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Life Beyond the Slide Rule!

The evolution of change

I remember the turmoil in my house when the realisation hit – my comprehensive school didn’t teach / need / refer to a slide rule during my maths education! My older brother had his own slide rule (which I was occasionally allowed to play with). He used it with skill all thanks to his grammar school education, but I was clueless.

The introduction of a calculator as a tool to help with maths homework was also greeted with comments about the value of mental maths because “you are not always going to have a calculator in your hand”. Of course, the irony that most of us have not only a calculator but an encyclopedia, photo album, torch and money access in our hand 24/7 was never imagined.

My point of course is not to devalue mental maths but to embrace the evolution of change. Moving forwards doesn’t dismiss the past as inferior. However, sluggish reluctance to stride into new ways is, in my opinion, a drain on time, energy, motivation and ultimately jams the door on exciting opportunities.

As education doesn’t even recognise itself in the mirror at the moment, I am driven to run barefoot through a new vision of what could be. One teacher to thirty students – why? Teaching outside of subject specialism – why? One hour until the bell that lifts most of us out of our skin in shock – why? Exam attainment measures of success – why? Data drops – why? Marking exercise books, often of notes copied from a power point – why? Offering an academic based EBACC curriculum- why? WHY WHY WHY?

If the answer to any of these questions are because it is the most effective way of ensuring that our young people are developed into resilient, mindful, inclusive citizens that can manage multiple work opportunities because of the transferable skills they were taught in school, then keep going. If the answer is ‘because we always have’ ‘we have had enough change’ ‘because of the budget’ ‘it is what our parents/board members expect’ ‘we have to because of the rules’ - then think again.

I have had the privilege this year of watching some incredible online lessons. We have reached some children in a way that we have not been able to before. The teachers who embraced the new medium but stayed loyal to their pedagogy of student focused learning for example, have delivered an amazing learning experience during the past year. It isn’t all about gadgets, programmes and apps, it is STILL about relationships, safety and motivation.

There is a long way to go to fine tune our possibilities. We do not have to put an end to all systems before covid (BC) However, we have a duty as educational leaders to collaborate on our kick-started evolution and explore how this could improve the relevance and effectiveness of learning for our young people. This is not limited to any particular phase of education. I have the privilege of links with all educational phases, and this is equally relevant to all. This is our moment. We do not need to run to what we knew without at least considering what could be.

Fresh eyes are a powerful position to have and sometimes that is difficult within our own structures and places of work. How are you using your buildings? What are your pinch points at lesson change over or wet break? Can that look different now that we have experienced different year groups or bubbles having different timings of the school day? Can your subject specialist teach a whole cohort of students remotely and then teachers explore the learning in smaller seminar groups? Can students opt for webinar lessons at a time of their choosing? Will flexibility in the timetable open up new staffing choices and curriculum offers?

As a Headteacher I was very aware of the competition between schools and how collaborative working was often through the competitive veil of progress tables and student numbers. Now as a consultant, I can see the benefit of true collaboration and wish I had explored the consultancy route for support when I was in school leadership. The value of not being attached to any school, Ofsted or local authority gives the strength of ‘outsider advantage’. Our horizon for change is closer than it has ever been, education is different and doesn’t need to be sprinting back to the comfort of certainty.

Of course, there are a plethora of new writings claiming solutions, systems and structures for our educational upheaval. The purpose of this blog is to throw us all the drive to consider things that we haven’t even thought of yet. We don’t have to ‘return’! We never stopped! As the opportunities of blended learning, technology, citizenship priorities, curriculum development and flexible working have come into focus, let’s energise our colleagues to feel refreshed with the possibilities.

Despite their original fears, I have been successful without being able to use a slide rule! I am sure it was very beneficial when it was fit for purpose but that is not today. Look outwards, look forwards, this is the moment when education evolved into something exciting and fit for purpose.

Before Covid (BC) to After Daring (AD), we will be a future history lesson!

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