Reflect, Rethink, Refresh, Redesign – Creating world class futures

by | Jun 29, 2022 | Leadership, Coaching, Curriculum, Quality, Wellbeing

Reflect, Rethink, Refresh, Redesign – creating world class futures

Below is a quote from which is easily matched by evidence from many educational professionals who talk candidly to us here at Learning Cultures about their experiences over the past two and a half years. A survey conducted in 2019 by the charity Education Support found that 84% of heads reported being stressed – up from 80% in 2018.

These are surprising and worrying statistics that we cannot ignore for long. The profession as a whole is experiencing issues with retaining teaching and other staff and early career teachers are leaving the profession at a faster rate than ever before with anything up to 40% only staying in the profession for no more than three years.

Reflect, Rethink, Refresh, Redesign – Creating world class futures
Leaving for pastures new

A recent survey of headteachers conducted by the ASCL found that 72.4% of respondents didn’t feel that they had an acceptable work/life balance, with 47.7% believing their workload to be unmanageable. More than half of the survey respondents said that they were considering quitting. Burnout was already a growing problem well before the pandemic.

Teachwire (2022)

I think I know what some of the root causes are as I am sure many in schools and colleges and those like me who work across the profession as a coach and developer of professional development courses and programmes understands all too well. Like the NHS, the teaching profession is at breaking point with no real hope that things are going to get better in the foreseeable future.

Unlike the NHS, there has been no clapping in thanks for the absolute commitment school leaders and their teachers have given to their pupils and the community within which they live.

Reflect on the value of leaders, teachers and all in education

Schools remained open throughout the pandemic in order to create a continuous learning platform for their own pupils who needed educating at home, for key workers’ children to be educated in school and in many cases for their own children who were also needing parental supervision for their own learning.

Many professionals and, in fact, most workers who couldn’t go to offices or other places of work were furloughed and found themselves with time on their hands and opportunities to turn this into learning new skills, retraining or simply keeping fit.

Teachers, key workers in their own right continued to provide an education for as many pupils as they could while battling to learn on the job how to use technology to teach remotely, assess learning at a distance and ensure that pupils were indeed retaining knowledge and developing their repertoire of skills.

Refresh and create new beginnings that build new futures

The return to a degree of normality for the school system is proving enormously difficult, something that is clearly not acknowledged by many outside the profession. The race to ‘catch-up’, ‘fill the gaps’, ‘replace lost learning’ is now taking over as the principle driver for policy and decision makers in government, the inspectorate and many who head up MATs, school alliances and trusts.

Expecting this impossibility is what is now breaking the teaching profession and is most certainly not helping the pupils to whom it serves. The language is negative, unnecessary and damaging for pupils for whom any loss of learning is primarily not their fault and for teachers who have worked tirelessly to ensure learning continues and avoids any long – term effects on pupils’ future life chances.

Many commentators are saying this is a catastrophe for a whole generation which is factually untrue and ridiculous. A generation is around 18 years, this pandemic has kept pupils out of schools for a few months. Yes, it will affect them but the rhetoric and hysterical doom and gloom is most certainly creating an unnecessary uncertainty and fueling the fire of lost self-esteem.

Systems redesign – turning past adversity into future success for all

Remembering is only a small element of deep learning

We, as a profession live with lost learning. The current accountability system creates the wholly unsatisfactory emphasis on ‘teaching to the test’, at times of SATs, GCSEs and A Levels. Where pupils move from key stage to key stage they invariably leave learning behind due to lack of time, opportunities for meaningful collaboration or a difference in systems.

This is especially true of the transition from key stage 2 to 3 where many secondary school subject leaders openly admit that they generally start again because ‘what has been taught in primary schools isn’t right, accurate or taught well enough’. OFSTED made this very clear in their report from 2015, ‘Key Stage 3: The wasted years?. They are still critical and admit that nothing has changed significantly since then.

Here at Learning Cultures we also know how unsatisfactory transition can be. We have a highly acclaimed training course ‘Crossing the Transition Bridge – seamless learning from key stage 2 to 3’. Those who attend are transition leaders, pastoral leaders and heads of year 7. They echo many of the systems failures that lead to a total lack of communication and collaboration across the transition bridge. Many reasons can cause this fracture in learning, but nothing seems to change.

Igniting learning

If there are failures, they are systems failures. The exam system in this country has not significantly changed its academic coat for well over 60 years.

Names change, grading changes from numbers to letters and back again but fundamentally, systems wise, nothing has changed; except the world and all those who live in it. We still focus on a knowledge led approach to memorisation of facts for the purpose of recalling them in a test or examination. It is the skill of recall that takes precedence over the skills that the adult world needs such as problem solving, inquiry, debate and team working which cannot be easily tested within our current system.

We judge a cohort of learners who pass through the GCSE system on a narrow set of parameters tested at the height of summer and the hay fever season not to mention other factors such as puberty, menstruation and more recently Covid and we arbitrarily fail up to 35 to 40% of them by creating a line of success at grade 4/5.

Creating world class futures

We know that there is a haemorrhage of over 30% of staff each year from the profession that educates every other professional as well as every other person who will shape the future world we live in. We know that most schools are still bound by an accountability system that straight-jackets innovation and leave the concentration of effort to fuel accountability in year 6 or year 11 and 13.

We know that pupils have changed as a result of their experiences of not been in school during the pandemic and we observe that the emphasis remains on factors linked to blame in the school and by the pupils such as poor behaviour, lack of concentration and high levels of absenteeism.

What has happened over the past two years or so cannot be undone. It has opened up a can of unruly worms that cannot now be contained and put back into an unsatisfactory and outdated status quo. Pupils need recognition in the same way as leaders of schools and their teachers, that they came through a difficult period of unprecedented time.

They had to adapt to a completely different regime, no friends, no routine, no face to face teacher or peer support, no organised team sport or extra music, no art, design technology or drama. They had to develop different relationships with parents, siblings and other family members. They had to learn in a very different way. Most pupils have returned to school unscathed but changed and how have we responded? We have tried to put them back into the straight jackets of a school system that no longer fits. No wonder some pupils are rebelling, showing a lack of concentration or finding some of what they are asked to do slightly pointless.

Creating world class futures

We need to take the lessons learned to begin to look at new systems that create a future where all those who pass through our education system leave school with high self-esteem, exceptional skills and a thirst for learning that will help them to prosper through the rest of this century and ensure that they create a sustainable and enriching future for all of us.

Every learner from early years to post 16 and beyond has had to be resilient, organised, probably bored and certainly worried about many things. We need to start to listen and learn from each other, from our learners and most certainly from all those who are trying to manage learning in our schools and colleges. Change is hard to implement but we most certainly must look at new futures in the creation of a world class education system that all those who pass through our education system deserve.

Make time for yourself, continue to learn and build your self-esteem as an educational professional, the best profession in the world. Talk to us at Learning Cultures, innovation is our approach to CPD for all.

New Books


The book ‘Primary Curriculum Design and Delivery by Glynis Frater‘ has now been published.

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