This fairly short book is split into four chapters. The first chapter is titled the three ways of change and aims to set out a recent historical overview of trends in educational policy, what their goals were, and how they changed. `The first way of innovation and inconsistency' is characterized as having occurred between the end of the Second World War and the mid 1970's. Then, according to Hargreaves and Shirley, there was `the second way of markets and standardization,' which began in the late 1980's and continues to characterize education today. Finally, the `third way of performance and partnerships' is described as beginning somewhere in the mid 1990's and continues through the present. Though the trends are presented clearly, the evidence is not really satisfying. Events in the United States and Great Britain are the trendsetters and further evidence for the so called innovation, inconsistency, complexity, and other adjectives to describe the periods, are based on longitudinal research titled `change over time'. The `change over time' study is used to characterize the further three chapters and forms the primary inspiration of what should characterize the fourth way. Given the important role of the `change over time' study, it is surprising that no attention is paid to describing the length, scope and depth of the study.
As the third way ideals in effect were meant to bridge the gap between the first and second way, the second chapter, `the three paths of distraction' seeks to address three reasons why the third way failed. Firstly, the path of autocracy is said to have occurred when the people in control have sought to impose the third way with no room for schools and teachers to implement the third way in a context appropriate manner. I think the path of autocracy is historically a problem that all states have faced and continue to face: how much to interfere and prescribe in education. Secondly, the path of technocracy is described as the data collecting phenomenon where moral and social economic issues are converted to statistics and schools held solely responsible for `closing the gap'. Technocracy is a problem well described by the authors in this chapter and easy to identify with. Thirdly, the path of effervescence is described as a situation where schools and teachers are encouraged to share good practice, but the solutions found are usually short term and of a euphoric nature. Overall, this chapter has some good insights, but does not stand strong as three ways distracting from implementing the third way, as these reflect wider and more historical problems in society as a whole.
The third chapter `the four horizons of hope,' includes four case studies from which the authors have derived their inspiration for the fourth way for educational change. The first case study reflects on the education policy in Finland, considered to be the best education system of the world. Among the many lessons the authors derive from the Finnish example, two primary ones are that the state has a steering, not prescribing role, and that in Finnish society education is considered a collective responsibility and thus the teaching profession as a whole is greatly valued. The second case study is the `Raising Achievement Transforming Learning' initiative in the United Kingdom which involved networking and peer support between schools. Key lessons the authors derive from this approach is that development, professional responsibility and energetic involvement were key factors leading to change in schools in contrast to negative characteristics such as a focus on delivery, administrative accountability and bureaucratic alignment. Thirdly, though not a specific case, `democratic movement' is given as a horizon of hope, which shows examples of how community organization in the United States has supported educational improvement. Finally, `the turned around district' is the case study of a suburb in London which, due to demographic changes, became a low performing education district. This situation changed when the local education authority began to employ community development methods affecting the wider community, leading to educational improvement. The chapter's title, presents these four horizons of hope as if they were something novel. However, community development and community organization, lead to social cohesiveness which improves the whole community and this is not and should not be a novel realization for education and for the broader realms of policy making. Neither should the primary lessons from the RATL as derived by the authors, come as surprising, unique, new lessons for educational practitioners. The case of Finland is great, but obviously will not be directly applicable in other contexts. Thus the third chapter, though interesting, does not contribute strongly as a foundation for a new fourth way in educational change.
Finally, the last chapter describes the authors answers to the failings of the first, second and third way in educational policy. This is done by outlining six pillars of purpose, three principles of professionalism and four catalysts of coherence. After the numbers and lists that were used as frameworks in the first three chapters, it is difficult to add these six pillars, three principles and four catalysts to the overall framework. Instead of presenting a clear picture of the fourth way then, this chapter is the most difficult to read and comprehend. Inspiring vision, public engagement, investment, corporate responsibility in change, students as partners in change and mindful learning and teaching, are not at all new pillars of purpose. In all the trends in policy from first, second to third way, these have all played a role, if not at the policy level then definitely at the individual school level. Which school has not aimed or wanted to include these six pillars of purpose? That students are seen as agents of change, is interesting as the first three chapters do not lead to this conclusion because they are focused on teachers. Though, maybe it was included precisely for that very reason. High quality teachers, powerful professional associations and lively learning communities are deemed the new three principles of professionalism. It sounds appealing with the recent trends towards `life long learning', but seriously, which country or school has not aimed to have good quality teachers? Finally the four catalysts of change are described as sustainable leadership, integrating networks, responsibility before accountability, and differentiation and diversity. Overall, in my opinion, the fourth way presents nothing novel for educational policy but attempts to recreate the ideals which have stood at the core of education throughout history.