Please don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good election night-the anticipation, David D( for the last time this May), and the scrabble around to form a government. Health is obviously positioning itself, for many reasons, to be a key focus for all in the next few months. But what about education? Whilst all sides are engaged in talking about the same issues in very similar terms, debates are still out there in the blog sphere about the identical issues that I have seen discussed since I became involved in education in 1980. From Callaghan’s Ruskin speech on the secret garden of education in the 70s we now seem to have a very public garden, but with no real consensus on what to grow or how to nurture different plants. I see this every time I go to Twitter and see debates on what constitutes progressive education; vocational or academic; the role of research; the de-professionalising of teaching and more.All of this in the face of the worst teacher supply and retention situation in decades. Change is relentless, and the most difficult thing to do is to pause. Governmental Motto-If it’s not working very quickly, let’s change the idea/policy/person.
Who will be in charge of education policy and will anyone take away the gardening tools from the politicians? What role will a College of Teachers play? What’s important? As I was named after a politician, here are some ideas that I throw out for you to consider.
-Take the curriculum away from the politicians, without returning to 1976.
– A workforce review, not just a ITE review. Bring in lots of interested parties- universities, teaching school alliances, unions, student teachers. Find someone brilliant, perhaps slightly off the wall, but certainly without a specific axe to grind. Come up with just three BIG ideas. Invite comment. Trial them in specific areas and if they work well, roll them out.
– Bring back creativity in all its forms and learn from the past (see below).
– Encourage new ways of planning – piles of paperwork don’t equal effective planning. @teachertoolkit’s 5 minute plan or similar?
– Systemise professional learning throughout a career so that people have a license to fail, improve and learn from.
-Prioritise people, not structures and re organisation.
Now you see why I am not a politician, but if I was, I suspect my manifesto would be built around the idea that just as children need to relate more closely to their personal and shared environment, teachers need a healthy place and system within which to work. In all the discussions recently on character, I recalled the words of Sir Alec Clegg in the 1950s when he talked about the role of the visual and creative arts in education. He believed that a well planned, well selected activity in visual arts and crafts, music, drama, or creative writing engaged directly with the child’s “loves, hates,fears, enthusiasm and antipathies, with his courage, his confidence and his compassion, in short with the whole range of qualities which will determine not what he knows but the sort of person he is.” I will forgive Sir Alec the gender, as that was of its time! The key point does remain valid for children in my view, and perhaps we need to engage with the workforce in the same way.
So, let’s see if there is any freshness in our debates over the next few months, focused on building a workforce that is not only robustly trained (by a variety of ways), but is able to be both resilient and engaged over a sustained period. That’s my musing for this Monday.