I gave a speech last night at the Harris Academies Conference for their newly qualified teachers (NQTs).There are now 9 Harris Academies (all sponsored by Lord Harris) based in the generally deprived parts of South London, and their impressive exam results have grabbed the attentions of both main political parties in the UK.
It would have been easy to do the big motivational number, but there’s no pretending that entering the teaching profession is a cushy gig, in the current climate. So, I spoke about the roles that we might expect teachers to fulfill in the future – Imparter of Knowledge, Guide and Personal Search Engine – all in the context of the the shifting skill demands our economic futures will provoke. It wasn’t quite as heavy as it sounds!
The conversation we had afterward gives you nothing but hope for the future of the teaching profession. These are young people who, despite the excessive constraints that have dogged innovators in education for the past 10 years, are passionate about changing life-chances, and full of ideas about how to make teaching and learning more relevant.
I suggested that the latest research argues that the biggest factor in transforming life-chances – especially for kids in socially deprived areas – might not be academic achievement, but rather the development of emotional intelligence and non-cognitive skills. This is perhaps not in line with the prevailing wisdom, but we often forget that we’re there to help the person develop and grow – not just improve their SAT scores.
Judging by the quality of the questions and comments after the speech, it’s clear that we’ve got some great new blood coming into teaching.