Education - regenerate rather than redesign
As a provider of education, a parent and an authority within alternative provisions, it is easy to have felt under attack at various points in my 15 year career but particularly in the last few weeks. Whether it's off-rolling, gang culture, self harm or youth homelessness, it feels like pretty much everything is 'our fault'.
By us, of course, I mean those of us that somewhat romantically set out to teach but have instead become responsible for almost every aspect of young lives and the immediate and longer term impact they have on our society.
When I stop to think about the shocking statistics, the stories and the day to day experiences of extreme behavioural problems, cases of critical and sometimes life threatening mental and physical ill health, the sobering reality of social challenges, food poverty and deprivation in what were once thriving cities - and complex yet constant abuse and trauma many young people are witness to or victim of, it would be easy to hate our education system.
Yet, for all of it's faults, it's victims, it's challenges and limitations, I am still totally in love with education - and it is because of that that I know how to improve it. You see, we can not simply suspend education as we know it whilst we re-imagine it's purpose and redesign it's functionality. We can't remove the scars, the stories and the creases that show it's journey and nor should we want to. For just like me, our education system does have flaws and right now, it's misfiring, failing some of the people that need it most and making a bit of a mess in the process.
But today, right now, I know and am living proof, that even the messiest of systems can take the sum of their broken parts and make them better beautiful, purposeful and in their own way, perfect. Those parts that are currently misfiring can and will do better but they need to be given time, space and opportunity to grow. Our teachers, our policies, processes, filing cabinets and pens and paper won't respond to pressure to change. They can not be condemned or shoved into a new shape that suits 'the suits' and really, that should be celebrated because it is that which shows so many of us still love and are in love with education and have a deep rooted determination to deliver a learning experience to every single child we serve.
To know how and to begin our process of regeneration is quite simple, really and that is going back to what we love. What is education? Is it the dates of the first and second world war, the complexities of the tectonic plates or the pros and cons of various theories or beliefs? Or, is education the anticipation of the lunch queue, the chance to swap stickers at lunch, realising you are particularly good at singing or running or debating? Is education what we learnt about ourselves and others when we were hanging around the school gates, on the school bus or waiting for after school clubs? And if it is, how many pupils do we deliver that education to?
At Phoenix Education Consultancy we are committed to regenerating education and today we believe that begins with ensuring every child has the opportunity to embrace their education rather than simply experience it. We believe that learning you are great at chess or being given the chance to bake a cake for charity is as important as learning Pythagoras theorem and we believe this is most important for the children we currently take it away from.
Today we publish our framework for ensuring embracive education which is predominantly designed for pupils within Pupil Referral Units and Alternative Provisions.
I still love education. I want to spread and facilitate a love of education. And in really challenging times, my question is, do you?