Educating Ruby

What our children really need to learn

By: Guy Claxton , Bill Lucas


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Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 198 x 130mm
Pages : 224
ISBN : 9781845909543
Format: Paperback
Published: March 2015

Forewords by Professor Tanya Byron and Octavius Black.

Everyone knows schools need rethinking – our political and educational worlds teem with critiques and proposals. But few speak from the heart: from the perspectives and concerns of teachers, children and families as human beings (rather than as deliverers or recipients of the curriculum).

For many people, Willy Russell's Educating Rita offered a radical insight into the then class-ridden world of universities. In Educating Ruby, acclaimed thought-leaders Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas imagine how school life could be more fulfilling for a latter-day Rita, now named Ruby.

Bill and Guy show how teachers, parents and grandparents can cultivate confidence, curiosity, collaboration, communication, creativity, commitment and craftsmanship in children, at the same time as helping them to achieve well in public examinations.

Educating Ruby is a powerful call to action for everyone who cares about education in an uncertain world. It shows, unequivocally, that schools can get the right results in the right way, so that the Rubys of tomorrow will emerge from their time at school able to talk with honest pleasure and reflective optimism about their schooling.

Listen to Bill and Guy's radio interviews discussing Educating Ruby here.

Picture for author Guy Claxton

Guy Claxton

Guy Claxton is a cognitive scientist specialising in the expandability of human intelligence ' bodily and intuitive as well as intellectual ' and the roles schools play in either growing or stunting these capacities. A prolific author, his practical programmes for teachers are influencing children's lives in Ireland, Spain, Poland, Dubai, South Africa, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina, and Brazil, as well as across the UK.

Picture for author Bill Lucas

Bill Lucas

Professor Bill Lucas is Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester and, with Ellen Spencer, the originator of a model of creativity in use in schools across the world. A global thought-leader, Bill was co-chair of the PISA 2022 test of creative thinking and curates the Creativity Exchange website.

Building Learning Power with The Learning Organisation.

Read Bill's article in FE Week.

UKEdChat Podcast - Episode 13 - Teaching Creative Thinking.

Click here to read Bill Lucas' interview in Nursery World.

Click here to read Bill Lucas' article - Teaching creative thinking: Advice and examples'.

Click here to read another article by Bill Lucas - Why knowledge isn't enough'.

Read Bill's article in TES An open letter to Nick Gibb: 5 myths about creativity


  1. Professor Guy Claxton is an internationally renowned cognitive scientist. Professor Bill Lucas is Director of the Centre for Real-World Learning at the University of Winchester. With Guy Claxton he created the Expansive Education Network for schools wishing to expand the goals of education to include much that is central to Educating Ruby.

    Schools for everyone are a 19th century invention. They trained young people for the workforce, developed factual knowledge and encouraged compliance, passivity and discipline. They did not have any connection to the world outside of school. But the world is different now. Most children are not born into stable communities; instead the globalised, digital world is at their fingertips.

    The main premise of Educating Ruby is that the academic development of children is not enough and that instead schools should be focused on developing character and the skills that employers will want to see in the wider world. Much of what teaching has become is about how we successfully get students through exam systems rather than our responsibility to develop them as a whole.

    The book devotes some time to explaining and unpacking the differences between -˜education' and -˜schooling'. Education is a vision of what it is our children will need if they are going to flourish in the world as we predict it will be. What knowledge and skills, attitudes and values will stand them in good stead as they embark on a life in a globalised and digitised future? This requires that those in control today are able to predict what this future might be.

    School, on the other hand, is a particular system that societies have invented for -˜doing education'. Education is the end, and school is the means. Claxton goes on to say that in order to judge the quality or effectiveness of -˜school' we need to determine if school has prepared the students effectively for something else beyond school.

    Claxton and Lucas believe that getting an education is far more than grades. -˜It is character traits that determine how well you do in life,' Professor Claxton said. -˜Grades give you the key to get through some gateways. But how well you function once you've got through that gateway depends much more on your grit, confidence and collaboration.'

    Claxton and Lucas state that learning should be built on the pillars of the seven -˜Cs' of building learning power: Confidence, Curiosity, Collaboration, Communication, Creativity, Commitment, Craftsmanship. 

    These are the capabilities that will assist children to do something better outside of school or after their schooling is finished. This world outside school is globalised and digitised. If students from difficult backgrounds are going to succeed in -˜life after school' it is important that they gain these qualities because their home life may not provide them.

    Claxton, through the eyes of fictitious Ruby and her friend Nadenza, compares the seven character traits from building learning power that Ruby has with the seven -˜Ds' of a traditional (and commonly thought of as a failing) school approach that Nadenza learned. She became:

    -¢ Defeated not Confident

    -¢ Disengaged not Curious

    -¢ Distanced not Collaborative

    -¢ Dumb not Communicative

    -¢ Deadbeat not Creative

    -¢ Drifter not Committed

    -¢ Dogsbody not Craftsmanship.

    Throughout the book Claxton and Lucas make many varying references to the purpose of schooling and how it is imperative that it changes so that it is relevant to the needs of the world outside school.

    Educating Ruby will provoke a range of opinions from readers; more importantly it gives examples of how parents can assist their children to gain the seven -˜Cs'. The book also provides many examples of how to progress this change.

    Educating Ruby speaks from the heart. It challenges teachers and school leaders to think deeply about what is taught and why. Instead of government ministers being focused on rearranging the window dressing of education they should reconsider what the shop actually sells.

    -˜Politicians love rearranging the furniture,' Professor Claxton writes. -˜They invent new types of schools. They change exams. But what needs to be done is to change the nature of how people teach, and that takes longer.'
  2. A thought-provoking and empassioned book from Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas about what our children really need to learn. I have enjoyed having time over this summer holiday to read and consider the points they make, some of which follow on from their ideas in books such as “The Learning Powered School”. There is very little that anyone working with children in education would disagree with, but they strongly make the point about the continued need for strong voices in the profession to make sure views and evidence are heard by those in the DfE.

    Below are a series of quotes from the book. I have tried to be strict and limit myself, but found it extremely difficult. As with other posts about books I have read, I would recommend reading the book for yourself to gain the full perspective. 

    “The obsession with measuring our schools through testing their pupils means that too many children are on a relentless treadmill which is self-defeating-¦they need an education with all its richness, with teachers who bring learning alive and supported by parents who play their full part.” (Mick Waters)

    “We can have happy, positive young people with skills, attitudes and -˜habits of mind'; who are knowledgeable and capable of passing examinations” (Sue Williamson)

    Schools should foster a love of learning and enquiry, a thirst to discover and uncover, a sense of fun and creativity, whether learning about the past or developing ideas for the future.

    Educations system is “too much a conveyor belt - it moves children along at a certain pace, but does not deal well with individual needs.” (CBIs First Steps)

    It is perfectly possible for schools to systematically cultivate the habits of mind that enable young people to face all kinds of difficulty and uncertainty calmly, confidently and creatively.

    To thrive in the 21st century-¦learn how to be tenacious and resourceful, imaginative and logical, self-disciplined and self-aware, collaborative and inquisitive. “

    The effect of parental engagement over a student's school career is equivalent to adding an extra 2 to 3 years to that student's education.” (John Hattie)

    A new future of demanding project work and self-expression, collaboration and problem-solving, continuous assessment and portfolios.

    Romantics: innate goodness of children, allow them to express themselves and discover their own talents and interests.

    Traditionalists: lots of chalk and talk, strong discipline, conventional exams and teachers as respected sources of culturally important tried and tested factual knowledge.

    Mods: (modest or moderate): that education is complex and hard to define, quick fixes and appeals to nostalgia won't work, tinker and explore, think carefully, debate respectfully, experiment slowly and review honestly.

    Give learners accurate specific feedback on inns they have done. We learn most when we are pushing ourselves, not merely staying within our comfort zone.

    Both understanding and skill grow precisely by working at the limit of what you currently can do or know.

    If you create fear in a culture, people will do what the people above them tell them to do - nothing else.

    Conversations about education abound with false dichotomies and absolutist views, that must be transcended

    If school is meant to offer young people a powerful preparation for a successful life (and not just for university), why isn't it more like real life?

    Real world learning is often collaborative-¦the hallmark of success is usually practical-¦is about getting things done-¦we learn because we want to or need to-¦often accomplished with a whole array of tools and resources-¦is often physical.

    The broader relevance and utility of what you are learning has to be discovered.

    They discuss the crucial importance of the 7 Cs, which they believe are what children really need to learn:

    Confidence: developing and using a growth mindset and being a can-do person.

    Curiosity: at the heart of all learning, noticing things, reading avidly and asking good questions.

    Collaboration: listen empathetically, show kindness and give / receive feedback well. Feedback is one of the most effective mean by which we learn and grow.

    Communication: learning how to listen to and offer opinions and being able to talk about feelings.

    Creativity: having new ideas, having good ideas, dealing with uncertainty through tolerating feelings of confusion or inadequacy, and being able to make links and see patterns.

    Commitment: trying many things to find their true passion.

    Craftsmanship: showing pride, learning from mistakes, practising the hard bits

    At Google intelligence means being able to think, question and learn in the face of unprecedented problems for which there are no right answers. To grapple with the future.

    Education is a vision of what it is our children will need if they are going to flourish in the world as we predict it will be-¦What knowledge and skills, attitudes and values will stand them in good stead as they embark on a life in a globalised and digitalised future?

    School, on the other hand, is a particular system that societies have invented for -˜doing education'.

    Self-regulation: concentrate despite distractions, stay engaged, short term sacrifices for long term gains, deal with frustrations and disappointments.

    Good person: kind, friendly, generous, tolerant, empathetic, forgiving, trustworthy, honest, moral courage and integrity.

    Good learner: knowledge critics, ready willing and able to struggle and persist, give feedback and take criticism.

    Children need interesting, engaging and important things to learn about. But there is more to school than knowledge. Attitudes and beliefs will be formed there that will influence, for good or ill, the rest of young people's lives.

    The purpose of school is to give people the tools and skills to think for themselves, and to engage with the people and ideas around them.

    EYFS: serious play.

    KS1: growth mindsets for success and collaborative learning.

    KS2: projects driven by interest.

    KS3: real world enquiries & possible selves.

    KS4: sustained engagement with bodies of knowledge & research.

    KS5: deep scholarship & extended making.

    Learners using their maths and English in meaningful ways that deepen their competence.

    Knowledge deepens and broadens at the same time as the capacities to think, learn and be creative are being cultivated.

    In too many lessons learners comply but aren't encouraged to enjoy the struggle of learning which assures progress and engagement. Learners are not always required to think sufficiently for themselves. Teachers do too much of the thinking for them.

    Expansive Education Network: expand the goals of education beyond traditional success criteria; expand young people's capacity to deal with a lifetime of tricky things; expand their compass beyond the school gates.

    “When teachers become learners again their teaching improves” (John Hattie)

    We need to facilitate systematically the professional development and lifelong learning of existing teachers.

    Maximise the life chances of all young people by making them work-ready, life-ready and ready for further learning.

    Mastery is born of effort, patience an d a tolerance for frustration.

    OECD Dimensions and challenges for a 21st century curriculum:

    Knowledge: Balance conceptual and practical and connect the content to real-world relevance.

    Skills: High-order skills such as: creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration.

    Character: Nurturing behaviours for a changing and challenging world: adaptability, persistence, resilience, integrity, justice and empathy.

    Meta-layer: Learning how to learn, interdisciplinary and systems thinking.

    “The principal goal of education-¦creating people-¦who are creative, inventive and discoverers, who can be critical and verify.” (Jean Piaget)

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  3. Thank you for sending the review text copy of 'Educating Ruby'. I just finished reading it and found many thought-provoking points to further discuss with my teacher education students in the next semester


    Claxton & Lucas are on point with current educational issues - whether in the UK or the USA - the similarities are great. As educators we must continue to grow, change and develop authentic educational experiences according to today's societal needs. We cannot continue the status quo -  to do so will do a disservice and injustice to our learners.


    The 3 E's (p. 60) should be a goal of all educators - we should be engaging to our students, connecting content to their lives - be excellent in our knowledge, our professional practices, our interactions  - be ethical in the decisions we make and choices we present. The Seven C's (p. 60) are an excellent summary of desired educational outcomes - focusing on the individual rather than the group. As a parent I strive to develop these traits in my children and as educators we need to strengthen these in our student learners, too.


    Claxton & Lucas support the current trend of -˜teaching thought' and self-regulatory behaviors - if students are missing these attributes they will struggle academically and socially, long-term. Having a growth-mindset is the key to overall success - regardless of how success is defined (income, happiness, societal status, etc-¦). We need to constantly improve and consider feedback the breakfast of champions.


    I am eager to share many of the ideas presented in Educating Ruby to my students and learn their multi-faceted perception of the USA educational system parallels.
  4. Tired of the endless false dichotomy presented by those with an interest in promoting -˜solid, traditional' teaching methods above a -˜progressive, airy-fairy' approach - or vice versa - Bill Lucas and Guy Claxton here point out, with optimism alongside experience, that there is a third option. -˜Educating Ruby' paints a picture of what an excellent education might look like in our modern world, and draws not only on what could be done, but what is actually happening in classrooms throughout the country today, to make the image both vivid and detailed. The authors feel strongly that there are skills and qualities we should be nurturing in our young people that cannot be tested by formal examination, but are nonetheless vital for a successful and happy adult life - and they ask some challenging, and potentially controversial questions - about the role of Big Data in true accountability. This is an accomplished and uplifting work; likely to leave the reader feeling considerably more empowered than oppressed.
  5. While we are left to despair about the stance of the teacher unions in relation to junior cycle reform we cannot also ignore the failure on the official site to articulate the why of the reform. The unions in supplying us with soundbites and things they are prepared to go along with, have manifestly failed to articulate a coherent vision for the professional teacher. When we walk into a classroom in 2025, what will they have us see? Desks in rows, teachers telling and students listening, still learning essays of by heart? Inter Cert mark 3 finally reinstated? Depressingly, on the other side, those charged with leading the reform have failed to clearly and consistently describe why our centuries' old production-line model of schooling is outdated, irrelevant to our country's future and why we need urgently to change it - and how. Remember Pasi Salsberg in Finnish Lessons? - “children will learn more and more of what we used to learn in school out of school, through media, the internet and from different social networks to which they belong. This will lead to a situation in which an increasing number of students will find teaching in The Leader Reader school irrelevant because they have already learnt what is meaning of meaningful for them elsewhere”. The world in 2025 is certain to be a very different place than now. Does anyone really think young people will be willing to put up with what's on offer today? Come to school every day? Attend every class? To get some idea of what they're already thinking today, search for “I am genius” on YouTube; your four minutes will be well spent. Today, we find ourselves trapped in an unenlightened cul de sac, squabbling about what will happen if the mammy meets the teacher in the chipper after Johnny gets a bad mark in Geography. Instead we should be thinking about building an intelligent system of schooling that will prepare young people to thrive in a world which will be unrecognisable from the one we grew up in and one which faces challenges and problems never before encountered. This book, then, by Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas is very timely. Many people know there is something wrong with our schooling system but don't have the language to describe it, nor perhaps the knowledge of what needs to change, never mind knowing how to go about initiating the change. I strongly recommend that anybody with an interest in education from Minister to humble learner, but particularly teachers and parents, read this book (and then pass it on). An adventurous Principal/Deputy might even spend a few bob and buy a copy for staff to read over the summer (it's an easy read) and then organise a workshop (title suggestion: “Now that we know what's wrong, how will we in our school begin to change it”) upon return in September. And while you're at it, put it in the hands of your students and find out what they think (maybe invite representatives to the workshop? Could they come up with their version of “I am Genius? Would the staff like to hear it? Why not?). This book rightly views parents as key allies in the struggle for education reform. So, Principals, put this book in the hands of your Parents' Council and Board of Management and ask them to reflect with the staff on the changes that can happen, in the first instance, in your school, and hopefully later system wide. The book advocates engagement between parents and the school not to complain about uniforms and lunch breaks but about the changes around effective learning that need to happen. Irish parents have traditionally been happy to hand over their children to the school and let those who knew best take it from there. Irish schools have tended to want parents at arm's length and I'm not sure this has served NAPD Leader 47 anybody, least of all our young, particularly well. Character formation, the nurturing of skills, dispositions and the building of knowledge and understanding are for both school and home - working together. Interestingly, the authors don't mention parents engaging with the unions. Maybe that's not a UK issue? Now, what a change that would be if informed parents refused to accept either “trust us, we know best” or “you'll not be getting any more productivity from us” and instead demanded future schools that really placed service to learners ahead of all others' needs. We have an outdated school calendar based on an agricultural cycle and a teacher contact that belongs to times past. If they know what's best for our young people's futures, what can stop them from acting otherwise? The book provides lots of ideas on what our children really need to learn. You won't find yourself agreeing with everything (I didn't) but that's not the point. It's written to provoke, to challenge, to make you think about your own beliefs about schooling; in short, it's intended to invite you outside your box for some serious (and brave) reflection. I sense the frustration of the authors (perhaps their motivation in writing the book?) who have been around the education block more than a few times, who have written ad nauseam about what's wrong and what needs to happen and yet who have witnessed only pockets of change (which they detail and rightly celebrate in chapter 5 - “Reasons to be cheerful”). We, in Ireland, have examples of such schools but, as in the UK, the question is scalability. Our challenge then: how do we make the excellent practices of the few become the practices of the many? For a wider and richer analysis of the issues it might be worthwhile to also read “What's The Point of School” by Guy Claxton, 2008. In many ways, this book distils the essence of this earlier book but then, importantly, moves past the rhetorical to explore the actions required to make effect reform. Oh, and who's Ruby? A fictitious character who is your average student in your average class, in your average school, who's quite bright but mostly bored (by teachers who are themselves bored by the lack of challenge and professional development) but whose experiences (and future) could dramatically change, but only if we make the changes first. Any Rubys in your school?! 
  6. In 'Educating Ruby: What our children really need to learn' it is evident that Professors Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas are very passionate about the subject of improving our schools. They have been influential in education for a long time with their thinking. I have known their academic publications since I first started teaching ten years ago and without doubt they have strongly influenced my and other teachers' practice with their ideas, especially in regard to BLP (Building Learning Power).

    'Educating Ruby', however, is not a dry academic publication. It is written for anyone interested in education and it invites the reader, be it a parent or someone with an interest in education, to gain more understanding of the educational landscape we find ourselves in today. The writing resembles a conversation in its serious yet accessible tone, but undoubtedly triggers a lot of thought; especially as they promote the seven -˜C's (confidence, curiosity, collaboration, communication, creativity, commitment and craftsmanship) as the cornerstones of their vision of education.

    Throughout 'Educating Ruby' the authors also recognise that education is currently undergoing a shift and that many schools across the country have already moved forward in their thinking and taken steps to improve children's experience of their school years. Therefore it is reassuring that so much of what is mentioned in 'Educating Ruby' is already happening within many schools. Claxton and Lucas extend the invitation to think about taking part in improving children's education to a wider audience such as parents. This certainly comes at the right time; all stakeholders seem to be very open-minded about improving education in general and schools in particular.

    Consequently, it is appropriate that 'Educating Ruby' finishes with a large chapter guiding parents on how to influence the directions schools take, to make the experience of school years more fulfilling for their children. I welcome this dialogue between parents and school leaders, as we all have to take a responsible part in preparing our young people for their future. From the standpoint of an educator Educating Ruby could have included similar chapters for policymakers and school leaders but I'm sure that this will be covered in another publication.
  7. The UK school system is in urgent need of reform. 'Educating Ruby' teems with practical, evidence-based, inspiring ideas for teaching and learning, that will brighten the lives of over-tested students, stressed-out teachers and concerned parents.  And when politicians are finally ready to be pointed in the right direction, it's just the book for them too.
  8. A powerful, heartfelt and expert analysis of what's going wrong in the education of our children and how to put it right.
  9. The schools of tomorrow are here today - but are too few and far between. We won't get the speed and scale of change without real political will which is currently lacking. 'Educating Ruby' is a brave attempt to mobilise parent power to get that change to happen. I really hope it succeeds!
  10. Educating Ruby' is a must read book for all stakeholders in education. Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas show how we can have happy, positive young people with skills, attitudes and -˜habits of mind'; who are knowledgeable and capable of passing examinations.
  11. Guy Claxton's earlier books have been a huge influence on my thinking and my practice. Whether you agree or disagree with 'Educating Ruby', you'll certainly be engaged, stimulated and challenged.
  12. What would schools look like if they taught children what they really need to know?  Could we ever have schools like that? 'Educating Ruby' is thoughtful, provocative and optimistic. As ever, Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas are wise and experienced voices on the cutting edge of education. All teachers and parents should read this book - they'd learn lots, and enjoy it!
  13. Most people believe schools should do their bit to help children become 'rounded individuals' as well as developing their intellectual strength. The obsession with measuring our schools through testing their pupils means that too many children are on a relentless treadmill which is self-defeating. Ruby and her friends need an education with all its richness, with teachers who bring learning alive and supported by parents who play their full part. It is not too complicated and 'Educating Ruby' explains why the system needs to change and what everyone can do about it.
  14. The need for a knowledge-rich curriculum is beyond dispute but this provocative book should make all teachers and school leaders think deeply about what is taught and how. A broad range of ideas encompassing deep scholarship, character building and creativity are set out with passion and clarity including practical suggestions for schools and parents.  It's going to wind some people up - but that's a good thing. 
  15. Examination grades are important, but they are only half the story of education. Parents send their children to schools like my own because they know we build the kinds of character and roundedness that this book puts its finger on. It's what all schools everywhere should be doing. Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas speak for schoolchildren and their parents everywhere.
  16. Good schools have always focused on 'results plus', helping children achieve their potential in examinations and at the same time developing confident and creative individuals who are keen to do their very best. Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas are absolutely right to remind us of the need for more expansive approaches. 'Educating Ruby' is a timely reminder of how increasingly important it is not to focus on just part of what matters at school. 
  17. It was a teacher that changed my life; not because he taught me my times tables but because he helped me re-build my confidence through my parents' divorce. I am Ruby, you are Ruby, we are all Ruby. Thank you Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas for breaking us out of the battery farm.
  18. It is essential that schools educate the whole child. I strongly support the line of argument made by Bill Lucas and Guy Claxton that schools are about so much more than examination results. 'Educating Ruby' is essential reading for everyone who cares about the future of education in our country.

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