Yesterday I spoke at an event jointly organised by teacher led group Owning Education, Chris McLean (University of Manchester) and Andy Hodgkinson (eCAPH), and supported by the RSA and Alliance Manchester Business School about reimagining education. The session started with a screening of the film Most Likely to Succeed which set the energy and tone for the subsequent discussion, which interrogated the following core questions:
- Why do we need education?
- How can we provide learning experiences that support the desired outcomes for learners that we seek, and for society more broadly?
- What are the problems and barriers within the current system of education that prevent the effective development of alternative forms of education and collaboration?
In my talk I approached these questions from a slightly different angle in looking at how we can overcome some of the barriers to change, and those system drivers which maintain the status quo.
Firstly I talked a little about the ‘what’ — what is the change that we want to see — which was also aptly covered by the other speakers…
The OECD Education 2030 work feels potentially the most game changing international movement in education at the moment. Also see: https://www.oecd.org/education/Global-competency-for-an-inclusive-world.pdf
I then drew out some key points from my Churchill Fellowship across the USA last year where I looked in depth at school redesign and system transformation…
All covered in more detail here: http://www.wcmt.org.uk/sites/default/files/report-documents/Clayton%20R%20Report%202016%20Final.pdf
Over the summer I’ve been working with Big Change and an incredible group of international thinkers to explore how change happens at a global level, and particularly how a new initiative could accelerate existing activity underway. This has involved conversations and interviews with many people linked to global change initiatives, and these are some of the conclusions we’re drawing on the ‘HOW’ of system change…
In the UK the needle is definitely shifting in a number of these areas, and it’s especially heartening to be more and more involved with grassroots teacher and local coalition led conversations around the future of education. Which are taking place despite the significant pressures that schools and teachers are currently facing — from budget pressures to Ofsted to staffing struggles and ultimately very low professional morale.
I finished my comments with some of the other reasons I feel hopeful that change is possible, and why we might now be in a timely moment…
Of course, it is up to all of us to seize the moment!
Which underlies what I think is the essence of the message which I was trying to convey — that system change is ultimately people change — of mindsets, cultures, behaviours, practices etc. And in an education context this means Heads and teachers effectively changing what they do, and rethinking the fundamental ways that schools currently operate, and supporting others in doing the same. And for parents to start thinking differently and potentially making different decisions.
For those of us who bridge the national/international policy space and the grassroots I think one of the biggest challenges for us right now is one of translation and connection — in translating the big picture visionary stuff, the ideas, the exemplars, often presented in very technical language, into something that’s meaningful in different contexts, and resonates with peoples realities on the ground. (Parents are going to be a big focus of our next phase of work at Big Change)
As I saw in the USA, the language of change and drive has to come from communities and localised networks, supported and supercharged by those with different types of power and influence. Across Greater Manchester and the North West Owning Education is building a really exciting space, bringing together many disparate groups interested in this agenda — and supported by the University of Manchester and the RSA — a potent combination for change.