Amongst, Shadow Education Secretary Stephen Twigg's predictable rhetoric at the RSA today were some ideas with the potential for meaningful change. He focused on three themes: ‘Freedom, Devolution and Collaboration’.
He said that “giving schools more freedom over how they teach and how they run and organise their schools can help to raise standards.” “Collaboration” he said was a “proven recipe for success” and “the professionals” were “the true enablers of promise”.
For decades, teachers have been encouraged to work like Victorian factory foremen; checking that the assembly line is working efficiently and that component parts of learning are properly installed as students pass through the weeks and years. Could it be that politicians are waking up to a realisation that people are not industrial raw materials and that a mechanistic approach to education is not entirely suitable?
Great teachers are in fact master craftspeople who pass on what they know about learning to the students they teach. Reflections on their own experience and what they understand from the research they read, has taught them that effective learning relies on a set of key principles including the three that Twigg was keen to highlight in his speech today:
That we are more motivated and creative when we have opportunities to think for ourselves.
That whilst it's occasionally useful to learn from instruction it’s generally more effective to learn from our own direct experience.
That none of us are islands and that the best and most innovative ideas are shaped from our interactions with each other.
I don't know if Twigg and the Labour Party have really got what it takes to offer the teaching profession a non-mechanistic education system. But let’s not forget that we already have great examples of innovation in our schools. A wealth of educational research and social media networking are making sustainable progress more possible than it ever was before.
It would be fantastic if the likes of Twigg could really help, but in the meantime I suggest we support events like Creat_Ed and explore what can be achieved despite them!