Towards a Shifting Paradigm

Not all learning requires a desk

In a previous week’s poll on our school website, 65.5% think humans are causing global warming. 31% don’t think so. 3.4% don’t know. On the strength of these results it appears that the large majority of our own community recognise our impact on the environment.

Recognising that there is an impact is the first step in the process of being able to do something about it. I was able to attend to meetings this week that clearly demonstrate that the momentum in education is increasing to seek ways of effecting this change. The first was a working group brought together by SEEd to establish the foundations for a curriculum in schools that would establish a core provision in Education for Sustainable Development (ESD). The other was as a group of Heads and IT teachers from our association (IAPS) that we brought together to understand more clearly how the use of ICT will shift our approach to education and ensure that learning in schools provides opportunities for collaboration and challenge. Radical stuff.

It is this paradigm shift in our thinking about curriculum and the meaning of schools that is essential for us to have the impact on young people that we hope will lead to a more just and fair future for them all. We want our children to achieve the best they can and this means addressing ALL aspects of who they are. We want them to be excellent learners, able to read with understanding, express themselves in writing and understand the language and use of mathematics. We want them to be physically adept and recognise the need for a well-balanced and healthy lifestyle and possess a sense of well-being. And we want them to relate in a positive and constructive way to each other and their environment, caring for all living things and understanding how to conserve our dwindling resources. The challenge then is to accomplish this as soon as we possibly can. Standing still has never been an option. I feel we are long way forward in seeking out the definition of what this paradigm shift means and our aim is to continue to address how we prepare children for their lives ahead.

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Ian Fletcher, Head of Deliverance

The BBC is often a rich vein of inspiration about a range of things. However, watching Twenty Twelve last night, I was reminded that satire is perhaps meant to teach us lessons about our own ‘real’ world. The sitcom is great fun and extremely well written and observed, although I hope the actual delivery of the London 2012 Olympics is being met with a little less farce than that at the ODC led by Ian Fletcher (played with such aplomb by Hugh Bonneville).

Are there inadvertent leadership lessons that Ian Fletcher might teach us? He is surrounded by colleagues who are relatively incompetent, slightly (or in some cases rather more than slightly) eccentric in some way, his marriage has broken down, he has been thrown out of his own home and he is compelled to commute to work via fold-up bike. And he has to deliver the most important sporting and cultural event that the country has seen in a generation.

Yet despite all this he remains calm, not given to histrionics, even if a colleague is attempting to pull the wool over his eyes, patiently interrogating ideas until something at lest reasonably sensible manifests itself!  He can articulate, even the most bizarre and outlandish ideas succinctly, almost convincingly and, when facing the world’s media, he always backs his team.

Oh, and he has a phenomenal PA who he values…although she is madly in love with him, which is perhaps not necessarily a lesson to take heed of!

Twenty Twelve

Leadership in a Rapidly Changing World

2 years ago I undertook a course at Ashridge Business School. As an “alumni” I periodically receive invitations to various Business Leadership events. Today (Thursday April 29th) I attended an event at the IoD in London which was the launch of a report lead jointly by Ashridge Business School and IBLF (International Business Leaders Forum) entitled “Leadership in a Rapidly Changing World: how business leaders are reframing success.”
With the work that Marcus Culverwell (Reigate St Mary’s Prep School) and I have been doing on developing a draft sustainability policy for IAPS, this is a document that may lend credence to the strand of our research that will consider the challenge to the prevailing ideas of business leadership and its impact on leadership in schools.
The report can now be accessed online however, in the meantime, I have prepared the following as a very brief summary.
Read Full Report

  • Market demand for improved quality of life and inclusion in a resource-constrained context has lead to reframing measurement of success and moving beyond short-termism.
  • Shifting cultural & societal norms, changing economic and political policy and environmental impact provoke evolution in dominant ideas about business leadership.
  • With corporations such as Apple (http://thingsappleisworthmorethan.tumblr.com/) now being so vast, business leaders are increasingly developing an understanding of the major forces shaping society.
  • Business leaders are increasingly engaging with language and building relationships that have previously been the preserve of politics and activism.
  • Consequently leaders have had to develop skills in leading change, collaboration with unconventional stakeholders, engaging empathetically with multiple interest groups.
  • When considering the future and forces that will shape global society we may need radically different approaches to leadership in business.
  • Key experiences are crucial in influencing and shifting perspectives.

There is much, I am certain, that would resonate with many school leaders. I asked a question at the forum about lessons that could be learned by heads. The response from Sir Stuart Rose (formerly CEO of M&S) and Mark Foster (formerly Group CE of Accenture) was two-fold. Schools need to prepare young people with the values and provide the key experiences that will influence their adult life choices. In addition, young people entering the workplace must be encouraged to carry with them their convictions and possess the skills to work with leaders who may or may not share them.
Schools are naturally given to creating shared value over a long term (7-14 years of a child’s schooling) with a myriad of stakeholders. What I heard today shares themes emerging from the that Marcus and I are doing, recent experiences at both the Education for Sustainable Development Curriculum Group and the IAPS London-wide conference on the shifting educational paradigm driven by mobile technology and social media. Schools ought to be engaged in this discussion as the leadership within them and the influences on young people will have profound consequences for the pace at which our society meets these challenges in this rapidly changing world.

Change

Sometimes it seems as if the only thing we can rely on is change.  At school, change is something that we manage with great regularity.  It is perhaps one of the paradoxes of schools and education, that children, innately conservative little individuals, are in a constant state of change, growth and development.  Nothing stands still in their lives.  No point in cognitivie or emotional development is achieved without another further possibility being presented to them.  As soon as they grasp counting, adding emerges.  Mark making, in turn replaced by letter formation, spelling, sentences, stories, essays, reports, dissertations, theses, books….
This process is always intriguing and the most challenging for any of those who are involved in a child’s learning.  What is the next step? How do they get there? What support do they need?  Can they do it by themselves? How quickly should they be progressing?  What will it lead to? What could it lead to?  At school, it is our aim to keep these questions uppermost and engage parents in helping us come up with the answers.

On Twitter pt 2

And then there is teaching someone else to use twitter and explain how it works. I’ve had a couple of experiences of this and in both there was a certain amount of willingness coupled with a lack of comprehension of why it might be important. And therein lies the rub. I look down my twitter feed and wonder how some people get time to put finger to keyboard; why are certain groups or individuals so prolific? I also look down my twitter feed and wonder how or why I can read through all this material and am I missing some crucial nugget of news or information that will make my world a better place?
After several years of being “on twitter”, and with no formal twitter-education, it is clear that twitter is a media like print and traditional broadcast services except that it contains news, information and knowledge sharing from absolutely everybody; it is as much for global leaders as it is for our next-door neighbours and passing acquaintances. Getting the balance between tweeting and tweet-reading is important. The medium gives all of us with access a voice as well as ears and as with any form of communication the right and responsibility to use both wisely. It’s just that some do, and some don’t!
So perhaps this is lesson 1.
With twitter you are in a conversation. Its just that the conversation could be with Barack Obama as much as it could be with your friends from school.
And just as with any conversation, listen attentively and take your turn to speak, remembering what you were taught about being polite!