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Enabling radical change in education

According to Sir Michael Barber, in the school of the future, data is ubiquitous and measures progress not just on academic performance but also on the wider skills and attributes, such as leadership and teamwork, which we know are becoming vital to future success and fulfilment.

But getting to that point, and enabling radical change in education, requires stewardship from teachers, school leaders, and government. 

In his lecture, Sir Michael Barber made that the point that while politics will vary across time and place, the task everywhere is surely stewardship; seeking always to leave the system better than you found it.

He presented four points that, in his view, enabled government to be an effective steward as we move towards the school of the future. These are:

  1. Government needs to set strategy and direction, looking five, ten or twenty-five years ahead to do so. It needs to interpret the world and think through the implications for the system, and to open a dialogue with people about what lies ahead.

“A central fact about the 21st Century, is that for any person with both a great education and the capacity to keep learning, the world is one of boundless opportunities; for anyone without those attributes it is a threatening and unforgiving place.”

  1. Stewardship of any sector including education involves setting the rules and providing the data that enables performance to be understood and decisions to be informed at every level form classroom to country. And increasingly this data should be publicly available and open to analysis by anyone with the interest in doing so.

“As Margaret Spellings, the former US education secretary, used to say, ‘In God we trust. For everything else we need data.’”

  1. There will be growing emphasis not just on funding education – which is vital – but also on spending money wisely not just because we live in an era of austerity but also because people’s willingness to pay taxes shows no sign of increasing.

“Fortunately, the quality of the data and the growing evidence base will enable precision-targeting of policy interventions in place of blanket regulation. This should have the double benefit of being both more effective and more economical.”

  1. Government has a responsibility to ensure the supply, capacity, culture and quality of the key professions in any service.

“The key to this in relation to the teaching profession is the case for informed professionalism made earlier and for teachers and their leaders as well as government to put learning outcomes, short and long-term at the heart of their dialogue.”

Image credit: 

Andy Drewitt