Back in 2012, at the heart of London Olympics, Sir Dave Brailsford repeatedly told people of his belief in the marginal gains principle.
Speaking to the BBC, he said
“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of, that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together. There’s fitness and conditioning, of course, but there are other things that might seem on the periphery, like sleeping in the right position, having the same pillow when you are away and training in different places. They’re tiny things but if you clump them together it makes a big difference.”
Brailsford believed that if it were possible to make a 1% improvement in a whole host of areas, the cumulative gains would end up being hugely significant. This principle has guided and driven the cycling team to great heights and Brailsford’s own SKY racing team on to Tour De France Triumph.
This 1% model has been used repeatedly within business.
Shirley Mansfield – founder of CoachSME explains in her ultimate guide to marginal gains and the 1 principle…
“From cycling to education; car making to holidays, people are finding that 1% certainly makes a big difference. But why is it such an interesting strategy for business.
It simply means focusing on small changes to everything in the business; 1% at a time. There’s a time and a place for transformation change; a complete overhaul and a new way of doing everything but, its risky.
Concentrate on making many 1% improvements and you’ll find the compound effect is huge and you avoided a major upheaval.”
Surely this idea is old and being used over and over again now, but consider for a moment the impact this could have in education right now..
1% could be one pupil reading more in the week.
1% could be one student understanding how a certain question is written and answering it.
1% could be whole class learning the 9 times table.
1% could be the right GCSE choices for the right pupils!
We are not referring to results – although that is what schools are judged on.
We are referring to the small changes that could help in the long term.
This year, above all others, there is a greater need to look at where our pupils are and build a learning journey around them.
We need to never stop learning about our pupils.
We need to begin the journey where they are, rather than focus on where we would like them to be, and how to get them all to that same point as quickly as possible.
We need to understand them, get to know them once more and enable them to pick up their learning at a point that is right for them and continue working towards realising their true potential.
The 1% principal is based on the small changes that TOGETHER make a big change.
If you could tailor one small change for each pupil in your class or year group, what could that create over time?
“The whole principle came from the idea that if you broke down everything you could think of, that goes into riding a bike, and then improved it by 1%, you will get a significant increase when you put them all together.”Sir Dave Brailsford
Too often with school improvement, we look at the big goals.
We want to improve “literacy” or “reading” or outcomes for all our “Disadvantaged pupils”.
The same can be said for our classes – we want everything..
Don’t forget – you cannot eat an elephant in one go!
“If you’ve a big goal, then start by breaking it down into much smaller pieces.
Set smaller goals that can be easily achieved.
Achieve each small goal and the big goal happens.
You’ll have something to celebrate every week; momentum starts to build, and together with your enthusiasm, it builds into an unstoppable success machine.”Susan Mansfield – Ultimate Guide to Marginal Gains and the 1 principle
But we can go further..
We are referring to the little sparks for individual pupils that enable them to reach their potential.
We are looking at the 1% you can give to each individual child – that respect, that smile, that encouragement, that praise.
We are talking about personalised learning and a bespoke approach for that individual student based on evidence.
Sir Dave Brailsford did not just implement wholesale changes, he looked at his athletes.
“There are other things that might seem on the periphery, like sleeping in the right position, having the same pillow when you are away and training in different places.”Sir Dave Brailsford
He treated his athletes as humans.
We try to do this in school. It is the reason we make sure all students have the correct equipment and give them breakfast before exams.
But.. What else can we do to enable each pupil to work at their best?
What 1% can we put in place early to make the later impact?
Imagine if we could look at how students answer mock questions and tailor a curriculum that helps the areas they get wrong?
We gain the 1% by working for that pupil with detailed intervention.
Imagine if we could look at classes’ results and see that our teaching is letting us down for a certain type of mathematical principle?
We gain the 1% by teaching it differently
Imagine if over time we saw that the school average reading age was getting lower and lower?
We gain the 1% by implementing 15mins reading for every pupil every day.
Imagine if we could see that girls are performing better than boys in “phonics”?
We gain the 1% by working with those pupils alone.
Education is all about Marginal Gains – just imagine what you could do…
Thank you for reading this article.
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