Schools develop well when differences are not only tolerated but also welcomed. We live in an age where society, or perhaps government, seeks to ensure consistency, but in so doing, parameters are inadvertently set that create a one-size-fits-all mentality. This is dangerous. We need schools to be different from each other; each offering their own priorities and areas of expertise. Why? Because no one system of schooling works for every individual child – we need to address that fact rather than ceding to the belief that education can only be delivered in one way. Standardising education is like suggesting that the fast-food model of culinary cuisine is an ideal worth replicating.
No, a 21st century education should take children by the hand and show them the wonder of learning for learning’s sake. Standardised education will never achieve that. What we need are schools that replicate Michelin-starred restaurants, each operating to their own standard and to their own priorities. To educate properly we need to care less about the storing of facts and more about the lighting of fires, less about league tables and more about wider achievement, less about examination results and more about the citizens we aspire to be, less about conforming to the norm and more about celebrating differences.
This is the key to societal progress, the key to having an education system that creates the environment and culture for success. Developing your own school agenda is hugely energising and Government would do well to continue in their attempts to empower Head Teachers in having more say in how schools operate. We need much less control, much more autonomy and if that dream ever becomes the reality it will have to be mirrored by a completely different inspection process, one which accentuates the positives and is less judgemental, less scathing. I don’t believe there is a school out there that isn’t trying its utmost to deliver, but schools need freedom and the opportunity to breathe.
The biggest key to educational reform is to reduce teacher workload or, at least, to rebalance it in favour of teaching and learning. (I can’t quite believe I’ve even had to write that last sentence). Requiring copious amounts of paperwork is a spectacular waste of time and cannot create positive outcomes for individual learners. It simply adds stress to teachers who already know their students inside out. Writing down facts and figures does not change that instinctive knowledge, it just adds to the time taken away from the real purpose of education. The development of good relationships between staff and pupils is surely more important than 36 pages of graphs, percentages and tracking files.
Or maybe those in charge of data collection know better….