Sunday 18 September 2011

Ken Spours on the role of Politicians in Education and much more #TEDxLondon

Professor Ken Spours started his talk with a damning truth, that many of us have probably realised ourselves, but never found the words to express this truth so eloquently.

"Education is too important to be treated as a political football"

Ken's image of Tony Blair and Kevin Keegan said it all. He went on to highlight the cliche phrase that several PM's and politicians have used in the past decades, "I am passionate about education reform." It is their passion for using education as a political footaball, to enforce changes just so that they are seen as doing "something" that has lead to a lack of accumulated wisdom in our profession. This zigzagging of policy and turbulence it has created tires teachers and disempowers them. The audience's response to Ken's first five minutes was a mixture of nods, mutters of "yes" to unanimous applause at times.

Ken argued for an Education Revolution, but one based on moderation, deliberation and agreement. We need to slow down the party politics and actually look at the evidence which points to things that clearly work and things that clearly do not. In seeking agreement, we cannot agree about structures as this is the most contentious area. Instead, we should agree about our values.

Our values should revolve around two notions that:
  1. Everybody counts
  2. Everybody can be educated
Ken proposed a Law of Care, so that everybody who needs the most should get the most. Tackling educational disadvantage should be at the forefront of education. I would argue that the Teach First model has already shown how successful this can be in urban areas of England. But this needs to be at the heart of British education.

Ken's third enlightening proposal was a move away from "versus" and move towards "and". Not "Knowledge vs Skills" but "Knowledge and skills". We cannot have one without the other. He suggested balance rather than opposition and polarity. Calling on politicians, teachers, policy makers to, "Join us on the road away from versus and towards and".

Interestingly, he then included an analogy of Bruce from finding Nemo and explained that we needed to be more ecological in our thinking, more understanding of others. Ken went on to suggest a Hippocratic Oath, similar to those taken by Doctors. We are, after all professionals too. The hippocratic oath would embody our basic values at three levels:

  1. On a Micro ecological level (the learners)
  2. On a Meta level (Headteachers and governors) to ensue they dedicate their work to the whole area, not just their own school. He argued that this would solve much of the tension between free schools, faith schools, academies etc.
  3. On a Macro level, Politicians needed to show their power and authority, by giving power away to the schools and teachers, those on the front line. They know what is best, they're experiencing it first hand.
A passionate delivery from a professor who had not only critique, but also answers. This was one of the most refreshing talks of the day.

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