Immersive, Not Coercive.

As we were saying yesterday – it’s been an interesting week, and an interesting month in education.

For a start there was the well-attended ‘Festival of Education‘ at the London University Institute of Education, which turned out to be something of a twelve-ring circus with performers to suit every taste – a whole day event that included the odd high-wire act, jugglers, enthusiastic animal trainers, the occasional clown and even a circus freak or two. We’ll leave it to those who attended to judge who was who, and which was which.

On the other hand, you can consider the world of education as a very broad church, containing as it does an incredible range of people and opinions – some of whom don’t seem to have seriously thought about what kind of God it is they’re worshipping. Sub-deities include Standards, Academies, GCSEs and Ebacc.

Some see education as a very big tent, with many of those on the outide yelling orders or instructions at those within. A question often asked is whether we should see the Secretary of State as a man we need to have within the tent pissing out, or outside the tent pissing in. Some say he should just . . .

Enough. The Festival was a very serious event, as well as absorbing, thought-provoking, and at times amusing. You can get a feeling for what went on there by checking out Twitter #lfe2012, or our blog reflections –

© 3Di Photographs

The names of the various “rooms” used at the day-long festival show the variety of what was on offer – Performance Space, Debate Space, Masterclass Space, Unheard Voices Space, Exploration Room, Innovation Room, Leaders and Would-Be leaders, Connection Space, Creative Room, Collaboration Space and Thinking Space.

©  3Di Photographs

All of us who care about the future of education certainly need to take part in all of these efforts – thinking, collaborating, creating, connecting, pathfinding, innovating, exploring, learning, debating, speaking and listening. These activities would appear to be the essence of proper education, as opposed to “Driving Up Standards”.

© 3Di Photographs

This brings us to another highly significant event this week – the National Education Trust‘s seminar at Eton College on the future of GCSEs. You can read all about it here and elsewhere, but the key thought to emerge from a highly civilised and in-depth discussion is that all 16+ examinations should be scrapped in order for real education to take place.

This is also the view of the Confederation of British Industry, whose conference took place this week. We hope and trust that the CBI’s report on education in England will be widely read and acted upon.

Meanwhile, in the background to all this, there are several different campaigning groups or movements that are gaining in momentum and significance:

* The Headteachers’ Round Table has become something of a Twitter phenomenum that is being written about in the mainstream media. The group’s reasonable, moderate and eminently sensible proposals for action can surely be supported by anyone with any sense of what’s really wrong with our current system. @headsroundtable

* Free Education is a coalition of people campaigning for politics to be taken out of education, insofar as education policies (particularly on the curriculum, pedagogy and examinations/assessment) should be put back in the hands of educational professionals, which is where they belong.

* Slow Education put together a very absorbing and impressive afternoon in the “Creative Room” at the Institute, and the ideas of this group are important to all phases of education, and indeed for everyone’s lifelong learning.

Meanwhile, during this fascinating week, we’ve have various ignorant pundits on “The Daily Politics” programme on the BBC talking about the Secretary of State as if he’s some kind of educational Messiah. He’s not the Messiah – he’s a very naughty boy. And a very ambitious, egomaniacal and educationally ignorant one at that. We’re not even convinced he’s a master politician, let alone a source of wisdom as far as education is concerned. We’d love to see him in an extended debate with, say, Pasi Sahlberg who’s seen it all and done it all in the world of Finnish education – the world’s most respected and successful nation as far as education is concerned. Maybe he could debate 16+ examinations and the nature of real education with Tony Little, the Head Master of Eton College. We’ve no doubt that Mr Little would wipe the floor with Mr Gove, if he felt so inclined. Would Mr Gove have the humility to defer to a true educational professional? Fat chance. This is why he’s quite content to be ‘interviewed’ by fellow journalists such as David Aaronovitch, who was somehow given the gig for the ‘keynote’ session at the Institute.

And speaking of journalists, why does the BBC persist in using Andrew Neil as a current events and politics ringmaster? Why does it go on trying to achieve “balance” as its main mission as far as current events and reporting on education is concerned? Why does it end up skewing the key debates towards either the status quo or towards the views of complete reactionaries? Why can’t it simply set out to pursue truth and enlightenment – of the type that can be established through lengthy discussions and debates involving real professionals, and not two-minute sound bites by pundits and politicians on the Today programme or the Daily Politics? We know the BBC is currently either running scared, sleepwalking or simply comatose, but it needs to wake up and smell the coffee.

Maybe the darkest hour is indeed just before dawn.


Elsewhere on the BBC last night –  the blessed Keith Richards was talking about his early musical education (Crossfire Hurricane, BBC2)  He was certainly blessed with a mother who was passionate about music and had both knowledge and taste as far as music is concerned. Keith had a constant soundtrack to his young life that consisted for the most part of jazz, blues and the emerging rhythm and blues – and great artists such as Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Muddy Waters, BB King and John Lee Hooker. His mother would say to him, “Just listen to that blue note”, and Keith was away . . . .

Like all good education, it was immersive, not coercive.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
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