We need long-term solutions for the profession to enable children and young people to continue to receive world-class education. This future must be shaped by the teaching profession. Join the discussion and share your views as we consider the #FutureOfTeaching at our ‘Staffroom Sessions’. Part of the Foundation for Education Development (FED) National Education Summit
This is the second in a series of three blog posts to accompany the Staffroom Sessions. All views are personal to the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the FED.
It took me a long time to realise the importance of geography. As a subject, it was one of those early hurdles I fell at in secondary school, defeated by the complexities of building a contour map. Which is not to say I wasn’t very conscious of where I came from, especially when we moved from my hometown of Sheffield to London when I was 13. As many of you will know, ‘Where do you come from’? is one of the simplest yet most loaded of questions, which is maybe why I have, in recent years, become increasingly fascinated by ‘place’, the topic discussed on day 2 of the FED summit, and the question we are asking: How can long-term place-based strategies strengthen our communities?
Day 2 of the ‘Staffroom Sessions’ is with two leading advocates and practitioners of place-based change, Stephen Betts, who runs learnsheffield.co.uk and Christine Gilbert CBE, former Head of OFSTED, and now chair of Camden Learning and co-chair of the Association for Area-Based Education Partnerships (AEPA). These school-led partnerships seek to improve their localities by working collectively, tackling local issues that would be harder to address by autonomous schools.
Place-based learning, of course, can mean very different things. It might simply be about teaching the geography or history of the area where the school is situated. At the other end of the spectrum though, as Baroness Estelle Morris remarked at an AEPA conference in 2019, is the notion that every teacher and every school has two obligations, an obligation to the children they teach and a collective obligation to serve every child in their area.
Partial school closures during the COVID-19 pandemic have highlighted schools’ sense of local responsibility – schools have taken the lead in so many areas of community survival, whether delivering meals or securing laptops. The question FED always poses, though, is how to look beyond the immediate and think long term. What are the long-term implications of a place-based approach to the child of five, who 20 years later is most likely still to be living in the same area? This touches on the debate over social mobility, where so often ‘moving up’ is about ‘moving away’. A sense of responsibility to place puts education at the heart of local regeneration and renewal, both economic and civic. Leora Cruddas, CEO of the Confederation of School Trusts will be talking on day two with three MAT leaders about this growing sense of civic leadership. Andy Burnham will be in conversation with other mayors about where schools fit in the fabric of local revival and growth and Lord Jim Knight will open the day, in conversation with Ann Limb and Dame Julia Cleverdon, arguing that it is only through education that we can genuinely build local economic renewal and bring a new sense of hope. A great example of place-based change that involves a whole city can be seen in work going on in Pittsburgh, under the direction of Gregg Behr, who will also be speaking on day two. He will be in conversation with Flavio Bassi of Ashoka in Brazil, reminding us that these are global issues and questions. Global seems a big concept, and even thinking that every teacher and every school is part of a local or regional jigsaw of obligations may seem one thought too much to worry about right now. Flip it slightly, though, and it’s once again all part of the power and importance of the work that goes in our classroom and the need to engage teachers and schools in deciding the future contours of the place we call home.
To help us shift the dial, here are some questions that we need to consider as we start to think long-term.
- How can we develop and support new models of collaboration between education organisations that are anchored in local economies and their needs?
- How far do agree that part of the schools’ aim is to prepare young people for local jobs?
- Do you agree that there should be more emphasis on place in education?