We strongly believe that moving education forward, ensuring that it is future-focused, happens when the conversation changes. And the way to do that means making the case, and showing how some are already leading the way – both top-down and bottom-up.
Here are some things we can all do:
- You’re the ones whose lives are being determined by the existing system of schooling. If you don’t like it, make your opinion count. Don’t worry that expressing your view will damage your prospects at school – the chances are that your teachers and school leaders feel exactly the same way you do. They will welcome your support. And, it’s all part of you education to question the systems around you, ask ‘why do we do it this way?’ and ‘could we do this better, and how?’;
- Remember that the people who currently look after your interests have had very little influence, politically, in the shape of educational policy. Don’t blame them for the way things are – instead, recognise that we are where we are, and we have to work within those constraints. If you like going to school, make sure you let your teachers know it. If you don’t, work with them and parents to change it.
- Despite all the pressure heaped upon you by the media when exams come around, bear in mind that employers these days largely hire on attitude, not test scores. Do your best at exam time, but remember that – like passing your driving test – you’ll probably never take another exam once you’re done with formal education. The first 20% of your life bears little or no resemblance to the remaining 80% – we wish it were otherwise but until that day comes, keep it in perspective. Many of the contributors in this book hated school, but they did OK in life.
- Encourage your teachers to teach you things that AREN’T in the exam syllabus. Give them moral support to go off piste and innovate.
- Work with fellow head teachers locally to make your area’s schools ‘future-literate’. Forward looking issues are different from those issues that are top of the agenda at the present time. Such things as budgets, changes to exam specification and staff shortages are hard to manage. They are, though, immediate rather than longer term.
- Headteachers in many communities meet their MP regularly and most MPs take this forum seriously and there is a chance for dialogue about current positions. However, politicians become adept at coping with complaints about the national situation either by opposing or supporting or explaining and requoting their party line. People in schools tend to be ‘apolitical’ in action, yet representing the school and being a professional might mean speaking out for the millions of children facing their futures in education. If we are to move the system forward, politicians need to wake up to the scale of the issues raised in this book. We are not talking about this year, this cohort of young people or this parliamentary term. We need urgent, large scale, long term, change. A significant change would be to move the influence in school policy away from the potential whims of individual politicians and construct policy through a decision-making process that would build more widespread support and clarity of purpose.
- Agree a rota of headteachers to visit the local MPs surgery individually so that you monopolise time. An MP meeting one after another local head teacher all making the same case for change would soon be talking to the party whips about their experience…and if this were mirrored many times over, it would have an impact.
- Work with colleague headteachers locally to agree a rota to write a column in local newspapers about the frustrations, futility and failings of what schools are expected to do and the impact upon their children. Keep the column ‘forward looking’ and positive and suggest ways parents can make a difference and get involved.
- Arrange a showing of the film ‘Most Likely To Succeed’ (available from www.mltsfilm.org or from the Innovation Unit in the UK www.innovationunit.org), together with a community discussion afterwards. It’s a great film for stimulating discussions about future-focused learning.
- Invite someone that wrote an essay in this book to come and speak at your school.
- Run a workshop for parents on how they would like their child’s education to be future-ready (we can advise).
- Write your own provocation post on this website (www.educationforward.co.uk)
- Submit an article for the Class Action magazine (www.classactionmag.com), a new magazine written by teachers, for teachers.
- Just think. Think if there’s a better way of doing what you are doing (particularly if you’ve been doing it for quite a while), whether there’s good research to back up what you are doing, whether it’s actually making a positive difference for the children in your care, and whether it is genuinely enjoyable and inculcating a lifelong love for learning. And be courageous to raise your questions with others.
- Get connected, discuss issues with colleagues outside your school and break down silos. Teachers can influence policy. If presented with the opportunity to meet with journalists, union leaders and politicians, share your concerns, but also offer your solutions.
- Invite parents to buy a copy of this book (or read the free on-line version).
- When governance works it can transform the culture of school; not just holding school leaders to account, but involving the entire body of staff, parents and where possible, the students. Good governance requires leaders to be research-rich and future-focused to support schools to move forward. The best way is for governors to become familiar faces who frequently reward and recognise the work of the staff in their school.
- Recognise that there needs to be change; real, fundamental change rather than tinkering with a system that is often the equivalent of semaphore in the technological age.
- Build an alliance with colleagues to voice some ‘forward looking’ issues within your party. Challenge the party’s special advisers to the education team when their policy ideas address short term power for the party over long-term benefit for children.
- Invite Education Forward people to come and give you and other colleagues briefings, and to debate the issues. We can support you to develop a new narrative, which is both evidence-based and compelling. We can connect to initiatives which are happening globally, where education is less parochial and more future focused. Successful working exemplars can show that there is an alternative.
- If you are a parent wondering ‘what next?’, there are many things you can do for the future. Of course, the issues raised in the book are about your own children but they are also about every other child, not just in Britain but across the globe. Learning is not something that should be a race against others but a right for every child. It might be easy to think, ’My child has only three years left and nothing will change in that time. I agree, but what can I do?’ As this book shows, some of the things affecting children now affected the previous generation…you…and left as it is the same sorts of things will affect future generations…your grandchildren.
- Please go to your school and ask the governors to debate some of the big questions raised in the book.
- Be in touch with other parents nationally and globally via social media or through channels where you work to share thoughts and ideas.
- Ask positive questions of your school, your child, of governors and proprietors. For example, are you certain that the breadth of the curriculum is really in the long-term interests of your child or whether it is too focussed on short-term and superficial measures of the school’s own performance? Or, is the school providing opportunities for children to develop the things you value as an adult, such as strength of relationships and resilience? The world will move inextricably forward and in twenty years won’t be recognisable, so how is your child’s school contributing to her or his future success?
- Start an online petition. It’s now easy to do. Online campaign groups, like 38 degrees will host your petition.