The Future (of Schooling) is Already Here

….but as William Gibson famously said ‘it’s just not  evenly distributed well. This is one of those weeks when I realise how lucky I am to do what I do (actually I realise this most weeks). I have spent the week traveling across England, visiting schools, talking to students, teachers and researchers about how we can change the 20th century version of schooling.

Take today: I was at an event at the Institute of Education, led by Prof. Michael Fielding (who I love to bits, because of his strong sense of the moral purpose of schooling). Michael has recently co-authored  a report  ‘Developing Student-Led Reviews’ which looks at innovative practice in primary secondary and special schools in promoting a widespread, inclusive form of ‘student voice’. We had a great presentation from Wroxham Primary School, where governance decisions are made with primary schoolkids, not on their behalf (via circle group meetings); where students work in mixed ability groups and choose the ‘degree of difficulty’ of given tasks (they soon realise there’s no point in choosing the easiest level); where kids lead their own yearly review of their learning, based upon their own report of how well they’ve done, and what they need to work on. Remember this is a primary school. Really inspiring stuff.

Or earlier this week: I saw newly graduated students from Noadswood School mentoring students about to take their history GCSEs. The teacher who has set this up rewards the student mentors with vouchers to be spent in local shops, but you can see that helping younger students is its own reward. And the response from the younger students is quantifiably different to the common teacher-student interaction. Much less formal, and generally more open.

I’ve visited three schools across a range of social contexts: from really challenging inner-city, to more affluent rural. All three are making all kinds of changes to how they teach and learn, and who does the teaching and learning – they’re confident their student’s exam results will improve as a result, but I don’t think that’s the driving force.

If there were any common messages coming from the schools I’ve visited this week they would be:
1. Most innovations taking place in education today are about inching schools toward becoming more democratic learning communities
2. If you listen to, and trust  your students, they won’t let you down.

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