DISRUPTING THE USE OF TIME IN EDUCATION
Wind the clock back to before March 2020 and there was something reassuringly familiar about the academic school year. At the start of each September, anything and everything seemed possible: new pupils and new staff joining schools and shaping it with their own personalities and interests; the excitement of pupils moving up a year and the new responsibilities and opportunities that entails; the plans being made by pupils in Years 11 and 13 beyond their respective public examinations.
And then there was also the reassuringly - sometimes frustratingly - predictable. One of the most relentless - certainly in my time as a Head - was the inevitable quest for more time. Time for both exam preparation and to give public exam candidates more space, for new curriculum content, for trips and activities...all such requests being framed by the timetable, often stretched to breaking point to accommodate the multiple and often contradictory demands made of it (or more accurately, of the long-suffering timetablers).
As we all know, two years on, schools have not yet fully returned to our familiar routines. There was certainly much joy this September as we edged closer to 'normal' - but there was also deep uncertainty.
The Covid pandemic has disrupted a huge amount in education, and whilst we are all still working through its aftereffects on our school communities, I don't want us to settle back into pre-pandemic norms. Is now not the time to try and address some of the seeming intractable challenges so many educationalists - and therefore pupils - face?
To take just one, referenced above: time.
When we take a huge step back and survey the time we have with our pupils - and the time they have in their school lives - how is that best used? Of course, learning is at the heart of every minute of every school day - but the balance between knowledge and skills, and how their application should be assessed, are live - and vitally important - topics. Superb work has been undertaken on how pupils' outcomes could (should?) be assessed. Through Future Fwd, we are aiming to influence the debate around the curriculum.
Here at the Warwick Independent Schools Foundation, we are 'walking the talk' and trying to seize this opportunity to do things differently. We have thought deeply about our secondary curriculum provision, in particular at KS3 and KS4, reassessed the relative emphasis on skills and knowledge and created courses which seek to address skill and real-world knowledge. Other posts on this blog speak of this work - at Warwick School on Design Thinking, and new GCSE-equivalents (with new assessment models) at King's High, but each makes creative use of time and resources, without compromising learning or rigour.
We have also been thinking long and hard about our role in our wider community, from which came the 'Singing Town' programme, also featured in these pages. Here, local heads have been keen to commit curriculum time to class singing and already there are over 1600 pupils per week in our town who have this critical opportunity as part of their school experience.
A common feature of all three programmes is that they have been the product of close collaboration with external agents. Universities, exam boards, school leaders have all played their part in helping us break new ground.
Real change often only comes through disruption. In our own small way, here in Warwick we have disrupted our usual way of doing things, purposefully reaching out to new constituencies to help us help our pupils, and to help us help others.
Here's to the next big disruption in education being one of our own making - positive, transformative, collaborative. Together, we can create lasting and impactful change. I hope you will help to make Future Fwd part of that journey.