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Creating Learning without Limits

Creating Learning without Limits book cover

by Mandy Swann, Alison Peacock, Susan Hart and Mary Jane Drummond Open University Press, 2012

• Publisher's catalogue
Contents and Chapter 1

Creating Learning without Limits builds on the first Learning without Limits study by exploring the wider opportunities for enhancing the learning capacity of every child that become possible when a whole staff group works together to create an environment free from the limiting effects of ability labels and practices.

Drawing on compelling accounts of everyday life in a Hertfordshire primary school, the book describes how, in just a few years, the school (once in special measures) grew into a thriving community, with distinctive views of learning, curriculum and pedagogy, monitoring and accountability, that found expression in every aspect of school life.


Readers' responses

“This will undoubtedly turn out to be amongst the most important educational books of the decade. Our capacity to respond, both individually and collectively, to its key insights and messages will profoundly affect not just the quality of our schools, but of our society for years to come. Engagingly and eloquently written, it exposes the intellectual bankruptcy and human destructiveness of widely held concepts of ‘ability’ and offers a richly textured, practical account of how one school moved from ‘failure’ to OfSTED ‘outstanding’ by committing itself to the practicability of a morally inspiring, educationally convincing alternative. If you want to know why ‘the standards agenda’ must inevitably fail and what we might do instead, read this book.”
            Professor Michael Fielding, Institute of Education, University of London, UK

“This is an inspiring and reviving book. It reminds us why people come into education - to make a difference for children. To make a deep difference we have to organize education differently. It describes a school that vibrates with learning in an atmosphere of deep humanity and care. Its practices are light years away from the measuring, labelling, targeting, and testing structures that have become our recent national norm. The school as a whole community transforms people.”
           Anne Watson, Professor of Mathematics Education, University of Oxford, UK

“This book provides a grounded demonstration of the importance of educational principles, the most important of which is the understanding that each child’s potential for learning is limitless. The authors describe new school and classroom practices through which learning can be transformed. Their argument has influenced government thinking on the review of the National Curriculum in England. I urge you to let it infl uence your thinking too!”
            Professor Andrew Pollard, Institute of Education,  University of London, UK

“This is a brilliant study of a small and very successful primary school in Hertfordshire where the teachers have rejected ideas of fi xed innate ability and believe instead in the limitless potential of all young people. At a time when the Ofsted inspection process employs dubious and limited notions of ‘standards’ and ‘achievement’, it would be good to think that there could be many more schools like this one showing the way towards a new and liberating view of human development. The book deserves a really wide readership.”
            Professor Clyde Chitty, Institute of Education,    University of London, UK

“This book is slim in size but hefty in significance. It tells the story of a school driven by ambition, hope and the self-confi dence that comes from a profound faith in the capacity of every child to be a passionate and engaged learner. This in the face of powerful and societally dominant messages that explicitly or more insidiously tell a different and more deterministic tale: that children (and schools) are fit and proper subjects for classification, measurement and management. And there’s more - the careful scholarship on which this story is based prevents this book from being merely a description of what happens when a unique constellation of propitious circumstances meets a charismatic leader: this ‘other way’ is open to all who will take it - but it will demand the laying of solid and value-rich foundations, the exercising of autonomy for staff and pupils, the rethinking of relationships, a focus on learning (letting performance come as a secondary gift), and the taking of collective action. It’s become a cliché to say of a book that it ‘Should be read by every teacher (or parent, or whoever ...).’ This one, and its predecessor ‘Learning without Limits’’ merits that injunction.”
           Barry Hymer, Professor of Psychology in Education, University of Cumbria, UK

“Creating Learning without Limits provides a welcome tonic that can help to offset the beleaguering effects of a performativity and standards agenda that reinforces the ability based practices so pervasive in schools today. Building on the compelling pedagogy fi rst presented in ‘Learning without Limits’, this inspiring book shows how an alternative school improvement agenda can produce high academic attainment and enhanced capacity to learn for everybody. A classic for our time, it should be read by all who seek approaches to teaching and learning that are free from externally imposed views of ability and potential.”
           Professor Lani Florian, School of Education, University of Aberdeen, UK