What is an innovative school?

This week, Stuart and I were up in Knowsley, outside of Liverpool, hosting the UK's first "Innovative Schools" conference. What does this mean, exactly? Microsoft has a global Innovative Schools programme, where we selected 12 schools from all around the world to work with us for two years as they started down a path toward transforming the learning experience for their students. We're lucky enough to have one of the 12 Innovative Schools in the UK - Bowring Community Sports College, in Knowsley (hence the reason for the venue). We invited head teachers, deputy head teachers and leadership from local authorities all over the UK to join us in starting a community to share learnings, ideas and inspiration as they work to change and improve their schools.

Let me see if I can make this relevant to you.

I used to run the Innovative Schools Programme for Microsoft when I was in the US, so I had a hand in selecting these schools and developing the worldwide programme. Given that we had schools from a wide variety of places - Chile, Qatar, Hong Kong, England, Finland, and so forth, one would think that the schools' visions for change and ideas about how to change would be quite different.

They were, for the most part. Yet every school - the tiny private school in Brazil, the large conglomeration of schools in Toronto, and the primary school in France - had one issue at the top of their list of problems.

How do you bring the teachers along on this journey, so that they feel that they are active contributors to and willing participants in the changes that are occurring within the school?

Every head teacher from the 12 innovative schools asked this question. We've discussed this quite a bit over the last two years of the programme, and we discussed it with the representatives of schools and local authorities attending the even in Knowsley today.

I know many of you have firsthand experience with this kind of thing right now, as many of your schools are going through BSF, or becoming academies or making changes to your curriculum. So you tell us - what is working? What isn't working? Do you feel like you are a part of the changes that are occurring at your schools, or do you feel like changes are being forced upon you?

Feel free to give us ideas or suggestions - or just vent your frustrations - in the comments for this post.

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