Flip the System UK: A Teachers' Manifesto

Lucy Rycroft-Smith + JL Dutaut (editors)

Routledge 2018
A book review by Danny Yee © 2019 https://dannyreviews.com/
The thirty-seven short pieces in Flip the System UK are written for — and largely by — teachers, and to some extent assume teaching experience as context, but they also offer outsiders insights into the concerns of the profession. Most of us interact with the education system as students or as parents, which leads to an emphasis on pedagogy, the curriculum, behaviour management and so forth. Flip the System touches on these, but its focus is on aspects of teaching that are less visible to the public, on teacher agency and autonomy, professional development, collective action, the incorporation of research findings into classroom practice, and so forth.

The pieces are grouped into five parts around the notion of agency. Those in "Cognitive Agency" address topics such as professional autonomy, performance monitoring, and internal accountability. "Collective Agency" has pieces on unions, the Chartered College of Teaching, networks of schools and teachers, and aspects of professional development more generally. In "Ethical Agency" pieces look at the problems teachers have facing continual change, attempting to ameliorate harmful practices mandated from above, fighting for inclusivity, and maintaining wellbeing and avoiding burnout. "Political Agency" considers topics in education policy and governance, organisation across schools, and links with universities in teacher training. And the "Global Agency" pieces consider the influence of PISA rankings and global teaching networks such as EduTwitter, and offer perspectives from Australia and Sweden and refugee camps.

There are recurring themes cross-cutting this structure: how to use variable quality research, the problems with and dangers of metrics, the unavoidability of politics, and so forth. But there's no hiding that Flip the System as a whole is a fairly random miscellany, with pieces that are too short to do more than touch on their topics. On the plus side they are easy to read and, though semi-academic in tone, largely free from either theory or jargon. If you want to know about any particular aspect of teaching, there have to be more focused books. If, like me, you want a feel for the range of concerns teachers have, then this kind of impressionist scattershot actually works reasonably well.

Note: there are similar International and Australian Flip the System books.

February 2019

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%T Flip the System UK
%S A Teachers' Manifesto
%E Rycroft-Smith, Lucy
%E Dutaut, JL
%I Routledge
%D 2018
%O paperback, index
%G ISBN-13 9781138214804
%P 261pp