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 third and final 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.
I have met some remarkable people in putting this programme together. It is a genuine privilege of this job that I do get to meet and learn from so many extraordinary folk. I often find myself wishing that if only these people, organisations and approaches had been around when I when I was still a headteacher; it might have made me feel much less alone. As Dame Alison Peacock notes in her foreword to 10% Braver by Vivienne Porritt and Keziah Featherstone: ‘Sometimes in life there are times when stepping forward, being 10% braver, is more compelling than waiting for others to act.’ (Peacock, p. 13)
Day 3 of the FED summit is all about the need to act now, and the principles that should underline our actions. We have called it a day about ‘equity and trust’, and are posing the question of how both of these might underpin any long-term plan for education. We are at a moment when the government has said very clearly that it wants and needs to put its trust in teachers. As this year unfolds, it will become increasingly apparent that there is a new mood and a new opportunity to rebuild trust. Without it, grades cannot be awarded and schools, frankly, cannot run day to day. That’s why the morning of Day 3 will see the leaders of major teaching unions asking how we might restore a sense of trust to the system? It is something that I will be asking Diana Osagie our lunchtime speaker, and it is a question that will undoubtedly occur and reoccur throughout the day.
Equity might be seen as the other side of the coin. A morning panel will discuss how we build a sense of genuine equity, and the afternoon session with the Fair Education Alliance will look at equity in practice. Much of today is about how a genuinely equitable system requires the redistribution of power in some way. That is why we are opening the day with what might seem a slightly abstruse discussion on ‘state capacity.’ I have to admit to resorting to google when I first encountered the term. As I understand it, state capacity asks some very big questions about the ‘strength and reach’ of the state. We have all seen how COVID-19 has necessitated much greater state intervention. Indeed, in education, we are very used to a heavily regulated and interventionist model.
Our education system, chopped up as it is into subjects and faculties from age 11 onwards, can make us all worry most about our small space; our little classrooms. It can be hard to step outside of this space, and to see how education is a connected ecosystem, to remember what Dame Alison calls ‘the power of the collective.’ (Peacock, p. 13)
It can be even harder to feel a sense of this power if it is denied us, and if we see a system run by those who do not look or sound like us; if decisions are made far away from us, by those who never talk to or listen to us. That is why we are ending Day 3 with a look at where power really resides, and the experience of building ‘grassroots change.’
Peacock A (2019) Foreword. In: Porritt V and Featherstone K (eds) 10% Braver: Inspiring Women to Lead Education. London: SAGE Publications, pp. 13–14.