Review by Robert Gasson

CEO, Wave Education Trust

25 Nov 2023, 5:00


The Conversation – with Robert Gasson

Strong and stable

As a senior leader in education, I see my role as offering long-term stability and vision. This is very challenging in the current climate. Indeed, the very notion of stability seems out of kilter with the zeitgeist, as another reshuffle this week saw the resignation of Nick Gibb.

Some concentrated on what they saw as the damage he has caused and delighted in his departure. ASCL general secretary, Geoff Barton gave perhaps a more considered approach.

Whatever your personal views, he served most of the past 13 years – a stability I doubt we’ll see again in that role, and in sharp contrast to the 10 secretaries of state over the same time frame. 

Meanwhile, others still found the time to get very exercised in spite of all the turbulence. Mouhssin Ismail, the chief standards officer at City of London Academies Trust started a fierce debate over the course of the weekend with a tweet that praised silent line-ups and transitions, accompanied by a picture to illustrate.

Cheers and jeers predictably ensued, but in the polarised world of X, some balanced views can still be found.

It’s surely fair enough to consider that silent corridors are (hopefully) part of a strategy and not an end in themselves. They might even be useful in certain contexts for a period of time to enable pupils to learn more orderly habits.

Several of my peers are introducing concepts like this that I believe are at odds with being inclusive. However, I respect their right to and will continue to work professionally with them without resorting to the sort of poor behaviour that has become too regular in our discourse.

Know and be able

And in another show of balanced takes this week, Daisy Christodoulou addressed another old chestnut that gets the profession exercised: skills vs knowledge.

In this blog, she takes us through Scotland’s experience of introducing the ‘Curriculum for Excellence’ in 2010, which explicitly reduced content knowledge and organised the curriculum around a set of content-free skills statements like: “Using what I know about the features of different types of texts, I can find, select and sort information from a variety of sources and use this for different purposes.” 

As one of the curriculum’s architects, Keir Bloomer is quoted in the blog as saying:  “The problem is we did not make sufficiently clear that skills are the accumulation of knowledge. Without knowledge there can be no skills.”

So much for the dichotomy. I doubt anyone teaching media or mechatronics in a further education college would ever have thought otherwise – if anyone had bothered to ask them.

Joined up and accessible

Finally this week, this blog by Our Community MAT executive inclusion officer, Cassie Young, titled SEND and systems: A reflection toolkit offers a very comprehensive guide to SEND and inclusion as developed through her trust.

With some excellent examples of practice and policy, the blog starts from first principles with some fundamentals of SEND identification. Young describes this as an essential process at school and trust level to ensure all pupils receive appropriate support, demonstrating her commitment to finding that difficult balance between individual support and consistency of provision.

I couldn’t help thinking again about our increasingly polarised social media debates and lamenting the old Twitter, which seemed to teem with useful content like this.  I found myself nodding and taking notes as I made my way through it and whole-heartedly agreeing with her conclusions.

She clearly sets out the need for multi-agency collaboration and identifies the role of SENCo as vital to the implementation of any support strategy. But more than that, she puts the onus on leaders to  ‘get the big stuff right at the whole-school level’ to empower their work, ensuring that strategy and practice align in the interests of the child.

Her final point (my caps) is a good reminder of why we choose to continue working in education.

“Our job as trust and school leaders is to provide strategies, opportunities for planned collaboration, raise confidence of all practitioners and to share good practice wherever possible by joining up thinking, actions and reflections for the betterment of ALL children and their families.

And there we have it: A week defined by an uncharacteristic outbreak of balance in the edu-sphere. Well at least on my timeline. I hope it catches.

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