We are a group of UK citizens who have been involved in education for a long time. We don’t claim to represent everyone, but we include authors, former government ministers, classroom teachers, parents, entrepreneurs, CEOs, school governors, university professors and school leaders. We suspect there are many, many more people who feel the same way, but we haven’t, as yet, ascertained how many, since our first task was to crystallise those concerns, ideas and aspirations into a vision for change.
The common cause that has united us? The conviction that we need to change the conversation around education. For too long, the public debate has been too narrow, too restrictive and too polarised. It’s also been overly regressive, often fuelled by the idea of recreating some past golden age of schooling, even as we hurtle into a radically different future. Educational policy-making has become ideological, especially in England – where most of the book’s contributors reside.
Societal and technological change, of a kind never before witnessed, has been hurtling toward us, demanding that we radically rethink every aspect of our lives except, it seems, the implications for education reform. It’s as though, faced with the sheer scale of problems that our primary-age kids will have to face in the coming years – dominated by automation, artificial intelligence, the impact of climate change and mass economic migration – we’ve decided to seek comfort in irrelevance. We seem fixated upon which teaching methods will improve our standing in international league tables, rather than ask what the purpose of education should be. Endless debates over traditional instruction strategies vs discovery-based learning, rather than identifying what students will need to know, and be able to do, in the new knowledge economy.
This inward-looking insularity comes at a cost. Somewhere along the way, the voices of tomorrow’s entrepreneurs – and today’s parents – have been lost in the conversation. So, it’s our belief that change has to come, and come soon. Of course, in a minority of schools, both in the UK and abroad, change has already come. There are some schools that have worked intensively with parents to make sure their student’s wellbeing is paramount. They work with cutting-edge companies to make sure their students engage in real, purposeful, work that matters.They don’t neglect the fundamentals – literacy and numeracy. Instead, they complement them with digital literacy, oracy, problem-solving, and many other skills that employers are crying out for. They are creating confident, globally-competent, future-ready citizens. If policy-makers have heard of such schools, they seem reluctant to acknowledge that there can be another way, often dismissing attempts to introduce any new approaches as ‘fads’. While we don’t give up on the idea of influencing politicians and policy makers, their recent record of listening to education professionals and employers hasn’t been at all encouraging. If we’re to change the education conversation, it will have to happen through an aggregation of social movements, drawn from a far wider collection of activists than we’ve seen so far.
We take heart from the number of lobbying groups that are already out there, and it’s absolutely not our desire to replace, or compete with, any of them. What we seek is a broad-based coalition of organisations and individuals who feel the time is right to take a positive, forward-looking approach to re-imagining the schools we need to best prepare our young people to be future-ready, feeling confident and fulfilled.
We believe that the issues that concern us are not being sufficiently examined – in government, in the media, and around the dining table. So, we need your help – ask yourself ‘what can be done to bring these concerns to a wider audience, and what can we do to bring about change?’
And then get in touch with us – together we can change the conversation.