Whole Education: Establishing a shared vision for school improvement

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:

SecEd has long supported the work of Whole Education. As the education charity prepares for its sixth annual conference next week, David Crossley describes how they are responding to current challenges and opportunities and previews the event

We have a system where the overwhelming majority of schools are now good or better so the time is right for a debate about how our schools and school system might move from good to great.

In part this is about how we can best respond to the key challenges for our system that are widely shared; continuing to raise achievement; reducing or narrowing the gap, and most importantly of all continuing to improve the quality of teaching and make the most of the teachers we have.

At a time of changes to accountability measures, to examinations and assessment, life without levels, reduced funding, and retainment and recruitment challenges, this is all easier to say than do!

The Whole Education National Conference on November 12 in London seeks to confront and respond to these challenges head on and to explore how schools can seize the agenda whilst developing learners who are both work and life-ready.

Led by Professor Sir Tim Brighouse, the conference provides an opportunity for primary and secondary school leaders to establish a shared vision for school improvement that will enable your school to not only survive but also thrive, sustain and build on their achievements to date and avoid undermining what they have already achieved.

Whole Education sees the conference as a catalyst and something that will showcase and set the agenda for the work of the network and its schools over the next year and beyond.

Sir Tim, along with system leaders, school leaders, and practitioners will discuss, debate and share practice and their ideas for the future.

The day will begin by exploring the qualities schools leaders and teachers need in order to teach, lead and manage in challenging times. In two words this involves both confidence and resilience, two of the attributes schools need to foster, develop and embed as an entitlement for all if they are to provide a whole education.

A key focus is for schools to identify and share what Sir TIm describes as “gaps in the hedge”, or ways through current constraints by making the most of the choices we have. The conference will involve practitioners, schools and system leaders sharing their reflections on how they are combining the “both/and”; a commitment to an entitlement to a whole education which also delivers in terms of conventional outcomes too.

As one network headteacher noted, “our kids do well in terms of accountability measures because they have a whole education. You won’t get the outcomes you want without it…or you might, but they won’t last”.

Sessions will involve contributions from Sir David Carter, regional schools commissioner for the South West; Whole Education’s chairman Sir John Dunford; Toby Greany, professor of leadership and innovation at the UCL Institute of Education; Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teacher; Matthew Purves, head of education at Ofsted; Jonathan Simons, head of education at the Policy Exchange, and fascinating insights from two Canadian educators Dr Judy Halbert and Dr Linda Kaser from the high performing jurisdiction of British Columbia.

In addition to breakout sessions where innovative schools and other educators share their practice and thinking we have two key and topical debates. The first focuses on the issue of narrowing the gap. At Whole Education we believe that it is only through an entitlement to a whole education will we truly narrow the gap. This is based upon a clear moral purpose for our system, but poses the question of what is possible, sustainable and attainable and what should we be focusing on.

Most schools commit to a whole education in their aims but often those students who need it most get access to it least. The Social Mobility Commission highlights the importance of what some regard as soft skills. In their words: “Preparing students for all aspects of life, not just exams – supporting the development of character and other non-cognitive aspects of personality that underpin learning. It is not a question of either/or. Schools need to be doing both."

Our second debate asks the question “Does technology detract from, or is essential to effective learning in the 21st century?”

It includes contribution from Shireland Collegiate Academy, an original “IT test-bed school” with a long commitment to the use of technology for learning and a school that has significantly narrowed its gap. Reflections from international research will also come from Gavin Dykes, the programme director for the Education World Forum.

If you are committed to a values-led approach to education and leadership and to truly making a difference to lives of all young people, join us at our sixth annual conference to "Seize the Agenda".

Further information

To book your ticket for the event, visit www.wholeedconf.wordpress.com and for more information about Whole Education, visit website www.wholeeducation.org or follow us on Twitter @WholeEducation


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