Friday, March 23, 2007
Don't forget teaching!
Inspiring learning - the forgotten challenge
Recently we have seen schools appoint new Boards of Trustees. Boards of Trustees were introduced as the key element of 'self managing schools'. Democracy in action - appointed to represent the wishes of the local community they seem to have been lost the last decade or so in administration, finance, buildings and complying to endless compliance demands.
Any idea of influencing the direction of school philosophy and programmes has been well and truly lost. Some would say thank goodness.
Whatever, the emphasis now needs to be placed on teaching and learning - and responding to the particular needs of each individual student A new phrase has entered the educational ring - 'personalised learning' but, for those with long memories, it will sound very familiar. For those who have been 'colonised by managerialism and rational 'one size fits all' curriculums it will be either a challenge or an intellectual problem.
Schools never should have been distracted from their only important function - inspiring all children to retain and extend their natural love of learning.
Forget about how to run the school ( give BOTs the some administrative help to do this ) and for goodness sake get school to work together! A recent report on BOTs said the biggest issue in our schools was 'a lack of connectivity'! Self managing has become stand alone - or apart.
To develop inspirational schools BOTs ought to work with their teaching teams, students and the parent community to develop schools that really attract and engage all their students. It seems, at present, we know how to extend the more capable but have no idea about how to solve the long lack of achievement tail.
Creative teachers know how to inspire even the most reluctant students and always have but they need the trust and freedom to do so. Inspirational talented teachers are the key to future success. They need to be valued and put in touch with each other, other teachers and other schools so as to spread their wonderful ideas. We have had enough of education by distant committee, contracts, targets, audit cultures, imposition of incoherent curriculums and endless compliance requirements.
Up until now we have been busy re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic - worrying about weather antiquated Cambridge exams or complicated technocratic modules will win the day when the ship is sinking. It is obvious exams fail half the students ( that was their point - to sort the wheat from the chaff) and the module system, as it is currently implemented, is not inspiring many students who see it as a grab bag of bits and pieces.
Inspiring students , of any age, in tasks that really engage them and give them a chance to both develop their competence and their talents is the answer. The trouble is students can't be measured using old ideas of assessment - they can only be measured by what they can do, perform , create,and demonstrate and by their attitudes toward further learning.
The real challenge for BOTs is to create 'their' schools as creative learning communities for both 'their' teachers ( to attract and keep the best) and for students ( to develop each individuals set of talents) and they will have to work with other schools both to share and to gain new ideas.
Inspiring all learners to learn for learning's own sake is the real challenge or problem. As H L Menken , the American journalist once said, ' 'Serious problems often get easy solutions and the easy answers are always wrong.'
Time for some new thinking at the BOT level?