by Steve Taylor | CEO at Robin Hood MultiAcademy Trust
In an effort to improve educational outcomes and help pupils to perform well, teachers have spent the vast majority of our time looking after our own networks and the children within our own schools. That is not to say that many of us don’t swap ideas, network or share best practice. We do, but we can do more across education as a whole.
It is almost inevitable that schools and institutions have, in the past, held their improvements and innovations within their own communities. So when we look back on education before the COVID-19 pandemic, we should do so with our eyes open because we were operating in a flawed system that was inherently doing its best. Collaboration is our future.
Amongst many of us in education, a growing realisation that we need to consider the wider needs of our society began to form a grassroots movement across the country. Something fundamental began to change. Schools, staff, teachers and leaders up and down the country began to share in a way like never before and with one core principle at the heart of the sharing: helping others.
It sounds like a small and obvious thing – sharing to help others – but, if we think about it carefully and indeed honestly, it is quite a change. Education for many of us has always been about doing the best we can do for children. We have now woken up to what is possible and, indeed, what is needed from us all. It is no longer enough to help the children and families within our own schools. That is a basic expectation and a given.
The emphasis now is on helping all children – those within our own schools and those across the country. Recently, we have seen amazing examples from schools, local authorities and multi-academy trusts up and down the country sharing amazing teaching resources to help vulnerable children on a large scale.
Education has taken the first step and now we need to take the next one to ensure that we are not held back by the limits we place upon ourselves.
There are often barriers that schools, teachers and leaders put in their own way which prevents them from sharing key learning and what they have built or created. Nervousness in education before COVID-19 meant that amazing and innovative concepts and resources often sat with a school internally, because there was a genuine fear that putting them out into the wider world would do one of two things:
1 it might shine a spotlight on the school and often the majority of schools prefer to stay out of the limelight
2 it may lead to the school questioning whether the knowledge is worthy of being shared, that this sharing might even lead to criticism
These two elements have often proven to be the barrier to the systematic sharing of ideas. Education needs to move past this and learn the art of helping others. Sharing thinking, sharing concepts, sharing resources is about saying to the educational community that you’ve done some work and thinking on a key concept and you are happy to put it out there for others to build on – a foundation and a starting point. What we share isn’t, and shouldn’t be, perfect – in fact, you can argue that things shared should be in their raw form so that others can see how they have been devised and the thought processes that have gone into them.
At the heart of education lies collaboration and so our next meaningful step is to make sure that we build on the true altruism shown through this period and take on the baton to push things further. Let’s move past random sharing of great thinking and resources to systematic sharing of resources and thinking across the educational community. Let’s all work by the premise that anything shared at a point in time is there to be built upon. If we operate by the mantra that we seek to build on each other’s work, and take it as a given that we expect others to refine and improve what we have done, then education will enter a new frontier where schools who have so much to offer, but have been nervous in the past, begin to value what they have created and share with others. It will also see local authorities and multi-academy trusts across the country build collaboratively new and innovative ways of working.
Education is evolving into a true, unified community that operates nationwide. We all have a part to play. Let’s accelerate the progress and push harder and faster in the right direction – making a positive impact.