“No Guts, No Change”


I spent today in the company of officers and board members of the Canadian Education Association. CEA is a unique organisation. Whilst it has members, it’s not a ‘professional body’ – at least as we’d recognise them in the UK. It is, unashamedly, about championing innovation in education. And it speaks from a position of authority. As an article from a current issue of its magazine points out, Canada is fast becoming the ‘go to’ country for innovation that works. Outside the Asian countries, where parental pressures often result in 12-hour learning days for their kids, Canada is beaten  only by  Finland in PISA tables. If the CEA’s research is indicative of Canada’s USP, then  not focussing too much on exam results, and instead becoming intentional about student engagement and supporting teacher’s aspirations, would appear to work.

Ground-breaking, evidence-based, research in itself, however, won’t change hearts and minds. That requires steadfast, determined, courage from school leaders. As Ron Canuel, CEA’s CEO reminded us today, ‘no guts, no change’.

Meanwhile, back in the UK, yesterday saw encouraging signs that school leaders were showing a bit of guts in resisting the ‘Back to the Future’ thrust of current policy. According to the Guardian a group of school leaders have, via Twitter, come up with an alternative manifesto for education, which the Guardian is promoting to the opposition shadow education secretary Stephen Twigg. Since Labour appears to have no policies which are significantly different to the government’s, I thought Mr Twigg could have shown a bit more enthusiasm than ‘interesting’ as his response to their proposals.

School leaders, under the cosh of ever-higher-stakes accountability have become, on the whole, a compliant bunch. So, they’ll need to show some guts if they want to see real change. But the least the rest of us can do is to support them. They asked for Twitter support yesterday and, in 24 hours got 2000 followers. You can add your support by following @HeadsRoundtable.

It’s a rubbish name, but a gutsy and important, initiative.



2 Responses to “No Guts, No Change”

  1. Denis Stewart says:

    Thanks, David. It’s good to see this reference to the impressive CEA and to Canadian efforts, within various provinces, to innovate in their development of school education. Sometimes this looks like transformative change is happening. Certainly, we in all parts of the UK (including England, to which your piece seems to be referring) can learn from Canadian (provincial) experiences. You might like to take a look, for example, at the Quest 2012 Conference, scheduled for 14-16 November: http://www.yrdsb.edu.on.ca/page.cfm?id=ITQ000015 ..focusing on engaging, inclusive and equitable schools. Along with a few others from Northern Ireland, including two sixth-form students, I’m looking forward to seeing more of educational innovation in Ontario.

  2. David Price says:

    Denis , it has been fascinating to see how little federal political interference there is here. And an emphasis upon engagement, wellness and mental health. And yet their PISA results are much more impressive than the UKs! You will find the conference very illuminating, I’m sure.

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