“The future is a race; a race between education and catastrophe” H.G.Wells

If we didn’t know before today, the recent WSDN Curriculum Forum (1st March 2013, Downlands School) certainly confirmed that we face some of our most challenging times yet also with some unique opportunities. We were also starkly reminded though of our obvious motivation and responsibility to accept the challenge and grasp the opportunity, with the presence of some outstanding West Sussex students.

During a morning with Sue Williamson CEO of the SSAT, on the eve of the Redesigning Schooling campaign events in London, we were taken through the current “state of the nation” for curriculum, qualifications and teaching and learning. It became clear that this is still an ever-changing picture, with important challenges and opportunities for us as a profession. We explored the extent to which Michael Gove actually did complete a U-Turn on 7th February: how far is the EBacc still here, will the KS5 reforms be consulted upon, what measures of accountability will we experience and on what will we be measured? The core details of the information delivered through Sue’s slides will be sent to delegates individually by email but can also be found here:2013 03 01 West Sussex Deputies Network

We then clearly heard the “Call for Change”. Sue asked the difficult questions of how as a profession we have become regarded by government and external forces, challenged us to consider whether as  a profession we are reactive or pro-active about change, have we become disempowered, seen as operating in isolation, out of touch with the world of work and change? To what extent are our students spending time in our schools with a lack of engagement and challenge? If they are; why? More importantly to what extent can we take the initiative, redesign schools for the future that build on our expertise and understanding. Schooling that develops skills and knowledge that will equip students for the unknown future and provide industry and work with what is needed…. or do we wait to respond to the next initiative from politicians?

Sue referenced a broad range of sources that have influenced the debate as a context for us:

  • The Finland Phenomenon  summary clip here,
  • The report from the CBI First Steps: a new approach for our schools (read the report online)
  • A snippet from the interesting film www.wearethepeoplemovie.com (see the film) which provided the title for this blog and pronounced “Education is the most fundamental challenge facing human beings”
  • The very compelling Dylan Wiliam at the SSAT National conference (slides here) and speech here who asked how can we prepare our students for a world we cannot possibly imagine?
  • The need to recognise our students as the “net generation” and consider how this can influence learning and teaching
  • Tony Wagner’s 7 Survival Skills, which for many at the forum invoked the PELTS (slide 42)

The journey to Redesigning Schools became through the development that we have experienced alongside the SSAT of increasing personalisation, the Nine Gateways, the Deeps; to what extent System Redesign for institutions, roles and leadership has taken effect. Redesigning Schools takes does not attempt to do this stage of the journey alone; the importance became abundantly clear of working alongside a range of stakeholders to agree what is required of education, learning and teaching for the future.   As a network we are in a privileged position to be able to take part in Redesigning Schools in a unique way.

Already on 12th March we will take our concerns and questions to an exclusive meeting with Dylan Wiliam as part of attending the Curriculum Symposium, these questions were discussed and debated at the forum and will largely focus around:

  1. How can we ensure that the development of the skills and understandings (a competency based curriculum) can be measured in a way that is valued by all stakeholders? Or how can we address the issue that unless something is measured it is seen to have no value?
  2. When in a secondary education do you think is the most valuable assessment point. How many “GCSEs” do you think it would be optimum for students to achieve?
  3. How can we help teachers to reach their peak performance and what funding implications are there in these ideas?
  4. Is there anywhere in the world where AfL is working in an embedded way? Is one style of assessment/examination really the best route forward or could it include a variety of ways?
  5. What is the strategy for creating a voice or a body representing all stakeholders in order to separate policy making from the transitory nature of politics (in the same way interest rates were removed and given to the Bank of England)? Can we create a broad college of politicians, parents, teachers, academics and students to drive and approve policy?
  6. Have any studies been done on the impact of consistent change of education policy on the students of the past two decades.

We also have places we can offer to members for the Learning and Teaching Symposium on Thursday 7th March with Guy Claxton and Bill Lucas and the Accountability and Intelligent Inspection Symposium on 22nd March with Christine Gilbert, a chance to discuss how schools should be measured and inspected in the future.

As if we needed further motivation to get involved, at the end of the forum the 30 plus students who had been working with SSAT leader Tom Middlehurst in their “Class of 2040”, presented their findings. It was clear they valued skills and knowledge; they want a meaningful education that has relevance to their world and their future. They agreed on a core curriculum based on the existing core subjects but wanted flexibility to tailor their learning to the needs of the future. They either mentioned by name or alluded to the skills we would all recognise as the PELTs. The confidence and eloquence of these students was impressive and the range of ideas provided inspiration to get involved. Many thanks to those schools who allowed their students to get involved, all spoke very highly of their experience, the ability to work together and valued having their voice heard.

So, over to you all ……by way of engagement can you do one of two things?

a)      Either volunteer to attend one of the symposium in London. It will not cost your school anything as a member of the network you will simply be ask to attend the next event –  a LEADMEET in April/May to feed back what you have learnt and discussed.

b)      Post a comment to this blog to answer the questions below: If we can share ideas and thoughts at this stage then we can build on them when we meet next time.

  • How are you responding to the curriculum and qualifications changes?
  • Have you adopted EBacc or gone your own way?
  • What have you done with Vocational qualifications in your options structure?

Please do either or both of these, it is clear this network appears to be serving a need. Working together does not mean doing the same things, but sharing ideas and examples of best practise inevitably means we become stronger, better informed for the benefit of our students.  Whatever your school background and context it would surely be paradoxical to think we can move forward in this national climate on our own.

So please, post and tell us what you are up to!?

 

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One Response to “The future is a race; a race between education and catastrophe” H.G.Wells

  1. Adam Whitehead says:

    Great morning of thought provoking input. Am very clear we need to galvanise our collective voice to engage in a vision for education that removes us from the game of political ping pong we currently suffer on a five year cycle.
    We’ve made no more adjustment for the now apparently disappearing ebacc than to explain the combination as a potential consideration for certain students and parents to weigh up. We still support vocational qualifications as part of the overall package for students and have changed none of our option subjects this year despite the change in emphasis from Michael Gove and colleagues. Naive or a choice based on our school’s collective professional opinion?

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