Today has inspired, frustrated and challenged me from the beginning of the day when Carl Ward acknowledged not having a long- term plan holds us back, to the consideration that we have all undergone a storm that has altered the long- term, and the storm may have offered the opportunity to  clear a path to unlock capacity, mobilise potential and encourage us to maximise the opportunities to consider what lies ahead for our children, our families and the future of schools.

In contrast, the Education Minister’s overriding message that behaviour and discipline was important to instil, particular for those children where families had been able to do this. I was left wanting to know a little more in terms of the view of the future, rather than a return or catch-up pathway. Dialogues about how things were, or getting back to normal, or ensuring learners can be restored to sitting at desks in classrooms were clear, but it would have been interesting to hear about what the wider data tells us, both quantitative and qualitative in terms of the long term vision for education.

I was more inclined to consider this from the perspective of what we know is a pressing matter, 

What are the key needs now?

What are our children and families telling us? 

How does the land lie?

What has worked, what isn’t working?

In relation to this then, is the question in relation to:

What do our children need in order to be able to succeed and flourish in the world as it is now and what we anticipate it may be?

What lessons can we learn from what impacted on them during the last year or so?

What has impacted negatively on wellbeing, what would have equipped our children better to adapt and to lead their own learning journey? These are questions coming not just from the pandemic, but from life before this offered us chance to stop and reflect.

Then we may be able to get to the heart of what matters. The ensuing discussions encapsulated much of this within teh context of what has gone before, what we face now and what we know of what is to come, or at least how we need to be able to adapt and develop in innovative and creative capacities.

The language of deficit is not helpful. I think many of us are clear with this. The worlds of our children have changed. How are we going to grow and change to recognise their needs?  Andreas Schleicher drove this home with his recognition of the vast cultural, social and economic shifts in society and consideration of how we adapt, how we create both stability and agility to navigate an unknown future, to respond to the immediate needs of our learners, and to respond to a world where knowledge can be found on Google, but what to do with that knowledge is more pressing.

Although our children are the future of the economy we are not just preparing our children for the world of work, just as education is not confined to schools, we are preparing them for the lives they lead now and the possibilities of an unknown future . We have known for  a long time we needed to integrate approaches to wellbeing into our curriculums, not just as a catch up or intervention. How are we building sustainable healthy, balanced attitudes ? How can we harness this to improve academic achievements and social skills? How can this enable our learners to succeed as human beings? What about broader questions relating to sustainability, environment, inclusion and equality?

A key question relates to examining what our staff understand about the experiences our families have undergone.  Are they trained and supported in working with children and families to understand their perspectives and do they understand their own biased perspectives? Do they know the community in which they work? What will working with and for community look like going forward?

During the pandemic, most educational staff have continued to go to work and interact with the wider world . Have they noticed how the world has changed around them? Have they had time to reflect amid the reactive responses and huge adaptations they’ve had to negotiate over the last year? This is a huge consideration for schools when planning the return to school. I have a dream that this could pave the way for some really great project and solutions-focused learning , grounded in discussions about feelings and needs, allowing for partnerships and collaborations to inspire innovation and building on pedagogiacal practice.

Do our staff understand how has it been for their families who have been isolated together at home? How can we really listen to needs rather than make vast assumptions? How can we harness this and use this to consolidate learning, harness key developments in learning in different ways that have inevitably evolved, and to engage our staff, learners and families in the conversation of what  learning should look like from now on.

We have a real chance to listen, to harness what really matters, what we value and what we think this means for our vision for learning and the success of our children .

Once we are clear with this, then the consideration of what we value can shape how we recognise this, what and if we measure, and how we may do this, and then consider the policies and systems we need to bring this about.

What we may actually find is we can quiet some of the noise , gain a clearer sense of what matters, let go and put a few things in the skip, and in doing so, free up opportunities to work together for a truly collaborative approach to building equitable , ethical and flourishing futures for our young people.

We may manage to find ourselves in a world where we lead with heart and soul and ensure learning is relevant for our children’s futures.

Certainly Andreas Schleicher advocated the consideration of creating the best environment and community for learning to build the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values required. This means establishing  real fluidity of learning across organisations, where meaningful participation in learning is achieved through adaptive systems, with capacity for change, where deep professional collaboration creates an integrated future for our learner, where the context of their learning is rooted in the real world.

What a fantastic day of learning, thinking and connecting it has been.

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