Obstetrics for Schools

A guide to eliminating failure and ensuring the safe delivery of all learners

By: Rachel Macfarlane


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 222mm x 182mm
Pages : 272
ISBN : 9781785835407
Format: Paperback
Published: April 2021

In Obstetrics for Schools: A guide to eliminating failure and ensuring the safe delivery of all learners, Rachel Macfarlane presents a powerful manifesto for school leaders and teachers on how they can bridge the advantage gap and deliver positive outcomes for all pupils.

In most parts of the world, the death of a baby in childbirth is now a rare tragedy rather than a common occurrence – and it would be considered shocking for medical staff to accept a significant infant fatality rate. It's also inconceivable that a hospital would have a successful delivery target much below 100%.

How could anything else be acceptable in this day and age?

Yet there is an expectation, and acceptance, of 'baked in' educational failure for around a third of 16-year-olds in UK schools each year. Such outcomes need addressing, and this book does just that.

In Obstetrics for Schools, Rachel Macfarlane draws on her experience as a head teacher and system leader to share a multitude of practical strategies for overcoming potential barriers to success, presenting case studies and examples of effective practice from schools across the country.

The book illustrates an up-to-date and research-informed picture of the current state of the education system and offers sage guidance on how schools can do more for each and every student. In doing so, Rachel provides a range of fresh approaches to school provision which have been proven to have an impact in a variety of challenging contexts.

Each chapter focuses on a key potential barrier to success and offers school leaders and practitioners a range of strategies to help dismantle them. The book also provides guidance on strategic planning, as well as a variety of ideas and inspiration for staff training.

Suitable for school leaders and teachers in all phases, from early years to sixth form, and in both mainstream and special education.

Picture for author Rachel Macfarlane

Rachel Macfarlane

Rachel Macfarlane is the Director of Education Services at Herts for Learning having previously been head teacher at three contrasting schools over a 16-year period. Between 2009 and 2018 Rachel was project director of the London Leadership Strategy's Going for Great (G4G) programme, which involved working with leaders of outstanding schools to share great practice and produce case studies for dissemination to London schools.


  1. Obstetrics for Schools should be in every school and mentioned in all ITT courses! It is rare to see vison and determination bought together so successfully with practical advice, but that is what this book does. I am so pleased that it has been widely welcomed.

  2. Obstetrics for Schools is an excellent book packed with practical information directly relatable to all phases of education, in both mainstream and special settings. With chapters looking at areas such as poverty-proofing your school and preparing learners for successful transitions, there’s lots here for early years professionals too.
  3. Writing in a fluid style within an excellently structured text, Rachel Macfarlane hooks the reader into a thought-provoking and evidence-based journey highlighting practices that go a long way towards eliminating failure and ensuring the safe delivery of all learners. The book features an excellent bibliography alongside guidance for reflection and a variety of practical strategies to help schools get to the root of the problem of learner underachievement – which all make for stimulating and challenging reading. Those readers with experience of working in challenging educational environments or in communities of economic and/or social deprivation will find the sections on making a positive impact very supportive. I particularly enjoyed the section on ‘the elephant in the room’ and the in-depth analysis of outstanding work by growth mindset advocates such as Carol Dweck and Martin Seligman. It is significant that Rachel emphasises the benefits gained by replacing the word ‘ability’ with ‘attainment’ to promote learner feedback and self-belief, with the emphasis on raising the bar of attainment even higher with coaching terms such as ‘you’re nearly there’. Obstetrics for Schools is an excellent and practically formatted book which provides opportunities and guidance for team building based on the author’s valid experience and case studies to make higher attainment possible and rapidly motivate learners to reject any form of limiting mindset. Highly recommended for schools, colleges and teacher training centres.
  4. This inspirational book is written in the authentic voice of an excellent and expert practitioner, through which Rachel Macfarlane shares a great understanding of research and evidence-based practice. The book is grounded in a rich storehouse of practical strategies, case studies, prompt lists and questions for reflection - offering everyone who works in schools a range of ideas to make a real difference to the life chances of children and young people. 

    Obstetrics for Schools is a powerful call to action and its compassionate and compelling message is that schools and educational organisations need to urgently reconsider how they are tackling the long tail of underachievement. The book's title and contents remind us forcibly that just as society expects every child to be born safely, it should also expect every child to be educated safely, to fulfil their potential and to be able to lead rewarding, happy and healthy lives.
  5. Obstetrics for Schools deserves to be the manifesto for rethinking what is important in education. It illustrates a deep and heartfelt moral purpose and shares a huge range of practical strategies that are worthy of consideration by all school leadership teams - my copy has page-marker tabs on pretty much every page! This book is a rallying cry showing us how we can do better by our disadvantaged students, but it is much more than this too - it will be the text I return to every time I need to remind myself that being a teacher is the ultimate privilege.
  6. Obstetrics for Schools is a wonderful book. Through sharing vignettes and reflections from her own leadership experience, Rachel Macfarlane powerfully illustrates that high expectations for all is the most essential mindset for teachers and school leaders. The book also provides practical grounded examples throughout, with prompt questions designed to challenge and encourage the reader, and presents stories about the profound impact of seemingly small positive actions which illustrate the power that schools have either to diminish or to enable. There were many times as I was reading the book when I wanted to punch the air and exclaim -˜Yes!' - and so many occasions when the author's experiences resonated with my own as a school leader.

    I recommend Obstetrics for Schools to all teachers, school leaders and governors who are committed to truly making a difference within their community.  
  7. Obstetrics for Schools is a powerful call to arms to eradicate inequity in the education system. Tackling disadvantage is a hugely complex and challenging task, but Rachel Macfarlane has confronted the brutal facts and communicates her faith that something can be done. Informed by evidence and grounded in the reality of schools, the book covers topics ranging from the importance of relationships with students and parental engagement to metacognition and the power of oracy. It is also packed with a wide range of exemplar case studies that bring the book alive, inspiring hope and belief in what is possible. If ever there were a book for our time, this is it: a powerful reminder of the life-changing difference the teaching profession can make.
  8. Obstetrics for Schools is firmly focused on the difference schools can make, and how best to support children from disadvantaged backgrounds to achieve their potential. Whilst recognising the significant broader challenges contributing to the socio-economic gap for attainment, Rachel Macfarlane draws on her deep professional experience as a teacher and leader in education to show how schools can and do make a difference in raising the attainment and supporting the life chances of disadvantaged pupils. Teachers and school leaders will find a range of practical strategies and case studies exemplifying successful practices for narrowing the gap. Moreover, they will be galvanised by Macfarlane's encouragement and determination that infuse the book, and by the inspiring examples of positive change.
  9. I love this book! If we can improve the process of childbirth so dramatically, we must apply similar fail-safes to the next 18 years of every young person's life, especially their time at school. In Obstetrics for Schools Rachel Macfarlane brings her formidable intellect and experience as a successful head teacher to show us how a certain kind of expansive education can solve the postcode lottery of our birth. The book is packed full of practical strategies to help you decide what will work for you and your learners. Anyone working in a school will want to have this terrific guidebook beside them.
  10. Obstetrics for Schools is a fantastic and important contribution to the growing evidence and research base about the challenges that leaders in the education sector face. Rachel Macfarlane rightly acknowledges that this will be our main focus in the years ahead - not simply because of the post-pandemic context but because it is morally and strategically the right thing to do. Furthermore, she draws upon her own leadership experience, as well as that of others, to consider carefully the priorities we should be seeking to address.

    This book gets to the heart of what is right, and morally just. If we want our young people to grow into adulthood as successful learners, ready to move to the next stage of their journey, we need to address the core issues today. We can currently see an avalanche of opinion pieces and publications on the imperative of doing more for disadvantaged children - but if you only have time to explore a few thoughtful publications, make this book one of them.
  11. Obstetrics for Schools takes a bleak account of poverty, disadvantage and underachievement and - using real-life case studies and data - shows that it doesn't have to be like this. If ever there were a time to recalibrate our education system around equity, it's now. If ever there were a book to help us to do it, it's this one.
  12. It is a disgrace that we can accept that a third of our children will fail at school. Such a rate of attrition, and such inequity, is no longer tolerated in childbirth, and it should not be tolerated in schools. Medicine has developed robust procedures to make sure this doesn't happen - but where are the equivalents in education? Thankfully, they are right here, in Rachel Macfarlane's brilliant Obstetrics for Schools. Wise, passionate, compassionate and, above all, practical, this book is an intimate guide to reducing the poverty gap in education. Every head teacher, administrator and minister of education should read it and be judged on their  responses to it. If this doesn't happen, it will only show that we as a society still don't really care, and that intellectual and ethical torpor still rule the roost.
  13. Every school leader and teacher reading Obstetrics for Schools will find a wealth of strategies and case studies illustrating the various ways by which the education and life chances of disadvantaged learners can be improved. Rachel Macfarlane draws on her own successful school leadership experience and provides a wide range of practical examples and research findings to construct a powerful case that every learner, however disadvantaged, can succeed. This book will make a real difference in the schools where its lessons are applied.
  14. In this timely book, Rachel Macfarlane poses a blunt question: why do we tolerate inequality in education? Drawing on a wide range of case studies across every phase of education, Macfarlane shows how a can-do spirit of optimism, combined with the careful application of research findings, can help schools to improve every child's life chances.

    Whilst Obstetrics for Schools is a visionary book, it is also firmly grounded in reality. In particular, Macfarlane draws substantially on her own track record as an exceptional head teacher and system leader. The many case studies show how ideals can be put into action in a wide range of different schools and contexts, and they also act as a testament to Macfarlane's commitment to collaborative school improvement.

    If you think it's intolerable that a child's success in school is largely predicted by how well off their parents are, then you must read this book. It didn't just heat up my outrage; it gave me practical examples of how I might become a better school leader, too. It also gave me courage.
  15. Rachel Macfarlane's book is exactly what we all need right now. The perfect antidote to COVID-19 gloom, it's a stirring call to arms in the fight against education inequality. Macfarlane counters the defeatist acceptance that the education system will inevitably fail some students and, through a series of case studies, shows how it is possible to ensure that every student receives a great education. Accessible, practical and inspiring, Obstetrics for Schools is a great read for anyone who cares about education.
  16. I love this book. It is pragmatic, comprehensive, intelligent, challenging and evidence informed. It is also rooted in the experiences of a school and system leader with a brilliant track record. Any opportunity to work with Rachel Macfarlane is a rich, enlightening and positive experience, and her knowledge, expertise and values are interweaved throughout Obstetrics for Schools - from building relationships with families to the importance of getting it right with classroom interactions.

    The book makes uncomfortable reading at times, and rightly so. In its current state, our education system practically guarantees that a third of our pupils leave school without qualifications in English and maths. To
    counter this, Macfarlane provides a framework that sets out to ensure that all pupils can achieve - including those that experience the diving bell of disadvantage. It is a book for the moment. I would argue that we will never have a better chance than now to adopt the pupil-led approach to addressing underachievement advocated by Macfarlane. The provision-led approach driven by labels or accountability measures has failed too many. 

    Obstetrics for Schools is a brilliant book for support staff, pastoral teams, teachers, leaders, governors, system leaders and policy makers.
  17. This book is rare in providing both a compelling vision for education and a range of practical ideas to help achieve it. It is also perfectly timed for the post-COVID world, showing both the humanity we need to readjust and the practical wisdom we need to rethink.

    Driven by a passion for ensuring the most disadvantaged succeed in life, Rachel Macfarlane uses her experience as a great head teacher to show how each of the barriers standing in the way of young people can be dismantled. Drawing on excellent practice from her own schools and those she has worked with, she provides fresh insights into both leadership and classroom practice. She transcends the artificial divisions between traditionalists and progressives, instead focusing on the importance of young people achieving great results and also becoming powerful lifelong learners.

    If you are looking for a fresh take on social mobility, and if you believe that a better society comes from unlocking the potential of each and every child, then Obstetrics for Schools will give you inspiration and hope. The work is never easy, but the rewards, as Macfarlane shows, are immense. This elegantly written book will give renewed impetus to those seeking a more expansive vision for education.
  18. Written with passion, care and a deep understanding of the issues, Obstetrics for Schools gets under the skin of what schools and school leaders can do to address inequity in education. Full of practical ideas, down-to-earth strategies and authentic case studies, it doesn't just point the way to eliminating failure and combatting disadvantage amongst young people - it shows us the way too. Macfarlane also offers a refreshing departure from so much academic writing that too often considers and analyses the problems but leaves us floundering for practical solutions.

    Obstetrics for Schools is a triumph, and so timely too. I love it and will be recommending it everywhere I go.  

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