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on 5 December 2012
If you have the slightest interest in the UK education system - and that should be everyone who cares about the future prosperity of this country and its people - then this book is a must-read.

For anyone who has heard Andrew Adonis speak, it is obvious the passion he brings to bear on "big problems" he cares about, whether it be transport, education, or even democracy itself (e.g. [...]). He's a perfect example of a Peer with a pulse and because of this, as a previous reviewer noted, the first half of the book is a 'cracking read'.

Not everyone will agree with the viability of all his manifesto points in the second half of the book - though how boring would that be?! I certainly didn't, but every suggestion is well argued, and the reader will often find themselves persuaded.

The author is sometimes painted as having a one-dimensional, academies-are-the-answer-to-everything point of view, but in fairness to Adonis, he does devote page space to the barriers to, and limitations of, the model. Maybe a bit more of this would improve the book, but for me it's still a solid 5-stars even before getting to: Chapter 12 - How to be a Reformer.

If you are trying to put your own small, in the late Steve Jobs' words, "dent in the Universe", then this chapter alone is worth the price of admission regardless of your field of endeavour.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 3 April 2015
This is a fascinating account of the development and implementation of the academies programme across schools. Andrew (later Lord) conceived the programme as a response to his own experiences as a child growing up in relative poverty, and under the care and maintenance of the London Borough of Camden. Clearly immensely talented, Adonis experienced both ends of the spectrum when it came to his own education, suffering for a while at an utterly inadequate school where bullies ran rife and the teachers had lost the will, energy and even the basic engagement to intervene. At his next school, however, he found himself being taught be a selection of excellent, engaged and engaging teachers, and he thrived to the extent that he landed a place at Oxford University, where he subsequently became a lecturer.

From there he progressed, through various intermediary roles, to being one of Tony Blair's advisers at No. 10, where he started putting together his plan for the roll out of academies. Independent state-funded schools with external sponsorship, and a governance structure that left them free from intervention by the local authority. The book details how he gradually came to persuade a succession of Secretaries of State in the Education Department (and there have been a fair few of them: I have worked in the department for fourteen years and have seen eight of them come and go!) to embark upon the programme, though he was encumbered by his position as an éminence grise which limited his capacity for hand on engagement. As a succession of Secretaries of State wove their temporary way through Sanctuary Buildings, the Department's headquarters under the shadow of Westminster Abbey, he became increasingly frustrated as none of them showed the same zeal as him for promoting academies. David Blunkett, Estelle Morris, Charles Clarke and Ruth Kelly all came and went without ever being galvanised into academisation! But then Alan Johnson was appointed, and he seemed to understand the idea immediately. There had, however, been a new development. Adonis was no longer working from the No. 10 bunker. Following his third general election victory in 2005 Tony Blair elevated Adonis to the House of Lords and made him Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Schools. This gave him the opening to accelerate the programme, and he seized it with alacrity. The book tells of how the programme grew from strength to strength with numbers of opened academies leaping forward exponentially.

One of the great strengths of Lord Adonis that becomes apparent from this book is his urge to make things better rather than to score political points. Having always been known as a 'Blairite' he worried about the impact for the programme of Gordon Brown's elevation to Prime Minister following Blair's resignation in June 2007, and the consequential appointment of Ed Balls, Brownite extraordinaire, to the position of Secretary of State. He was, however, able to convince Brown of the value of the programme in a single meeting, and thereafter, for the rest of that administration, funding flowed into academies as never before.

A greater test of the merit of the programme was to ensue in 2010 following the formation of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition Government. Ed Balls was succeeded as Secretary of State for Education by Michael Gove, who proved to be as ardent an advocate of the academy programme as Lord Adonis himself. The programme has continued to expand throughout the whole of that administration, and now more than half of state-funded secondary schools in England are academies. As a true bipartisan pragmatic politician Adonis is very even-handed in his treatment of the Conservatives' education policy and their programme of extensive curriculum and qualification reform. He doesn't agree with everything that the Coalition Government has done, but he doesn't score points simply for the sake of it.

The book is fascinating. He writes very clearly and avoids jargon. There is no political axe to grind. Adonis emerges from these pages as a latter-day Renaissance Man, who looked back to his own challenging experiences and simply wanted to make things better.
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on 20 November 2012
Passionate, clearly written case for the academy revolution. It remains to be seen if the most recently converted academies produce better results than maintained schools. Evidence is not yet clear.
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on 4 September 2013
Not the easiest book to read as the subject matter can be very dry, but the background behind the development of the Academies and how they have developed is very interesting and useful background reading for anyone who is involved in an Academy. There are a lot of opinions expressed in the book, and these need to be taken in a political context, but the passion for Education comes through and gives me hope that there is some improvement coming through for our young people. The information about education systems in other countries was also enlightening.
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on 1 August 2014
Despite the rather off-putting title, which is from Blair's famous speech, this book is very readable and offers a great insight into the reasoning behind the reforms. It offers an honest account of the ups and downs of the reforms, though obviously does try to paint the best possible picture. Despite not being a great fan of the reforms, I enjoyed this book very much. It is great for trainee and established teachers alike. Or even for politicians to read, they could possibly learn a lot from previous mistakes.
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on 22 December 2015
Lord Adonis writes a truly excellent book that tells the fascinating story of the British education scene over the last twenty years. His personal drive and belief in the power of effective governance which underpins the academy system is inspiring and it is exciting to track the impact that this has had over the last fifteen years.

Fully recommended.
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on 17 April 2014
I read this as research for my dissertation and I was pleasantly suprised at how easy to read it was. Wasn't what I was expecting at all. Obviously have to keep in mind the bias but I genuinely felt it was a fascinating look at the Academies policy from the creator, to compare it to the current system in place now. Really interesting read.
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on 16 June 2013
My daughter worked for Andrew Adonis an thoroughly respected his intellect and the fact that he is a really nice man. Although I probably disagree somewhat with the ideology of comprehensive education Lord Adonis is coming from a very genuine viewpoint and beliefs.
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on 16 June 2013
I have worked in an Academy for the last five years. I wish I had read this book earlier. I have direct experience of many of the points made here. It is so nice to here someone else talk about this. Really pleased I read this book.
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on 13 April 2015
This text gives a very account of policy issues and a good insight education reform in English schools. Highly recommended.

Trevor Dunn (Cambridge)
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