This year’s Compass Education Conference took place on Saturday 18th January at the Coin Street Community Centre. The focus of the conference was the ongoing year-long inquiry into education that Compass and the NUT have jointly organised and sponsored.
The conference was extremely well attended, and an excellent opportunity for a wide variety of voices and opinions to debate key issues in education.
The opening speaker at this year’s conference was Professor Ken Spours of the Institute of Education, who also chairs the Compass Education Group.
Prof Spours gave a comprehensive overview of how the Inquiry is proceeding, and how the Interim Inquiry Report is taking shape. He encouraged everyone to become an active participant in the Inquiry since we all bear a collective responsibility for the future of education and the future of our planet.
Prof Spours’ key points included
- The need to establish a broad consensus on what education is for, and move beyond adversarial relationships. http://www.compassonline.org.uk/education-inquiry/what-is-educaiton-for-add-your-view/
- We need to move beyond ‘the starkness of the Anglo-Saxon model’ that continues to endure in Britain and America.
- Our world is changing ‘faster than we know’.
- This has tremendous implications for education.
- We need to embrace new forms of learning – open forms of learning, not restrictive.
- It’s not about “knowledge or skills” – it’s about both.
- We need to agree on new forms of governance and democratic accountability.
- We need to be clear about our guiding values if we are to maintain a consistent direction.
- We need to be part of a global effort to develop forms of learning and teaching that are appropriate to these ‘New Times’.
- We need to examine and embrace the best ideas from other places, not simply copy them.
- We have a responsibility to develop a comprehensive and democratic approach.
- We need new forms of participation on all levels – in classrooms, in schools, and at area level. Education must be a “shared enterprise” – not a prescription.
- We need a determination to treat our teachers correctly.
- We need to put teacher-student relationships at the centre of our efforts to improve education.
- We need an expansive professionalism – not a collection of selfish schools.
- We need to realise the potential and the power of education to help transform societies.
The second session of the morning brought together Fiona Millar and Peter Mortimore – two experienced commentators on education, and participants in the everlasting campaign to improve schools. Points arising during their session:
- There is currently far too much emphasis on high-stakes tests and exams, at the expense of a broader definition of achievement.
- Students need more time and encouragement to develop as individuals.
- Too many schools are far more concerned with their own needs and concerns and not those of their students.
- The development of personal and life skills should be at the heart of education.
- Ability consists of much more than IQ scores.
- We need far more focus on the social, emotional and physical developmental needs of students. We need to plan for the development of multiple intelligences.
- Students need above all to learn how to be effective learners, and to feel enjoyment in their day to day learning.
- Such enjoyment leads to states of ‘flow’ in which students feel a sense of immersion and wellbeing.
- Learning to be creative is essential throughout education.
- Students need to follow their own interests, not become enslaved to someone else’s curriculum. “Become your creative self.”
- We need to roll back our system’s bias towards division and labelling.
- Headteachers are often lacking in the confidence to innovate and change, even where they see the necessity.
- We need to eliminate fear and rancour from our system.
Also taking part in this part of the conference was Yas Necati who has been outstandingly successful in her campaign to bring the provision for sex education in our schools into the 21st Century.
Yas, as a young person who is still in full-time education, was particularly concerned about the needs of students, opportunities to co-create their own active learning, and the pressures of our current sysytem.
- We need students to become creative thinkers and active learners. There should be no place for passivity in education.
- Students should be enabled and encouraged to help shape and mould the new system we now need.
- Currently the system is ‘all about exams and deadlines’.
- There are no opportunities for creative inputs in far too many places.
- We need to recognise different kinds of intelligences.
- Students should have a key role in shaping learning environments.
- Students need a sense that they can participate in the direction of the system.
- Education should be done WITH students – not TO or even FOR them.
This last point is one we have emphasised in previous blog posts, and one that goes to the heart of the debate about participation, control and democracy in our system.
Further comments on the 2014 Compass education conference will follow in future 3D Eye posts.