Education Change: Leadership & Community

Jim Wynn

Jim Wynn

Every learning objective is out of date and the fundamental relationship between learner and educator has moved. It has in fact moved back 3000 years to a paradigm where learning was the joy of the rich. Now it is in reach of everyone- but only if teachers can change. With technology they can. In the past you got paid for what you knew. OECD says that in the future you’ll get paid for applying what you know. So if a teacher used to tell people that this leaf is an oak leaf, and tested that knowledge that is one thing, but in the future if we do not do that will everything be flipped—including teaching and assessment?

In the past you would have grown up in a mature community where the rules of the community have been well formed over many years, and for the most part, most people grow and mature within that set of rules. You then, within your community behave in a certain way. In a school the leader has the ability to change all of that very quickly.

I knew a school that reflected the neighbourhood, which it served; a poor community on the edge of a prosperous town. The school was a little bohemian but was hugely successful. Each year over 1,000 applications were made for the 250 places or so in year (grade) 7. Students went on to Oxford and Cambridge. The ICT (Information and Computer Technology) system was second to none. There was no vandalism as was seen in schools a couple of miles away. When recruiting new teachers, there was never a problem finding new staff, in any discipline. One student went on to be an explorer and spoke at TED, another wrote the script for a world famous TV show, and yet another is a global recording artist.

That was in the 1990s. Two weeks ago there were a total of 19 applications for year 7 and the school is to be closed. So how can things change so dramatically? In just two school generations the school went from the most popular to the least popular in a town. There is only one answer—leadership. The old regime had a focus on people and trust. The new organization had a focus on window dressing, on a traditional school uniform, and on anachronistic discipline. Making a fuss about not wearing white socks, or wearing a school tie leads to a crazy sets of community rules that detract from the purpose of the school and learning. If you are reading this and you are a leader in a school, reflect on how important your job is, and how so very easily it can all go wrong. Then balance this with how easy it is to get it right. Leaders, who put the education emphasis in the right place, build successful and lasting school communities.

I wonder if we could start collecting all those things people have predicted about changes in Education, which never came true or we are still waiting for.

Something to thing about:

Finally, I found this cutting from a 1906 newspaper interesting. I dare say that predictions about changes in education wouldn’t ring as recognizably true today.

“The shopkeeper can sit in his home and by utilising this unique telephone see the interior of his shop, and watch the conduct of his staff during his absence. Deaf and dumb people can carry on a conversation  over the televue and we can do our shopping by way of the same. From this it is only a step to the time when a GP will use the televue to scrutinise a patient’s tongue at long distance and then prescribe the necessary medicine.”  

About the author:

Jim Wynn is Chief Education Officer at Promethean and is responsible for the company’s education strategy. Jim has been head teacher of two secondary schools in the UK, in which he pioneered the use of ICT.

Jim Wynn

Jim Wynn is Chief Education Officer at Promethean and is responsible for the company’s education strategy. Jim has been head teacher of two secondary schools in the UK, in which he pioneered the use of ICT.
One Comment
  • Peter
    Peter
    21 March 2014 at 2:59 pm -

    Thanks Jim for the great article. While I think everyone would agree that you cannot be credible in education without technology you have hit the nail on the head – the technology is easy, it is always the people that are hard.