Place learning at the heart of the prison experience

In his latest Top of the Class blog, Tony Breslin turns his attention to prison education, or rather – in too many settings - the lack of it. Noting the prevalence of low levels of literacy and numeracy across the prison population, he calls for a statutory entitlement to education and/or training for all but those serving the shortest sentences and for a pilot project to model how this might work.

Recast vocational and technical learning as professional education

In his third Top of the Class blog, Tony Breslin calls for a complete rethink about the purpose and focus of so-called vocational and technical education and suggests that it is recast as ‘professional’ learning, a suite of qualifications and curricula that all young people can aspire to, rather than one that some fall onto as a result of academic failure.

Smooth the transition from secondary to further education

In his second blog for the Top of the Class series, Tony Breslin calls for a smoother transition from pre-16 to post-16 learning and greater collaboration between schools, colleges and training providers, such that young people and their families are much better prepared to make informed choices about how their studies progress beyond GCSE.

Rebalance the relationship between inclusion and attainment

In this opening Top of the Class blog, Tony Breslin argues for a rebalancing of education policy and practice, away from a narrow focus on score and grade driven ‘attainment-first’ practice, which increasingly serves only the ‘already successful’, to an ‘inclusion-first’ focus which recognises the importance of meeting the needs of all learners.

Top of the class: educational priorities for a progressive government

Tony Breslin announces the launch of a new series of election year blog posts from Transform Education, Breslin Public Policy and our partner organisations

Why building the capacity for lifelong learning can’t wait until school’s over!

In this latest in his series of Lockdown Blogs, Tony Breslin outlines how a culture of lifelong learning needs to be developed during the school years, and how such a responsibility, post-virus, could be transformative, both for schools and for relationships between professionals in the compulsory and post-compulsory phases.

Catch-up, recovery and the ‘water-cooler moments of childhood’

In this blog for Young Citizens, Tony Breslin argues that, in the rush to address curriculum catch-up, we forget to address the social and developmental losses of lockdown or, as he puts it. the 'water-cooler' moments of childhood: how does a six year old catch-up on a year of missed playdates, or how does a fourteen year old replace twelve months of corridor jostling and school yard banter?

Schooling beyond lockdown

In this blog, originally commissioned by publisher Routledge, Tony Breslin, the author of new book, Lessons From Lockdown: the educational legacy of COVID-19, considers the emergent challenges that COVID-19 presents for curricular catch-up and psychological recovery, and what these mean for schooling. The post includes a set of suggested action items for school leaders and their staff to consider and, more broadly, issues an invitation to all educational professionals to use the experience of lockdown to reflect on how we ‘do’ schooling.

Schooling the Pandemic

In this post, first published by the Fabian Education Policy Group, Fabian Society member and 'Lessons from Lockdown' author Tony Breslin assesses the impact of the pandemic and the need for a fresh approach – not just to educational policy but to how such policy is made.

Catch-up, recovery and the future of schooling

With schools 'closed' and the majority of children and young people learning online from home, in this blog, first published by the RSA, Tony Breslin argues that many of the challenges facing the UK’s education systems have been highlighted and exacerbated by Covid-19 but precede the pandemic. The challenge now is to build coalitions that learn from lockdown.

Lessons from Lockdown: key challenges in supporting the needs of able learners

In this blog, first posted on the NACE (National Association for Able Children in Education) webite, Tony Breslin outlines three of the key headlines emerging from his new book, 'Lessons from Lockdown: the Educational Legacy of COVID-19', and explores the implications for able children and those working with them.

Schools as the creators of lifelong, life wide learners

I recently participated, as a panelist, in a webinar convened by the Workers' Educational Association as part of the Festival of Learning. This post sets out the twelve observations that I offered on the task facing schools if we are to create a nation of lifelong and life wide learners.

Capturing the lessons of lockdown

In this second post originally written for the Freedom To Teach site from Collins Educational, I draw on a core theme in my book, Lessons From Lockdown: the educational legacy of COVID-19, to argue that high quality educational research, including a major longitudinal study - or a suite of such studies - has to be part of the response of educationalists and researchers to the pandemic, especially if we are to capture the rich detail and the differently nuanced ways in which the pandemic has been experienced by pupils, parents and professionals.

Classrooms, boardrooms and staffrooms

For nine years, between 2001 and 2010, I had the privilege to lead the Citizenship Foundation, one of the pre-eminent voices in the movement to establish Citizenship Education in the National Curriculum in English schools. The Foundation was one of several founding partners who together established the Association for Citizenship Teaching (ACT), the membership body for those who continue to deliver this key, but too often ignored, curriculum entitlement. In this article in the ACT journal, Teaching Citizenship, I explore the key role that Citizenship educators, and others across the wider social curriculum, need to play if we are to effectively renew our schooling system in light of the pandemic: Classrooms, Boardrooms and Staffrooms: post pandemic landscapes for citizenship education and citizenship educators

Education beyond the pandemic

In this new blog, first published by Collins Educational on their excellent Freedom To Teach site, I draw on some of the thinking in my new book, Lessons From Lockdown: the educational legacy of COVID-19, published in January 2021. In particular, I call call for a rebalancing of our schooling system, such that building inclusion and widening participation are core objectives, not after thoughts to be 'left til later' in the relentless dash for grades.

One step forward, two steps back? Why the end of hybrid voting is a loss for Westminster

We're thrilled to publish this Transform Politics launch blog from SNP Member of Parliament Owen Thompson who - in a piece adapted from a column published by Scottish online newspaper Midlothian View - reflects on the UK Parliament's brief and Covid-19 driven adoption of online voting, suggesting its early abandonment may be a retrograde step, as media pictures of members queueing to vote in barely spaced lines would seem to endorse.

Leading like never before: power relationships, post-lockdown

In this Transform Organisations launch blog, management consultant, author and social commentator Nyla Naseer explores the way in which the experience of lockdown is likely to leave an indelible imprint on many of our organisations, especially with regard to the power relations within workplaces; wherever an individual sits on the organisational map, this is likely to mean a re-casting of roles, responsibilities and relationships, a recasting that we would be wise to start preparing for now.

Impetus: the times are a-changing, but will they change us?

In this Transform Communities launch blog, social entrepreneur Michelle Lawrence - founding Director at Link Up UK, and co-founder of the Cohesion and Integration Network, Belong - explores the importance of 'impetus' in creating the conditions in which community divisions can be overcome. Having worked in the field of cohesion for many years, Michelle has witnessed the role that impetus can play in challenging ideas about the 'other' and asks whether the Covid-19 pandemic has provided an impetus around which we can all unite.

Should I stay or should I go?

In this Transform Education launch blog, Tony Breslin explores the vexed question of 're-opening' schools as lockdown is eased, against a backdrop in which "you can't switch on and switch off fear like a tap", be that the fear of parents, pupils or teachers. At the time of posting, policymakers are still seeking a partial opening of schools from June 1st. By the time you read this, the reality may have changed!

Time for educational researchers to take their place in the sun?

In his fourth Caronavirus blog, originally published by the British Educational Research Association, BERA member and independent researcher Tony Breslin argues that we must use educational research to capture and curate the lessons of lockdown, if we are to build the educational system that we will need, post-COVID-19.

Lessons from Lockdown: education beyond Covid-19

In this extended essay, originally commissioned by the RSA and published on Medium, Tony Breslin argues that the system-shock delivered by COVID-19 must be seized as a driver of educational change. The essay forms part of a series of events, long reads and podcasts in the 'Building Bridges to the Future' series. Together, they explore how society’s response to the Covid-19 crisis could prefigure a better world.

Governance during lockdown: can we go governance-light without going governance-free?

In the second of his COVID-19 Blogs, Tony Breslin explores the nature of school governance during the lockdown and poses the question "Can we go Governance-light without going Governance-free?" He also speculates on how governance, and schooling itself, might change as a result of the virus, and calls on governors to play their part in these changes.

COVID-19: Why our schools will never be the same again

In his first blog on the social impact of COVID-19, Tony Breslin argues that the impact on our schools will be long-term and wide-reaching, and that, terrible as the virus is, it might just force us to rethink the way that we 'do' schooling, and the rationale for a range of approaches to education that we have long taken for granted.

Working from Home – a timely introduction to the new normal!

In this brilliant and timely piece from a former colleague and great friend, Michael Grimes, we get an insight into the reality of the life of a home-worker, a reality that COVID-19 is forcing upon far more of us.

The high street’s death came early to disadvantaged communities

In a letter published in The Guardian Tony Breslin reflects on how current concerns over the death of the High Street have come too late for many of our poorest areas, including Harlesden in North West London where he witnessed the exit of several major retailers in the 1980s.

We need to extend governance literacy beyond the boardroom if we want to build diversity within it.

In a feature article for the February 2019 issue ICSA journal, Governance and Compliance, Tony Breslin and Cosette Reczek outline the thinking behind their plans for an all-sector Better Governance Commission.

Kenneth Baker’s lost clause?

In his debut article for FE Week, Tony Breslin outlines his reservations about the so-called Baker Clause, which obliges secondary schools to ensure that students are aware of opportunities beyond the school gates and the sixth form common room, arguing that collaboration must be better than regulation in the longer term.

Governance beyond Silos

Tony Breslin and Cosette Reczek extend their appeal for participation in an all-sector Better Governance Commission to the voluntary and community sector through a paper in the January 2019 edition of Governance and Leadership.

Sober Breslin raises £10,000 for Macmillan in five years

Tony Breslin has thanked his many sponsors after completing his fifth successive Go Sober for October for Macmillan Cancer Support, raising £2,003.50 (plus Gift Aid) this year, and a total of approximately £10,000 (including Gift Aid) over the past five years.

The Broken Promise of Autonomy

Tony Breslin's debut piece in Schools Week explores the changing nature of school-based headship in multi-school settings and ponders whether the emergence of Trusts and Federations amounts to 'a broken promise of autonomy' for school-based leaders.

Breslin Social Impact links up with Permuto Consulting to launch new Transform Governance web presence

As work towards the establishment of an all-sector Better Governance Commission ramps up, Breslin Social Impact and Permuto Consulting have teamed up to complement the recently established Transform Governance twitter page @BetterGovCom, which already has close to 200 followers, with a new dedicated web presence, accessible from the websites of both consultancies, at

Breslin launches Transform Governance twitter page @BetterGovCom

New dedicated transformgovernance space debuts on Twitter.

Sober for October

Breslin supports Go Sober for October for Macmillan Cancer Support for 5th successive year.

Improving School Improvement

Breslin launches new school improvement project with Local Government Association.

New Modern Governor Module on Strategic Leadership written by Tony Breslin

Modern Governor publishes new module on the strategic role of governing boards, written by Tony Breslin.

R29 Campaign

R29 Campaign gathers all-sector momentum, as Tony Breslin and Cosette Reczek publish paper in Governance

Breslin to headline ICSA Academies Conference

Tony Breslin to give keynote at ICSA Academy Governance Conference.

Why putting inclusion first doesn’t mean putting attainment second

Today the TES published my article on meeting the needs of children who have experienced trauma.

Breslin Public Policy launches the #R29 campaign

Today at Parliament, working in partnership with Ann Reeder at Frontline Consulting, Su Turner at Shaping Governance, and the Non-Executive Academy - which represents NEDs in the publicly funded sector – Breslin Public Policy launched the #R29 campaign, at what is to be the first of several roundtable discussions on the initiative

Beyond the report: the Modern Governor Blogs

Ian Usher, editor at Modern Governor has been fantastically supportive in recent months, publishing a series of blogs arising from my recently published RSA report, Who Governs Our Schools? Trends, Tensions and Opportunities

Who Governs Our Schools? Trends Tensions and Opportunities

Today we launched my RSA published report Who Governs Our Schools? Trends Tensions and Opportunities at the National Governance Association.

Subject Hierarchies and the Purpose of Learning – Time to press re-set?

I'm very grateful to Gerry Czerniawski and the team at the British Educational Research Association for publishing my first BERA Blog, in which I explore just how conservative, backward looking and hierarchical the upper secondary curriculum is becoming.

Breslin calls for “National Centre for the Study of the Social Curriculum”

As a former CEO at the Citizenship Foundation and past Chair of the Association for the Teaching of the Social Sciences, Tony Breslin has called for a complete rethink of the wider social curriculum and a restating of its importance as being central to the purpose of a rounded education.

A Place for Learning: towards a new localism in education and learning?

New Breslin report sets out how learning, citizenship and community development must sit hand-in-hand if we are to build a culture of lifelong, life-wide learning in our neighbourhoods, communities and cities.

TES publishes Breslin letter on the need to keep governance local

Letter to the Times Educational Supplement on the future of school governance.

Governance in the Academies Age: a loss of power, participation and autonomy?

What do the rapid changes in our education landscape mean for governance? Tony Breslin RSA Associate explores.

Memo to Justine Greening

Any education system that sees vocational activity as second class is second class itself

Lifelong learning

In this article for the latest edition of the prestigious RSA Journal, Tony Breslin, an RSA Fellow and Associate, outlines the kind of philosophy that is informing the approach that he is taking to a new paper on lifelong learning which will form part of the RSA Power to Create series.

Use Your Vote supports calls for automatic voter registration

As the EU referendum looms, Breslin Public Policy's recently launched Use Your Vote campaign joins the growing support for automatic voter registration which is being led in Scotland by SNP MP Owen Thompson, with the support of online news board Midlothian View, established and edited by Use Your Vote Scotland Director Phil Bowen, proprietor of Pigeon Penguin, web partners for both the campaign and Breslin Public Policy.

Governance in the Academies age: a less or more localised future?

This is the first of the blogs to emerge from Governance in the Academies Age: issues, opportunities and challenges, the scoping study on the prospects for school governance in light of the recent White Paper, which Tony Breslin is leading for the RSA. Readers might be interested in the Governance Summit that will inform the study's final support being held at the RSA in London on the afternoon of June 21st.

Use Your Vote: together, we can make apathy history

Tony Breslin explains the background and purpose of

Prepare for success with our new series of secondary transition guides

After BERA success, Breslin and Cambridge University Press combine to produce new guides for students, parents and teachers

Why Jeremy Corbyn might be good for politics, whatever the consequences for Labour

In an article, in the New Statesman Tony Breslin discusses the effect Jeremy Corbyn will have on politics.

Kids Company: a tale of what happens when charismatic leadership meets weak governance?

Whatever the actual story of the failure of children's charity, Kids Company, the truth is likely to be much more complex than the media fixation with the apparent failings of its erstwhile leader, Camila Batmanghelidjh.

Time for a new approach to education, a long-promised ‘great debate’ on education and a focus on educational purpose?

An edited version of my piece on Labour's failure to offer a coherent narrative on education at Election 2015 has just been published on the website of Progress, the progressive think tank aligned to the Labour Party but not part of it.

So, what is great leadership?

Some thoughts inspired by the Windsor Leadership Trust. I've just responded to an e-mail from the Windsor Leadership Trust who are marking their 20th anniversary by compiling a series of essays and shorter pieces on leadership to be published later this year.

So, where did it all go wrong?

It is almost a year since I've posted on the Breslin Public Policy blog, but with the election behind us, the business about to be relaunched and my adventure as Labour's candidate in Hemel Hempstead complete, if ultimately unsuccessful, I thought that I'd share my thoughts on the campaign, as published on the New Statesman website yesterday.

Ofsted herald new focus on “the curriculum, SMSC and governance” and “preparing pupils for life in modern Britain”

A note about the soon-to-be-published inspection framework -has just been circulated to inspectors who have been told to expect summer training in anticipation of a September launch.

Tackling the rise of the “SPAD-ocracy”

Letter from Tony Breslin published in The Guardian on Monday 23rd June 2014

Sport in schools: levelling the playing field

Another day, another set of unfavourable comparisons between the state and independent sector, but if ever there was a playing field that needs to be levelled, it is the sports pitch. During London 2012 I had the privilege of working on the Get Set education project, a multi-faceted programme developed by Nick Fuller and his [...]

From ‘Trojan Horse’ to ‘Great Debate’: time to decide what we want from our education system?

There is an inevitability about the Trojan Horse tale that ought to act as a warning to all involved in education reform, especially those promoters of freedom who wish to release schools and their governing bodies from an onerous state, casting them free to flourish in the ‘big society’. Let’s just look at the sequence [...]

Why UKIP might have done us all a favour

None of the main parties can be complacent about UKIP’s support in this week’s local and European elections and none should presume it will simply disappear. This is about much more than migration or Europe; UKIP are the lightening conductor for a public mood that sees nothing for it in a disconnected, professionalised politics staffed by the [...]

Research and the Teaching Profession: important new report launches today

Today marks the launch of the Final Report of the British Educational Research Association (BERA) and Royal Society of Arts (RSA) inquiry into the the role of research in teachers’ initial and continuing education. The report, Research and the Teaching Profession: building the capacity for a self-improving education system, which I was asked to draft for the Inquiry’s [...]

Schools with Soul: time to give SMSC its proper place at the heart of the school improvement and transformation agenda?

Although attending to the “Social, Moral, Spiritual and Cultural” development of the pupils and students in their care has been a statutory responsibility for primary and secondary schools since 1944, what counts as ‘SMSC’ has had, as the Citizenship Education expert Ted Huddleston has noted, various iterations over the years.  At different points the initials [...]

High grades or the whole child: a false choice

The responses to both the PISA statistics and the Chief Inspector’s report are depressingly familiar, with those who believe that more assessment will drive up achievement (usually on the policymaker side of the fence) cast against those (usually on the practitioner side) who claim our children are over-assessed and over-tested. This false divide has pervaded [...]

Citizenship, a lost bag and an act of kindness: a good news story

It’s never been the stuff of this blog to go ‘personal’ but I must relate this story of human kindness, honesty and optimism. Just in case you’ve put down the newspaper or turned away from the rolling news with its tales of dishonesty, dishonour and the rest – a world where nobody can be trusted, [...]

Child poverty: what do young people have to say about it?

Breslin Public Policy release new paper on child poverty We are pleased to announce the publication of our new paper, A Series of Doors: young people talking about the experience of poverty, based on work originally undertaken for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, as part of their response to the government consultation on child [...]

Ed Miliband and the re-building of trust in politics

Today’s speech by Ed Miliband is powerful stuff and an honest, appropriate response to Falkirk but this is not just about ‘Labour and the Unions’. Below I share more of my personal experience than is usual on this ‘company’ blog – experience of Labour’s Parliamentary selection process itself. I’ve framed it as an ‘open letter [...]

Apprenticeships and Vocational Education programmes: destinations of choice for middle class learners?

Monday was the start of National Apprenticeship Week and, courtesy of an invitation from Fred Grindrod of the the TUC’s UnionLearn team, I spent the morning at their Annual Apprenticeship Conference.  As the son of a skilled manual worker – my father was a fitter and turner in the factories of North and West London – [...]

Annual GCSE results debate misses the point: passes matter when we’re clear on purpose

Without the annual GCSE and A level results season, bad weather and an off-message Prince, what would the press report in August? It is depressing, though, that while (until last August, at least) the results have improved year-on-year, the media and political treatment of this story has not. Let’s start with a bit of context: [...]

Beyond the Bradford Spring: lobbying, party-funding, trust and transforming our politics

The debates on Newsnight this evening about the Bradford West by-election and the role of lobbyists in our democracy, and the related and long-standing concerns about ‘cash for access’ and party funding serve only to underline the obsolescence of how we currently ‘do’ politics. How did we get here? It seems to me that several [...]

Stephen Twigg MP, Professor Geoff Whitty CBE and Children’s Commissioner Maggie Atkinson in sparkling form at the launch of Transform Education

Thanks to the masses who packed into the Thatcher Room at Portcullis House, Westminster last night to celebrate the launch of Breslin’s Transform Education project ( and who heard Stephen Twigg, Geoff Whitty and Maggie Atkinson in sparking form – we’ve thrown some of their comments out through Twitter (@UKpolicywatch) but these soundbites can’t hope [...]

Stephen Twigg MP, Professor Geoff Whitty CBE and Children’s Commissioner Maggie Atkinson to speak at the launch of Transform Education

We are pleased to announce that Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Stephen Twigg MP, Professor Geoff Whitty of the University of Bath School of Management (and formerly Director at the University of London Institute of Education) and Children’s Commissioner Maggie Atkinson are to speak at the launch of Transform Education on the evening of [...]

Breslin Public Policy Launch: many thanks to all!

Many, many thanks to all of you who helped us to celebrate the launch of Breslin Public Policy last night – really, really appreciated and a fantastic evening with lots of bustling and productive conversation. It was great to bring so many people together, drawn from across the fields of policy and practice. Connecting these [...]

What shall we do about vocational education?

Education policy is full of contradictions and mixed messages and today’s announcement on the declassification of vocational qualifications, in terms of their status in school league tables, is a case in point. For the past 35 years – since James Callaghan’s acclaimed Ruskin College speech calling for a great debate on what we want from [...]

Citizenship Education and the National Curriculum Review: a disappointment or a chink of light?

Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education has dispatched an interesting Christmas card to all interested in the next iteration of the National Curriculum, the first report from the National Curriculum Review Expert Panel. Conspiracy theorists will note that their report has arrived just after most schools have closed for Christmas but this is [...]

Examinations: let’s take this as a wake-up call rather than an excuse to indulge in ‘moral panic’

Today’s Daily Telegraph ‘splash’ on the examination system raises important questions about the place of testing in our education system, the wisdom of arranging the major awarding bodies into what amounts to a price-setting oligopoly and, of course, the integrity of the examinations themselves. But, fuelled by the words of a small number of senior [...]

We need to distinguish between illicit access, professional lobbying and legitimate campaigning

There seems to be some muddled thinking out there in the aftermath of the Adam Werritty and Bell Pottinger affairs and the reported (and sometimes filmed) endeavours of former ministers to open up the gates of power, if others (those seeking illicit access to the influential) will open their cheque books. It seems to me [...]

Citizenship tests for newcomers may miss the mark but Citizenship Education for all is vital

Last week, on Tuesday 29th September, I had a letter published in The Times – a response to a thoughtful column from Libby Purves, published the previous day, in which she criticised the questions, style and focus in the tests sat by newcomers (and sometimes not-so-newcomers) to the UK who are seeking British Citizenship. The [...]

Let’s not go from austerity in the economy to austerity in the curriculum: art for all our sakes

When the economic climate is tough, it is normal for the pendulum to swing towards a concern for the basics, not least in the field of education. The spirit is of ‘lock-down’ not luxury and in educational terms that tends to translate into a focus on standards, especially in terms of literacy and numeracy, a [...]

Breslin publishes new post on social networking on the Independent’s blog

Following my recent participation at the Battle of Ideas, the annual festival of debate organised by the Institute of Ideas, as a panelist in a discussion about the impact of social networking on community life, I’ve posted an article on the Independent’s blog

United for Change Twitter debate ‘think-piece’: public or private? citizen or consumer?

A few weeks ago I was invited to submit a think-piece for United for Change’s first Twitter debate. It was also the first such debate that I had taken part in. I’m not convinced by Twitter as a debating platform – you can shout out in 140 characters and you can even listen in the [...]

Lessons From Lockdown
In this incisive and timely piece of research and analysis Tony Breslin makes a powerful case for us to use the experience of crisis to pursue reform
Matthew Taylor
Chief Executive, Royal Society of Arts