He added: “I would encourage all new academy chains not to see themselves only in terms of being effective administrators or competent managers. They should also be bound by a philosophical and pedagogical vision.”

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