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As we edge ever closer to crucial national elections in the UK and US in the coming months, arguably there has never been a more important time to recognise the crucial role of education in determining the future, ours and more vitally, our children's. There is going to be a huge amount said and spoken about what politicians and policy makers will want to do, so I thought I'd stick my oar in and share, in no particular order, 10 of the challenges I want them to respond to, and of course, funding tops the lot! I know it's not an exhaustive list and I'd love other's to add to it, share it or debate it.


1.    How do we remove education from political control?

A sustainable and successful education system must be held to account and that is the role of Government. A successful education system needs coherent, sustainable and long term developments; not the short term policy shifts that we see occur with every new Government or every ministerial appointment.  How do we find a more independent and way to manage mass education?

2.    How do we broaden the voices that help define future developments?

Collaboration must be at the heart of education; the sharing of ideas, the broadening of contexts and the understanding of the challenges in our global society. In order to do that we must explore ways that enable more stakeholders and particularly children and parents to have a greater say. We must build better and more productive links to the business sector too. We must explore whether vested interest groups such as some higher education institutions and publishing organisations have too much control of school based education policy development.

3.    How do we move away from the restraints of trying to develop a new education system when the existing outcomes are always the focus?

We cannot hope to develop a new approach if we have to meet existing outcome models. We must debate whether the existing qualifications model, is fit for purpose any longer. Are we limiting education development because of our fixation with exams and qualifications, does that lead to a narrowing of opportunity and development? We must find the courage and trust to develop a new model and a new process and then find new ways to hold that model to account.

4.    Have we spent too long debating how our schools should be managed, rather than how they should be led?

In recent years, there has been fierce argument over the desire to restructure who runs our schools. Considerable time and resource has been spent on setting up new models of school ownership and control. Does that really matter, or are we missing the point? All schools can be great but that is defined by how they are led not by who manages them.

5.    How do we move away from the belief that schools improve by primarily focusing on industrial efficiency models?

Schools are not factories; production lines. They are organisations that exist to aid human development and potential. Children are gloriously individual and organic. As a species, we are born with free will; we all see the world through different eyes. Do we need to develop an approach that is more organic than battery farm?

6.    Do we not need to learn far more from how young children learn and think more bottom up than top down?

Do we really spend enough time, not only valuing, but learning from early year’s education and the remarkable rate of development that young children make in that phase of their lives? Do we live with the misunderstanding that the most skilled teachers are most often seen at the highest levels of education; in universities, rather than, what is more often the case; in early year’s settings?

7.    Skills verses knowledge?

Is it not time to move beyond this divisive and misinformed debate? You cannot have one without the other. What we do need to do is reflect on the fact that too often reforms around curriculum tend to descend into arguments about content. We must spend far more time developing learning that is both rich in context and experience so that children learn faster and with greater purpose. How much of the content you were taught at school can you really remember?

8.    If it takes a village to raise a child, how do we?

Should schools be seen as places where children are dropped off at 3 years old and picked up at 18; educated? What role should schools play in a future where we must all be more actively involved in the development of our children and their futures? How do we turn schools into collaborative hubs rather than gated communities? How do we ensure that all members of our society act on their responsibility to be directly involved in that education?

9.    How do we recruit and train the right people to lead our education system?

At its core education is about human development, therefore education professionals need to be highly skilled people with a diverse set of skills. They need to be able to adapt and to be committed to personal growth and development as well as to designing and delivering great learning opportunities. They need to be constantly challenging their own experiences and practice; to be prepared to step outside of their comfort zones, to review and research and to self-manage. We need people with high levels of emotional intelligence, outstanding communicators and entrepreneurial spirit. Great teachers do not control through fear and are not simply the transmitters of information. How do we attract, train and retain such people? 

10.  What place technology?

If education must reflect the world beyond the gates then technology must be at its heart. Technology though is not, in itself, the future of education. It is a key element of life and living but we must ensure that it isn’t treated like a gimmick but that it is used to reflect life and society; part of everything that we do; socially and culturally embedded. Whatever our fears, we cannot tell our students to leave their technology at the gates for example. We must debate how to use technology within an educational context so that if reflects its impact on society, we also need to understand and respect that the early adopters of new technologies are usually our children and therefore we must allow them to help us understand the cultural shifts that technology brings.


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