I have been getting to grips with the fantastic insights into the reality of opening a new school offered in a fascinating new report commissioned by the National College for School Leadership : Establishing and leading new types of school: challenges and opportunities for leaders and leadership
The NCSL report can be found on their website (which you need to log in to access).
I was fortunate to meet one of the authors of this review of Free Schools, UTCs and Studio Schools. John Dunford, who is also Chair of Whole Education, was part of a discussion about the lack of support for free school groups seeking to offer a more ‘whole’ and forward thinking model of education. Our meeting timed with the publication of this report which had found this to be a challenge for schools already approved and open.
I’d urge all freeschoolers and those considering being involved in new schools to read this, but I found a one of the key recommendations particularly interesting:
“The Department for Education and its advisers should require from the promoters of free schools a less detailed plan, concentrating on the strategic aspects of plans for the school and not requiring the promoters to specify details that should properly be the role of the principal when appointed. “
As anyone who has been involved in the writing or assessment of a free school application will tell you, this one seems very obvious. The DfE criteria – though vague in of themselves – seem to be interpreted by the DfE officials to be a requirement to detail every aspect of school life and the education plan, specifically, is expected to be much more than strategic or illustrative. The impact of this simple problem are well explored by the report and the findings should be tough reading for the DfE Free Schools team.
There is much, much more in this report worth reading – but one of the findings that is implied throughout this document, and made more explicit by John when I met him, is that despite the potential for innovation, most of these new schools are not doing anything new or innovative and are too isolated. They are struggling to live up to their promise. The isolation forced by the process of opening, the lack of time to coordinate with other local schools and LAs, and the pressures of the timeframes involved all mitigate against effective start up.
It also seems that the lack of a network for new schools (and the confusion caused by the poorly named New Schools Network!) has meant that new schools are finding that they are alone and unsupported.
I recently received an email from a free schooler whose school is due to open this September, consoling me on our free school rejection from the DfE. Tragically, she says:
” It may seem gutting right now, but perhaps you have had a lucky escape.”
This highly skilled group have a Principal Designate – with lots of experience – yet are clearly struggling despite having the ‘support’ of the DfE to open a new – much needed – school. The NCSL report points out that this sort of struggle is all too common, but the truth is often hidden from view – due to the reality of trying to present a capable and effective school to their new ‘community’. Yet, there are communities for schools that could be helping them – not least the NCSL.
Whole Education could be the sort of network that could harness the power of these new schools, and combine it with the experience of their members, to support them and the wider system to make more progress in how we educate and ‘school’ our communities.
This post is part of the preparation support for a session I will be running, called ‘Being Creative in a Digital World’. If you’d like to invite me to talk to your team about creativity, education, technology and innovation, please contact email@example.com.
For those who I am going to be talking to, this post should give you a sense of what is coming, and what to do beforehand.
The workshop is designed as interactive and practical workshop which will allow you to develop ways in which you can use the digital space to stimulate creativity, generate ideas, solve problems and learn. We will explore how to create a personal learning network through which you can remain current, stimulate new ideas and adapt rapidly.
Outcome: To share ideas and tools to release creativity, where / when it seemed hard before.
Method: Pre-reading/watching/listening – followed by interactive presentation and discussion session.
Before the session, please take in at least two of the media below, considering the following questions:
- What does ‘Creativity’ mean to you?
- Which sorts of obstacle to creativity do you experience at work?
- When do you find yourself being most creative’?
- Alone or in a crowd? What role do others have in your creative moments?
- Is creativity possible in ‘normal’ life and while doing mundane tasks?
Finally, for those who do not mind a little explicit language, here is a link to a clip from the Channel 4 comedy TV series – Nathan Barley – which I think was a cruel and funny satire on the ‘creative’ industries. Creative leaps come from strange places, and inspiration for new ideas and trends can emerge from taste makers who read the ‘Zeitgeist’ ,… But, this clip is a reminder of what happens to unleashed ‘creativity’ in the wrong hands.
“Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”
- Scott Adams (American cartoonist)
“The air is full of ideas. They are knocking you in the head all the time. You only have to know what you want, then forget it, and go about your business. Suddenly, the idea will come through. It was there all the time.”
- Henry Ford (American industrialist)
“Speed is absolutely key to creativity. The more time it takes to create something, the less likely you are to create something.”
- Patrick Stump (American musician)
“Creativity is more than just being different. Anybody can plan weird; that’s easy. What’s hard is to be as simple as Bach. Making the simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity.”
- Charles Mingus (American jazz musician and Civil Rights activist)
“Creativity is contagious, pass it on”
- Albert Einstein (German theoretical physicist)
The Learning Without Frontiers Summit London has been canned. Graham Brown-Martin has been canned from LWF. The reasons for these unfortunate changes are still yet to emerge, and I do not want to spend time eulogising Graham (others will do this better) or speculating why this happened.
I want to propose something positive – to continue the vision in a new event.
The reality is there is now a huge gap in the calendar for those of us involved in evolving, informing, and disrupting educational norms for the benefit of our young people. Not only has an essential event in the calendar been taken from us: with the opportunities to hear from leading voices, see best practice, play with new devices and tools, and (most of all) network; but the distinct vision of the event is in danger of being lost.
My view is that the success of LWF, and it’s forebears, Handheld Learning and Games Based Learning, all of which I have been lucky to attend, had very little do with the venue, speakers and formal agenda.
It had everything to do with the challenge and disruption implicit in the way the event was established by the founder, Graham Brown-Martin.
The irrepressible Graham Brown-Martin has always been determined to push the boundaries of what a formal education conference can be – and to drive as much energy for transformation into the education system as possible. Graham made mistakes and upset a few people on the way. Like all innovators,…right?
BUT, he always shared the warmth to support great educators who are helping demonstrate the value of a progressive education for the future our children will be co-creating. Highlights include seeing Derek Robertson and the Consolarium gang storm South and make us all #jealousofScotland, and Dawn Hallybone inspire teachers everywhere to get gaming!
I was inspired to by LWF to bring disruption and offer new positive educational futures to the families of Oxford, and have led a proposal for a progressive new school for Oxford City - ONSchool. I know many other people, in schools, communities, business and policy, inspired to do something amazing by the power of the vision of Graham’s events.
So, where next? I think we need to hold onto the vision Graham established, and hold a new event, on an unconference / barcamp / teachmeet model – where the same sharing, networking, playing can happen.
We don’t need elaborate spaces in expensive venues, big name speakers, bijou lunch plates, and huge corporate partners – with the associated high ticket prices! Let’s have less sitting and listening – and more making and doing.
All we need is the vision, and a space to explore what it means in the work that we do. So – I propose we continue this. I would love to work with others to make it happen.
The NSN to provide a forum to work through the School Provider model
Progressive Education Alliance
In a previous post I argued for more school providers to step up, for Free Schools groups to work with to deliver their vision for a progressive education. The NSN guidance notes say that the provider model is “where the Academy Trust outsources either back-office functions such as HR, or the day-to-day running of the school, to private companies, whilst retaining strategic oversight of the school’s direction.”
Although our free school proposal for a new secondary school in Oxford has been working with a private company who would like to bid to be our full provider, if approved; our group wants more choice in the ‘market’ of provider – and especially from those with expertise in educational innovation.
Two events this week have coalesced my thinking into a clearer view of what we need.
On Monday, I was part of a team from the ONSchool team who went to a mock interview at the NSN, in preparation in case we are called by the DfE in March. We were drilled on all aspects of our bid and, somewhat surprisingly, we enjoyed it! We need to work on some areas, but we felt that we did pretty well. That said, one area that the panel pushed us on was our decision to opt for the provider model – and how this mapped to our vision and ethos for an innovative local school. They asked some tough questions such as about lines of responsibility between the school provider and the role of the Principal. We had answers, but based on our best guess as there is no clear guidance on how this model can work. There is not enough clarity in the advice about the provider model from the DfE or NSN, and no one to help us work it out. There is no real framework for organisations to work to or precedent to learn from. After the interview, and after the lovely feedback from the panel, I made a plea – which the expert panelists seemed to agree with (though were careful not to say too clearly in front of their paymasters)- for the NSN to step up and provide a forum to sort this out!
I will be following up with Katharine Howell, Head of Advisory Services at the NSN, about this. I know that the NSN are nervous of stepping into this area, yet more and more groups want this advice! All they need to do is provide the forum for this to be discussed and worked through… right? So…
NSN – Please provide the support to free school groups wanting to follow the school provider model that we desperately need – and soon!
The second event was meeting Ben Gibbs, from restart-ed, an education consultancy. Ben is also on the board of Whole Education. I challenged Ben, with his hat as board member at Whole Education and position having worked closely with the RSA and other similar orgs, to answer the question as to why none of these organisations, with such progressive values, have yet stepped forward into supporting free schools more directly. We need groups like these, to balance the involvement of churches and for-profits, with a values based education.
In doing so, I expressed clearly what I wanted to see and Ben helped me to tease this out!
The Progressive Education Alliance – A School Provider for Free Schools
- I want the progressive organisations involved in education to provide an umbrella company with shared values (such as Whole Education, RSA, Innovation Unit, Cooperative College, ASDAN)
- To have associates and staff able to add capacity and capability to a free school
- To collate the wider pool of expert innovators in education into an associate programme
- To provide the channel to the wealth of research, best practice and support ‘out there’
- Make sustainable CPD available and frameworks to support iteration in delivery
- To bring value for money solutions for technology rather than only proprietary systems
- To find the best suppliers for progressive education (from Catering to Awarding bodies)
- To offer HR and back office function
- To provide a channel for partnerships with charities and local bodies
- To be founded as a cooperative
- This organisation should NOT seek to impose anything on a school trust – but to provide the education expertise, the capacity and capability to run the school (as and when needed).
Ultimately, free school groups have a clear vision and ethos for their local solution, and should be ultimately accountable for the school. However, we all need help and even the best provider cannot do it all and will bring in help. Great schools are all about an empowered network, so why not just make that explicit! We need more choice – so let’s create it – or at least provide the basis for other to do so.
I propose a ‘round table’ meeting to discuss this and, if you want to come, or have comments, please let me know, below.
We need more education providers – NOW!
There are too few school providers working with free schools, and almost none that are in any way innovative and progressive. This must change.
We need a counterbalance to religious groups and for-profit organisations who are circling closer and closer around our evolving education landscape. Change is needed, but without diversity – we are at risk of going back in time and losing the potential for genuine local positive change in outcomes for our young people.
I am involved in a free school application for a new mainstream secondary school in Oxford – ONSchool. We have a clear vision for a great local school, building on Personalised Learning Relationships, Wellbeing, Community and Digital Technology. We are committed to Project Based Learning and a democratic ethos. The school is needed, as there is a growing need for school places, with over 200 needed by 2014 – growing to over 900 by 2018. We have submitted our detailed application to the Department for Education and are waiting to hear if we are invited to interview. It has been a tough journey so far, and we are still working while we wait.
Although we know that there are schools all over the world doing what we want to do already, we recognise the scale of the task before us: IF the Department for Education were to approve our plans. So, we have chosen to follow the school provider model, as our group – passionate and full of experience and expertise to offer the opening of a school though we are – recognise that we need the support of an expert organisation to support the opening of a school that delivers on our vision and ethos from Day 1.
The steering group see ourselves as, in part, a governing body in waiting – and want to get on with opening this much needed school with as little fuss and fanfare as possible. We are in it for the kids – not for our egos (unlike some, we have no books to sell or media profile to grow!)
People like Toby Blume have written, in compelling terms, about how hard the process of opening a free school is for ‘normal’ people. And, even if we had sufficient expertise in our team to open and run a school, we felt that there was significant strength to be gained in this model. We believe that the idea of holding a provider to account and working in partnership to deliver our ethos and vision is a powerful driver for ongoing development (iteration) in the way that ONSchool would serve the community.
I know there are people who have fears about ‘for profit’ organisation using this as a back door into state education. We share many of these concerns. Yet, at the moment, most of these fears are unfounded. No school provider working with a free school can turn a profit on these contracts, yet! But this might change after the next election. We hope to secure a provider while we have the ‘upper hand’ in the negotiations – and to find an expert group to work with us that share our vision and are not just in it ‘for the money’.
Which brings me to my complaint. Where is the choice?
We have spoken to Pearson and Kunskapsskolan, who come closest to matching our vision for education – but we’d like more choice! Pearson have helped us, on a pro-bono basis – and they have been brilliant. We’d love them to put themselves forward, if we were approved, to be part of the procurement process. That said, we’d like to talk to others – and to have more choice for our community and our vision – but we cannot find them!
We are not the only group with this problem. I have spoken to lots of free school groups desperate to work for a more progressive, transparent, democratic and innovative education – but cannot find the help to do this!
Why haven’t education charities, and organisations that support innovation in education got involved? I don’t want to embarrass too many of them – but SURELY groups like Whole Education / Innovation Unit / Cooperative College , and their ilk, should be stepping up? What about universities, the foundations (such as Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science) and others who ‘believe’ in educational change? Why aren’t more of them stepping up?
Is it about the money? Was (the wonderful and late lamented) Mike Baker right, that the financial returns just are not good enough? This should only bother those organisations whose purpose is to make money!
It is true that there is NO PROFIT to be made in free schools – but rather than bemoan the fact that for-profits are trying to fill this gap – we should be asking why the non-commercial organisations are not stepping in!
In the ‘academisation’ ‘market’, church groups are taking miniscule service charges for being involved in the running of schools – supporting school independence and local vision and providing essential services.
Clearly, they are doing this because they want a foothold for god, and faith, in schools, and the lives of our young people.
Why aren’t those organisations that ‘believe’ in progressive values and a modern education committing themselves as much as the religious communities?
Is it about the free schools policy and the reputational issues of getting involved? Mr Gove, and his party, are no longer the only supporters of free schools and the Labour party looks set to continue the policy. There is cross party support for introducing innovation into the school system.
Surely organisations that encourage schools to take risks and harness their independence (like the Innovation Unit) should be ‘walking the walk’!
I think that this hesitancy, this fear, this unwillingness to put resource and commitment behind a chance for substantial positive change risks destroying a genuine and essential energy that could significantly improve our education system.
We want more choice for potential school providers.
So – what exactly do we, in the ONSchool team, want?
We want an ethical organisation that understands our commitment to community, transparency and to cooperative governance principles.
We want an expert organisation that can bring a track record in applying personalised education and maintaining innovation.
We want an active organisation that uses digital media to exceptional effect – who are already part of communities of practice on Twitter building on switched on events like Teachmeets.
We want an aware organisation that understands our commitment to wellbeing- as a taught programme to improve the outcomes for our young people and their futures – not just as a way to deal with kids when things ‘go wrong’.
We want an organisation that will take the time to commit to our local vision for ONSchool - not at the expense of local existing provision but in partnership with Oxfordshire’s educators.
We want a committed organisation that is in this for the education of children – and they should get a fair financial return for their input. We are not biased against commercial organisations – and will chose an organisation based on their capability to support our vision and ethos. That said, given the complexity of the political landscape – would like to be able to talk to those who put our shared vision above financial returns.
So – where are you? Do you work in an organisation that works for educational innovation? Why haven’t your organisation put yourselves forward as a school provider for free schools? I’d love to hear and understand – so please share and comment.
I object to this proposal as a local parent – as you can see. I also wanted to share it as I think there is an sad irony in the underlying ethics of the way the Catholic Church is operating in schools in England – after they voiced their objections to Free Schools, because they are not allowed to exclude non-Catholics! This proposal in Oxford is a cynical way to open a new school without the 50% cap on faith selection. Even worse, Oxford County Council is supporting it!
Please register your objection today – by emailing Mr Hussey at firstname.lastname@example.org
Also – support our proposal for ONSchool here
Yet, whatever happens with ONSchool, my concern is as a parent and resident in your local community.
Of course, I recognise the hard work that you and other Catholic educators do, for your communities and respect that this is your remit. I have heard many good things about you from the catholic schools in the county – and you are much respected within that community for the work you do in improving and defending a Catholic education.
You intend to take Catholic children from across the city – and expand to a two tier (what they are calling a ‘All through’) school. This means that this will not be a local school for local kids. You said in the public meeting that this would be a school for the growing number of Catholic families, where ever they live in the city.You intend to open a new primary school right next to an existing primary, Larkrise Primary, and have not consulted with that school at all!Of course, I know that there is huge growth in the need for all pupil places across the city. However, just because you can easily map the catholic families because they identify themselves as such, this community will benefit and Catholic kids will be admitted into a new school. Whereas other schools, because they take kids of all background, will have to cram more kids in and not get anywhere the scale of investment and support you will get for Catholic children.
At the meeting, you proudly stated that St Gregorys benefitted from having 50% non-Catholic children – and that diversity was a strength. Yet you then said that, as the proposed primary kids move up the system, St Gregorys will become a Catholic only school. The very diversity you benefit from will be taken out of your school – through introducing selection by religion. It also mean that, in an age of austerity – the Diocese is doing what it can to protect their families (which I understand) at the expense of kids of different, or no faith, with the support of the County Council (which I do not).
Because Catholics can be ‘found’ through their churches (and tend to identify their religion in forms and register at Church) clearly Catholic parents across in the city are requesting a Catholic education. This small number of people (with perhaps more ‘clout’ that the other minorities in the city) will be unfairly protected through these tough times – and the educational outcomes for others will suffer and will damage community cohesion.
I love the diversity and cultural wealth that religion brings our society, and came to your meeting, rather than celebrating the joy of Divali. However, I am not alone in thinking that schools should make religion and faith an inclusive aspect of their work- rather than use it to become more exclusive. This proposal is unfair to many, not just those of us who do not support faith schools – or at least do not feel that they should have to pretend to go to church to get into their local school. If it were better know about, more would object to this on these grounds alone.
I am also surprised that, even though you agreed that there was scope for more provision and a need to answer the need for more pathways post 16 – that your proposal is for a primary school. (Clearly without my ONSchool hat) Given that there is a growing need for secondary places – why not increase the intake of the secondary age children?
As I raised in the meeting, I am also disappointed by the lack of vision in your plans in pedagogical terms. You seem to be proposing an ‘all through’ school with no connection between them except in that the families in the Diocese benefit. You admitted that all the international educational research shows that ‘all through’ only has a positive impact when all ages are able to learn in a shared space – and that colleague from a primary and secondary background can work together. A clear example of this is in the tricky area of ‘Transition’ from KS2 to KS3. Yet, you stated that these will be two separate schools. So it is wrong to call your proposal ‘All through’. I believe this misses a chance (despite all my other objection) to improve the educational outcomes of the pupils at this proposed setting. I feel you are missing the chance to be as innovative as you claim the school can be, and evidence led in your plans.
I am glad that you are looking to save the Cricket Road site – yet, unlike all the free school groups who have looked at it – you do not seem to have a viable and costed plan for how to refurbish it and to provide value for money to the poll-taxpayer in the city. I feel that the community needs to know more about this, and that you need to show how the flood risk to local homes will be mitigated (maybe even improved) by your proposal.
In summary, I object to this proposal because:
- St Gregorys has failed to run an informed and well managed consultation
- The proposal would take public money for the benefit one religious community in the city
- There seems no provision to prevent a negative impact other communities and existing schools
- The detail for the education at the school is not based on best practice or research evidence
- It is not properly costed and impact studies have not been done.
Secondary schools in Oxford City are failing to deliver on the potential of our young people. Those with the most advantages continue to succeed, and those who are disadvantaged are increasingly likely to fail. Your proposal will make this worse, as it adds the divisive fact of religion in to the mix. Those in power are falling back to old solutions to problems in the city, which seems to be to actively ghettoise communities, especially by cultural and social background, rather than propose progressive and positive solutions. This is a failure of vision and evidence of a lack of values – especially for social justice.
My presentation and script for the #Rethinking ICT event on the 25th of June.
ICT is dead
Long live ICT
There are those who still believe ICT is a great subject, full of opportunities to teach children important things like how to code or make effective use of packages needed in the adult world, and provide them with basis for building knowledge in this important aspect of our hi tech economy.
You are great teachers. If we were hit by a solar storm and the electro magnetic pulse wiped out our tech, you’d all pick up books, grab blocks and tools,
maybe even chalk and be able to gather young people round a valuable learning experience.
The empty ICT Suite - See Ken Robinsons talk
We have been in the shade of the white heat of our ICT revolution.
Get over yourselves ICT teachers!
Of course ICT is ‘important’
So is geography, art, intergenerational learning…
In fact, every subject has a claim to the timetable and resources.
All can release that alchemy between teacher and learner where high quality and a broad education can happen.
Also, given Moores Law, almost everything you teach will be out of date within a few years.
You know the kit is a distraction.
You know even the best VLE can host nothing more than a load of static docs
You know that the companies who decide what school can access rarely put education first or user interests, as the priority they should.
You know that initiatives come and go,…
So why do we all get hung on these things
So, in RethinkingICT my challenge to you is to ask, beyond the day-to-day implementation of your planning (however creative and exciting)
What is at the essence of what works in Edtech.
Why is ICT worthwhile?
I think that ICT teachers have had a unique role in schools.
Because the kit breaks
Updates run when you are not expecting it and change everything – normally back to defaults!
Kids bring new uses, hack code
You have had to be adaptive, effective (quick) learners, agile in delivery and look for innovative solutions.
It is these behaviours and approaches that the best ICT models to children and teaches children to be ready for the technology that will
evolve through their lives.
The best ICT teachers model this to their classes.
Whatever you put into a new ICT curriculum, make sure that you allow this to happen.
Today I want to announce the birth of a new project – code name <hack>school
To harness the power of all you smart and effective practitioners into a hub for edtech. crowd sourced services, making best practice accessible to all.
I want to tell you about a new project I believe you will want to support: <hack>school.
In the past few years I have created two exciting projects. I set up and led BrainPOP in the UK, and am currently instigating an innovative Free School proposal in Oxford – www.onschool.org.uk. I have been very lucky to work with some amazing people. I would like your input at the early stages of what, I hope, will be the next stage in my journey.
The answer was very simple:
<hack>school will be a Hub for Excellence in Educational Technology.
Seeing as no one has done it in England yet, I thought I’d propose it and put myself forward to be involved. If you are reading this, the background to ‘Why?’ <hack>school is needed should be obvious, as you are very likely already working in EdTech. But, suffice to say, cuts in LA advisory teams and school budgets, and enormous opportunities in the potential of technology to transform the outcomes of young people mean that now is the perfect time for a hub to support teachers to share best practice.
I have only sketched the basis of the idea below. I have not included all the details (eg. costs and projected income), as these will need to be shared, in confidence, with potential funders. <hack>school will br run on a lean and ‘agile’ approach – bootstrapping like any start-up should. <hack>school does not make any claims to ‘innovation’ or hugely valuable IP. It hopes to build on the lessons learned and ground cleared by others.
The concept of a ‘Hub’ for this aspect of education is not new or unique. The Scottish Executive developed The Consolarium, which led and inspired teachers in Scotland and inspired many much further afield, to make use of video games to support teaching and learning. There have long been calls in England (and elsewhere) to emulate this wonderful project. Given that the Consolarium is due to be closed, now is the time to create a hub for the whole of Britain: for Games Based Learning, and much more.
Nor is it likely that I have been the only one to see this opportunity. <hack>school would welcome other providers developing similar ‘Hubs’, to create a national network of centres of excellence, which could work together and increase the impact on teaching and learning.
Like all start-ups, this would be tough – and to get off the ground, we’d need friends, funders, and lots of help sharing the idea. That said, if it does not survive your initial comments and gather support, then it should die now – with grace.
I believe it is an idea whose time has come. I don’t think I am alone.
<hack>school will be an independent hub for a network of evangelists for EdTech, both virtual and physical, based in Oxford, UK.
<hack>school will offer an authentic, open-source, credible, crowd-sourced service delivered in collaboration with teachers, subject associations, industry and policy.
<hack>school would be an ’Maven’ service – a group of trusted experts in edtech, who seek to pass knowledge on to others.
The <hack>school Offering
A physical home for EdTech:
- a friendly in-house guides to provide an intro into new pedagogies and practice
- a hi-tech venue for CPD courses
- a place to get hands on with edtech with colleagues and classes
- a place to come and play with emergent technology, including ‘Games Based Learning’, geotagging, and video tools
- a swapshop to share best practice and learning with other teachers
- a test-bed for new projects.
A virtual space for EdTech:
- a introduction in to the use of technology to promote learning
- aggregation of great crowdsourced resources, from TeachMeets, Under10mins, etc
- Video, Audio, and rich media archives of CPD.
A network of regional <hack>schoolers:
- will bring local experts to you, who know your area, resources and your communities
- will keep costs low and personalisation of support high
- will harness and model the power of Personal Learning Networks.
Operations, Governance and Partnership
- <hack>school will be run as a cooperative – by members, for members.
- The network of <hack>schoolers will operate on an associate model, returning a percentage to <hack>schoolHQ for administrative support and introductions.
- <hack>school will seek to be supported by both industry (eg. BESA and Intellect), HE ( eg. IoE and Vital CPD), and subject associations (eg. NAACE and ALT).
- <hack>school will partner with ‘startups’ and pupil voice organisations to ensure the service remains fresh ( eg. #LEGup, Young Rewired State and Apps4Good)
- <hack>school will seek to coordinate with the Initial Teacher Training programme at Oxford Brookes University and the University of Oxford Department of Education to maintain a sound research footing and maintain an annotated bibliography.
<hack>school will offer access to a wealth of courses and resources, accessible for a subscription/membership rate starting as low as £5. Products will be as close to ‘cost-price’ as possible, and made available at at a considerable discount to members on ‘premium plans’ and contributors.
<hack>school will issue ‘Open Badges’ to accredit involvement in the range of activities that teachers (and children!) engage in while working on <hack>school project. This will be one of the ‘premium’ services available to subscribers
<hack>school will offer CPD, including in partnership with existing providers, working in collaboration with existing organisations in this space, and not in competition. Offering NaaceMarks, and other similar awards, <hack>school will introduce teachers to the wealth of services and training available from a range of providers. <hack>school will negotiate a ‘introductory fee’ from other providers and charge market rates for the small number of courses it would offer.
<hack>school will offer a ‘workshop’ service for developers, publishers and other commercial organisations to ‘test’ projects. Both ‘one-off’ or an annual fees would be available to allow a range of suppliers fair access.
British leadership in EdTech is internationally recognised. <hack>school will offer targetted consultancy, resources and introductory services for international customers and ministries.
<hack>school will be ready to open in 3 months.
<hack>school will secure funding and commitments to enable 3 years of operation.
<hack>school will have 500 members 6months after launch, and 2000 in the first year.
<hack>school will be self sustaining in the third year.
So, do you think you’d want to support <hack>school? Do you think it would get the funding it would need? Do you have funding to offer? Would you be involved? Do you think partners would line up? Would you like to be a partner? Do you think we need a hub like this?
But he is wrong about banning mobiles in school – and his views are hurting more than the debate about BYOD.
I have read his articles since the 90s, as I was a big fan of the writing of Julie Burchill and could not avoid bumping into his views and vitriol. Anyone who has followed him over the years knows that he has carved out a special niche in our journalism, for tearing into the lazy left. I have always loved the iconoclasts and the disruptive voices, and have come to seek his articles out – though I rarely agree with him. However low his actual hit rate is (in terms of being ‘fair’ or ‘right’) people like Toby Young are (to my mind) essential and necessarily painful. We need people to prick our comfortable consensus. This was especially true in the broadly left wing discourse of the 90s and early 00’s.
However, Toby Young is no longer the thorn in the side of the establishment, ripping into flabby thinking. He is increasingly in the role of an attack dog for Tory party; off the leash – spreading ill-informed fear and beating a path for the most reactionary part of the establishment.
I rarely interact with Toby on Twitter, except to retweet his tweets encouraging other ‘Free Schools’ - and sharing information about this policy. I am leading a free school proposal group in Oxford – ONSchool – with the specialism of Innovation, and a focus in excellence in use of technology to support learning.
Which brings me to the purpose of this post.
I tried to explain why and show why his comment was ‘out of date’.
This prompted a further tweet from Toby asking if I would allow DSs into schools, which led me to point to the wealth of great practice on Games Based Learning, starting with Derek Robertson and Dawn Hallybone.
The debate blossomed into an increasingly ridiculous and entrenched argument about the value of technology in schools, largely with the hectoring and closed minded Andrew Old, the details of which are in the public stream.
Thanks to my much smarter and more informed PLN, I had support from many edtech teachers supporting my view and tackling the claims of Andrew Old. Andrew made so many mistakes in his responses, including relying on research that was over 10 years old to back up his claim that technology was a distraction from learning.
Toby made a lot of a false dichotomy between technology that is for ‘learning’ and devices that are ‘distractions’ . This is what worries me. When Toby Young’s scattergun contrariness hits a target, it does not matter if he aimed at it or not. The damage is done. Even Michael Gove, in his speech at BETT 2012, recognised the disruptive and engaging potential of digital tools to support learning – and how hard it is to legislate for these boundaries.
As I have said in recent posts, I fear that ICT (the term) has damaged more than the cause of edtech, and is allowing the reactionary voices to pull us back to a model of education that never worked, even in its heyday – except for the the most privileged.
Sloppy thinking about the relationship between Innovation, Technology and Educational Excellence has meant that clever and hopeful people like Toby Young – who cared enough about education to set up a school – can support a views of edtech that risks damaging kids outcomes.
These are not woolly liberals, or entrenched and lazy public sector unionistas. These are the voices from the leading edge of best practice. The teachers who have demonstrated that edtech is NOT a token of progressive teaching - but a vital aspect of school life – just as technology is in ‘real life’.
To ban technology in schools (whether ‘intended for learning’ or not) is to harm the learning that could take place in schools. To think that it is possible to ban it (effectively) is ridiculous – and indicative of why the traditional view of education is so inappropriate to the reality of our modern lives.
It is not that I disagree with Toby that bothers me – as this is quite common.
It is that Toby has become flabby and so comfortable that his points are not being sharpened by the whetstone of informed debate.
He is becoming lazy and falling on to tracks of party line and nostalgia – because he is supported by the weight of the establishment – and is not fighting against it.
Toby’s work on Free Schools is to be commended – in that he has fought for a space for parents to make decisions about the schools that their kids can learn in. But, his ill-informed comments on GBL and BYOD, and in favour of ‘traditionalism’ feeds policies from the coalition, must be challenged (more competently) by those who must interpret them into the complex lives of our kids . Those of us who believe and have evidence that edtech (in the broadest sense) belongs in schools need to demonstrate a more coherent challenge. If we want to allow DSs or smart phones in school – we should be free to do so.
These decisions belong to professionals who work with children, who are empowered to be make judgements that lead to the best possible outcomes for the young people they work with. Toby’s comments feed a media frenzy of moral panic that ill befits a man with a legacy of intellectual independence and clarity.
I, for one, would like to see Toby Young back on form, and bring his phone into a few classrooms where he can tweet, photograph and investigate with the teachers and kids making 3rd Millenium education a reality now.
He needs help to learn why so many of us are so passionate about the place of technology as a transformative force for educational excellence. I want Toby Young to see what we see. So let’s help him.