Re-prioritising education, gearing up for change, the tensions that causes and the need to celebrate those who will implement it are James Pope’s top picks of the education topics
Focusing on how Covid-19 has exposed the inequalities in our society, Dan Morrow writes about the need to take our collective experience and build something better, for the benefit of everyone. He leads with his perspective of society’s response, how in this “hour of need” we have collaborated and co-operated, recognising and celebrating the contribution of key workers. Dan implores us to recognise a fundamental truth, that many of those we are celebrating are ordinarily overlooked and dismissed as unimportant in our busy pursuit of more. Oh, how we have come to rely on them now. Morrow goes on to reflect on how this applies to education, how we can re-imagine and reprioritise our work focusing on the true purpose of education. If our celebrations and gratitude are genuine, then we must surely not allow things to return to “normal”. Even though each and every one of us desires normality, we must build something new. To not do so, to sweep the inequalities back under the carpet when all this is done, would be to have failed those we are celebrating.
Echoing these themes, Charmaine Roche takes a slightly different perspective. Our situation leads us to some fundamental questions about society, equity and education’s part in these, but change is hard at the best of times. So how can we best prepare? How can we find the capacity to lead this change before the opportunity is gone? How can we build something new through the lens of appreciative inquiry, celebrating with positivity what came before? Building her narrative around a quote from Antonio Gramsci – “the old world is dying, while the new world struggles to be born…” – Roche explores how we can, and must, lead our way through the death of the old world, the struggles and possibilities presented by delivering the new one, and the uncertainty of what lies beyond.
Continuing on the subject of change, Shuaib Khan reflects on growing tension and upset as the country starts the process of emerging from lockdown. A narrative has built around the needs and demands of society and the role schools are required to play in meeting them. Throughout this period of reduced school provision, all school leaders and staff have focused on the needs of the disadvantaged. All are worried about disadvantaged children falling behind. This has now been seized as the moral imperative to lever a return to more normal school provision. Khan carefully picks his way through this narrative, exploring the sometimes dangerous assumptions that are made about the disadvantaged and questioning the solutions that are formed from these assumptions. The idea that solving complex societal issues such as poverty and disadvantage can be achieved through education alone is proof enough that the way government thinks and “cares” about the disadvantaged needs to change, Khan argues.
Tiffany Beck serves up the antidote to a week of negative rhetoric from some quarters of government, media and society with a refreshing reminder that we should be positive about the impact we have on the lives of young people and their families. School staff and the education system as a whole have had to rapidly respond to a significantly changed world, and Beck uses this post to celebrate the skills, experience and traits that have made that possible. We put our pupils first and do our best for them; we are resilient; we seize opportunities to do things differently; and we communicate with kindness and empathy for the benefit of our communities. Beck also reflects on the need to share our narratives with each other, because a shared professional culture and a collaborative community are how schools will emerge stronger and better from the current chaos and uncertainty.