Education ‘paralysed’ by a lack of trust


Ensuring achievement for all students, building the professional skills of teachers, and promoting collaboration among institutions. These are the three “building blocks” that must be placed “at the heart” of system improvement, school leaders have said.

However, they have urged the government to show more trust in schools and to foster a culture of collaboration in order that the profession can be allowed to drive school improvement.

The calls have come after the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) published the findings of its recent Great Education Debate.

The initiative ran during the last academic year and engaged with the profession and wider education sector with the aim of fostering agreement about how to further improve our schooling system.

The resulting 84-page publication, entitled Leading for the Future, includes essays and contributions from a range of leading educationalists as well as school leaders, teachers and students.

Launched at the House of Commons on Monday (September 8), the document is being particularly targeted at ministers and politicians.

The initiative was inspired by prime minister James Callaghan’s great debate on the future of education in 1976 and ASCL’s report emphasises how many of the issues highlighted 38 years ago are still current today.

These include whether young people entering the workforce have the right skills, the performance of particular groups of pupils, curriculum content, and examination reform.

As well as the three building blocks, the paper also sets out three key leadership challenges for the coming years: to imagine the future, to create value in education, and to lead the system.

And when it comes to learning, three priorities are also identified: “a compelling curriculum vision”, “rich pedagogical practice”, and “strong assessment strategy and practice”.

In his conclusion to the publication, incoming ASCL president, Dr Peter Kent calls on the government to trust the profession to lead school improvement.

He writes: “We have allowed a lack of trust to paralyse our system, preventing us from moving forward together. Too often there has been a suspicion of individual schools from the centre.

“In response, policy-makers and government institutions have been regarded with equal suspicion by the autonomous institutions that they have created.

“Although it may not always sound exciting, the evidence for the impact of strategies focusing upon building trust and connection is compelling.

“If we want our educational system to flower then we need to recognise the transformational impact of a culture built upon trust.”

The next stage of the campaign will see ASCL launch a consultation later this month to help create a “blueprint for a self-improving, school-led system” based on the findings of its publication.

ASCL’s director of policy Leora Cruddas said: “Alongside the day-job of leading schools, we must also consider the future shape of the education system, not just how we add value, but how we create value and how we lead the system. The next phase in system leadership is to make the leap to defining what a self-improving, school-led system looks like, and then moving irrevocably towards it.”

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