I have had the privilege of being able to visit 2 schools recently at the invitation of their Heads. At Barfield and Aldenham Prep I had the opportunity to facilitate training and familiarisation with Education for Social Responsibility (ESR). The aim is to enable staff teams to reflect on their current provision and start the process of considering how this can be developed to embrace a more effective approach. This is very simple: 15 minutes of talk from me on the background followed by 30 minutes of group activity – a circus of mind mapping areas of the schools current provision associated with each of the 6 elements of ESR – finishing off with 15 minutes (more or less) of Q & A.
At both schools I met incredibly engaged and enthusiastic staff teams, who exemplify the unique blend of knowledge, experience and diversity of views found independent schools. There are, of course, those for whom the discussion of anything different is anathema. However, as this was the first time that we have been able to present ESR to whole schools, the feedback from all parties is both insightful and valuable, allowing us to recognise more precisely what ESR can mean to our schools.
Some key questions arose which are important to reflect upon as we share experiences across IAPS. It was so exhilarating to be able to debate and discuss deeper issues about the purpose of education.
What is “new” about ESR?
The subtitle to the name is “one day they’ll call it education”. ESR is not about peddling a panacea or a prescribed curriculum, promoting new materials or dictating a direction. What is new is the opportunity to hold a dialogue within our schools and across our association about the purpose of education, it’s relevance and efficacy for children facing a rapidly changing world. There is inherent danger in naming any initiative as our tendency is to categorise, sort, label and compare. So a core purpose of ESR is to enable us to recognise just what our core purpose is.
How is this different from what I have done for X years?
Excellent practice and pastoral care is immutable. There are, as was pointed out in discussion, ways of enabling children to develop and learn that have not and will not change. As became clear through the mind mapping excercise, the schools began to realise just how much they are all ready doing that embraces ESR.
What examples can be given of what can enhance our provision?
This is, at the moment, perhaps the biggest challenge. SEEd, WWF, Eco Schools and the Co-Operative, amongst many others, have spent years developing materials that support schools in finding a way to address an Education for Social Responsibility. However, emerging from the answer to the last question, the answer to this one lies within. Current practice and staff experience often provides the best examples. I have been curating supporting resources (www.storify.com/EfSR) and know that as ESR is shared, more of these examples will come to light and work to support schools looking to address their development.
I would like to thank the Heads and Staff of Aldenham and Barfield for their time, their candour and their wealth of knowledge. Education for Social Responsibility is stronger and more focused because of their input.