Simplify, then add lightness

The title of this week’s blog is taken from Colin Chapman, legendary founder of Lotus Cars. He famously articulated a design philosophy at odds with the prevailing wisdom of the time - rather than adding more power to make his cars faster on the track, he concentrated on what he could take away.

Robin Shakespeare, Director of Education at The Midland Academies Trust

The same philosophy, if in a very different sector, drives what we do at The Midland Academies Trust.

Over the last few years we have systematically evaluated every aspect of our business against the idea of ‘accelerating progress and reducing workload’.

We want it to be easy for our staff to teach great lessons. And to achieve this we believe that teachers need to be freed of unnecessary workload which does not achieve this aim.

Our staff don’t spend time on low-value ‘tick and flick’ marking – instead we ask them to review and reflect on the impact of their teaching and provide whole-class feedback based on identified gaps in learning. 

We ask our senior leaders to lead on ensuring conditions for learning are in place so that our staff can teach without interruption. We place a premium on maximising the value of learning time and teacher expertise.

That’s why our curriculum has been comprehensively re-written and resourced from the ground up by our teachers, and why we have built strong subject communities across our Trust. Our teachers work in close collaboration, not duplicating effort in silos.

It’s taken time and energy to achieve - simplicity is less easy than it sounds - but the benefits of our lightweight model have never been clearer than in the twisting course of a global pandemic. As Colin Chapman also said, adding power only makes you fast in a straight line, adding lightness makes you fast everywhere.

Our Trust commitments to all staff

  1.  Our students have clear classroom routines so no time is wasted
  2.  Our teachers give whole class feedback, not individualised marking
  3.  Our middle leaders focus on student learning, not data input
  4.  Our senior leaders manage student conduct on behalf of our staff
  5.  Our faculties plan and work together on shared approaches
  6.  Our five year curriculum is highly ambitious and knowledge-led
  7.  Our staff are valued as professional experts in their field
  8.  Our Trust sets time for collaboration and learning from experts
  9.  Our annual calendar of meetings and events are released before the start of the academic year
  10.  Our five year, knowledge-rich curriculum features common examination boards across all schools