Education, Piecemeal Reform or Transformation?


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Education reform has been piecemeal and haphazard rather than focused and strategic and those responsible for policy making have failed to engage key stakeholders - learners, parents and practitioners.

In this Presentation Tony Breslin will lead us in a discussion around the need to transform education rather than make inadequate piecemeal reforms.

Why do we need to transform education?

Our Educational system was built for a different age: where deference defined relationships between young and old and teacher and learner, where society and its institutions offered a degree of social stability (albeit, one that was often parochial and restrictive) that the post modern era cannot match, where the drivers of change were predictable and less dynamic than forces such as globalization and the information revolution are today.

Tony believe we need to transform the way we ‘do’ education policymaking, by moving, in the language of the web, to user-generated approaches that embrace the perspective of the learner, the parent, the employer, the educational professional.

This Presentation is one of several activities we will hold this year around education and the need for there to be a great debate about educational purpose and what we mean by an ‘educated’ individual, whatever their ability or background.

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Education, Piecemeal Reform or Transformation?

  1. 1. Piecemeal Reform or Educational Transformation?The case for rethinking how we reform and reshape education Tony Breslin Director, Breslin Public Policy Limited Transform Education – GlobalNet 21 Webinar Wednesday 7th March, 2012
  2. 2. UK Mainstream Formal Education: primary• England: 17,064 schools serving 4,074,890 pupils• Northern Ireland: 873 schools• Scotland: 2,153 schools• Wales: 1,478 schools
  3. 3. UK Mainstream Formal Education: secondary• England: 3,225 schools serving 3,146,080 students• Northern Ireland: 223 schools• Scotland: 376 schools• Wales: 223 schools
  4. 4. Mainstream Formal Education: learning and skills(England)• 230 General Further Education (FE) colleges• 93 Sixth Form colleges• 16 land-based colleges• 4 art, design and performing arts colleges• 10 special designated colleges
  5. 5. Political Context• ‘Austerity’• The emergence of academies and the arrival of schooling chains• Infrastructure ‘de-cluttering’• Tuition Fees and an evolving HE market• Rising youth unemployment• Stagnating social mobility• Over a decade of infrastructure investment and 20 years of policy ‘innovation’ but a sense that attempts to raise standards have reached a plateau
  6. 6. Tensions in the education policy agenda (1)• Between achievement (or attainment) and inclusion – the 80:20 problem• Between ‘depth’ and ‘breadth’• Between ‘academic’ and ‘vocational’ learning• Between ‘formal’ and ‘informal’ pedagogies
  7. 7. Tensions in the education policy agenda (2)• Between ‘personalisation’ and ‘mass’ schooling (or between ‘factory’ schooling and ‘human scale’ learning)• Between ‘education for work’ and ‘education for life’• Between ‘formative’ and ‘summative’ assessment• Between ‘tactics’ and ‘purpose’
  8. 8. Micro-level observations• The need for joined-up thinking across single initiatives: this means a more holistic approach to policy development and the consideration of school and college practicalities from the outset• The need to assess the ability of existing forms of schooling to deliver personalised assessment: it may be that mass schooling and personalised learning do not fit• The need to consider the nature of change in highly structured institutions: modern secondary schools tend to maximise the feeling of change while minimising its impact
  9. 9. Macro-level observations• The need for joined-up thinking across multiple initiatives: the educational superstructure is characterised by a range of specialist statutory and independent bodies but teachers and students, in contrast, experience the school in its entirety and respond to educational initiatives in ways determined by a range of local factors and priorities• The need to rebalance the relative prioritisation between inclusion and achievement in education policymaking: in this context, the capacity of attainment-first strategies to both challenge and reproduce exclusion needs to be considered, perhaps with a view to a shift towards inclusion-first approaches
  10. 10. Towards a strategic approach: emergent questions• How practically can we better engage practitioners’ and learners’ voices in education policymaking?• How can we better ‘join-up’ education policymaking, both within single initiatives and across initiatives?• How can we bridge the classic educational divides and build political consensus on these issues?
  11. 11. In their own words…• There are so many intermediaries, between the individual subject teacher and the government minister who indicates a particular policy direction. If you think of the number of intermediaries there are in the communication chain, it’s not surprising that sometimes things are not as clearly understood as they might be (nationally profiled policy-influencer)• I think the key lesson is that the people who make these decisions and these policy judgements don’t really speak to the people who have to make it work… when it comes to actually implementing them they don’t see the reality of the problem (school senior leadership team member and classroom practitioner)
  12. 12. Obvious, but…• Policy outcomes rarely reflect policy intentions (Scott, 1996)• …the failure of reformers to go to the trouble of treating local culture and context is vital. (Fullan, 2007; my italics)• How to do it…that’s a matter of detail (Goldsmith, 2008)
  13. 13. Launching in March 2012, the Transform Education project is designed to promote and drive forward ‘big picture’ thinking in education policymaking, working with the full range of existing policy-influencers and interest groups, with practitioners, with learners and with a range of other stakeholders - including parents, employers and community groups.In part, Transform Education draws its inspiration from James Callaghans classic 1976 speech at Ruskin College in which the then Prime Minister famously called for a "great debate" about what we require of our education system. It is our contention that this debate has never taken place; we are as unclear today about educational purpose as we were then. Over thirty-five years on, Transform Education plans to answer Callaghans call and to spark this debate.