‘State schooling both today and when I was a child seemed stuck in a Victorian-era paradigm . . of becoming a good worker and getting a good job.’Akala

The hardest part of deciding on a new paradigm of education is in questioning and, where necessary, jettisoning what we have always held to be sacred and undeniable – the acquisition and accumulation of knowledge, the need for a curriculum divided into subject domains, for a requisite body of skills to be taught, of rigorous and regular testing to sort and filter children according to ability; of schools and the teacher to be at the heart of education; of an adherence to IQ and a belief that significant deviations are abnormal and need special interventions; and a belief that what we do in our schools is equitable and delivered without bias. Added to that is the insinuation that social media is pernicious and dangerous and the mobile phone is the frontline in a battle with today’s youth and we have the perfect storm.

So where to start? How about the statement that our education system is founded in the need for social control and conformity and rewards those that mimic it; that today’s schools and our whole education system is profligate and wasteful of talent; that our education benefits the status quo by rewarding the same outcomes as the previous generations; that social media and the internet is not the bugbear it is frequently portrayed, but an opportunity in waiting; that there is no need for selective education just more opportunities; that education, as offered in our schools, is serving the needs of a decreasing number of children; that deciding how we access knowledge and what we choose to learn is more important than ever; that technology must be used rather more smartly than just enlivening the education experience through immersive teaching; seeing why we must replace an adherence to GDP by an ethical understanding of the world we live in; and why education needs to be life-long, not adversarial, but desirable and available for all.

The current system is failing. Its goals are wrong, its premise driven by competition and accountability, by vested interests including teachers’ unions, a system directed towards, and determined by the requirements for university entry even knowing that most will not go there. The social stratification of education that sees BTecs and vocational courses pushed down the order as more rigorous testing and accountability determines schools’ offerings. True, many subjects don’t need to significantly change other than in the way they engage with students, but others such as History need a complete overhaul. Nor do we need to eschew high expectations, a good work ethic, memory, even repetition, because these are implicit in all learning. We need to guard against bias and the best way of doing that is to ensure a new paradigm is diverse and fluid, that it embraces e-learning and changes in the way we teach. We need to open our minds and think anew.

A root and branch review of our education system needs to be delivered not from within the current paradigm, but from without. After all, of all the many impediments negating change, the education industry with its numerous splinter theories, books and courses to sell, detox clinics to market and conferences to populate is not going to let unfettered change happen without a fight. We need to look at what has changed in our world and respond accordingly: a pending environmental meltdown; an obesity epidemic; a mental health crisis; the doubling of information every year; rapid advances of technology; new areas of knowledge; a changing workplace; disintegrating communities – and respond appropriately.

In the end it comes down to the age-old question I have used throughout my career in education as a teacher, head and now as a trustee of a multi-academy trust and school governor: namely, ‘what is the best education we can give our children in preparing them for their world and how do we achieve it” We just need to think of how best to answer it – and I don’t think we can do so staying in our current paradigm.