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 first 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 never been very good at conferences. I try to arrive bright and early, in time for the coffee and croissants. But by early afternoon I have the concentration span of a Year 8 boy with his mobile under the desk, last period on a wet Thursday. So being responsible for programming four full days of an education summit, I was conscious that the afternoons had better be as engaging as the mornings, and that the sessions at six every evening, after a full day’s teaching, better have something substantial to say. The Chartered College of Teaching, of course, was the perfect partner to ensure we can offer three consecutive days of early evening challenge. My role each day will be to try to give a flavour of what you would have experienced if you had the time (or stamina) to be with us throughout the whole day.
Staying the course doesn’t just apply to conferences. One of the main issues facing education policy in England is the rapid turnover of Secretaries of State. Too many only stay long enough to introduce another major policy initiative before moving on. Making changes becomes the culture. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that while teachers generally have pretty clear views about what needs changing, most have already experienced enough change to last them a professional lifetime.
The Foundation for Education Development (FED) was established to argue for a long-term strategy and plan for education in England. The first day of our summit is all about taking a long-term view. The opening panel will argue the case for a long-term approach to be underpinned by wellbeing, equity and skills. They will consider the ‘four S’ formula that Robert Halfon, the chair of the Education Select Committee, recently proposed should be the basis for a ten-year plan for education: skills, standards, social justice and support for the profession. A long-term plan seems the right response to the ‘Covid deficit.’
Our second panel, though, is being asked to take an even longer-term view, as they consider whether we are, quite literally, at the end of an era. This is a panel of key education players who remember well the introduction of the Education Reform Act in 1988. It was this era that introduced so much of what we take for granted today: a national curriculum, Ofsted, pupil-based funding and so on. The question being put is about its successes, failures and unintended consequences; and whether now is the time to revisit, rethink and reshape. It’s an argument that one of the panellists, Estelle Morris, has been making for a while. In the FED’s conversations with 12 former Secretaries of State for Education, she talked about the need to engage the profession in the debate for change if we are really going to be able to face the challenges of tomorrow.
This is a theme taken on by two more of day one’s keynote speakers, both of whom argue that system change can only really occur once the profession wants it to happen. Otherwise, it’s just another example of a politically driven initiative, and we all learn to hunker down until it goes away and gets replaced by… another politically driven initiative. Andreas Schleicher, of The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), will be posing the question of how it might be possible to build a future-proof school system. Rebecca Winthrop of the Brookings Institute in Washington DC, will also address the long-term future, by returning to some lessons from recent times. She will ask what possible silver linings could emerge from COVID-19 in terms of education including, for example, more engagement with parents and families and developing trusting relationships; a theme we will undoubtedly return to again and again over the next four days.
This brings us to the first of the three sessions running in partnership with the Chartered College of Teaching. Each of these has a unifying theme about how it is ultimately you, the professionals, who are leading the way; which is exactly how it should be. We stand at a genuine moment, when both politicians and the profession realise how much each needs to trust the other and work together if we are to overcome the challenges of this moment and build a bold, long-term vision for education.
To help us shift the dial, here are some questions that we need to consider as we start to think long-term:
- What does a long-term plan for developing teachers of tomorrow look like?
- How can you think long-term when you are starting your journey as a teacher?
- What does long-term look like when you have been teaching for 30 years already?