I had quite a humbling moment last Thursday at the British Council in London when I got into a long conversation with the Education Minister from Ethiopia, Dr Tilaye Gete Ambaye, just before I was due to speak at the World Education Forum. We were talking general concerns that I faced as a principal of a school in England and of course I went through the TES’s standard Friday issue list of articles from funding cuts, Progress 8, MATs, grammar schools, new qualifications this summer in English and Math and so forth. Dr Ambaye then responded by talking through the issues schools in Ethiopia face. When I spoke to the very distinguished audience my focus came back to the comparative nature of education around the globe. The similarities in terms of engagement of learning, technology, pedagogy, stretch and challenge, are all there whenever you talk to any educator from anywhere in the World. The differences become apparent when resources and finances come into the mix. Dr Ambaye certainly “closed shut” my TES list as he went through what schools, communities, parents, teachers and students face daily in Ethiopia. But he made sure I got his last point that education was valued above all else and all had high expectations and aspirations no matter what the classroom looked like or how many students there were to one teacher sharing so few battered text books. One of the sights that still stays with me from my time in Bandung, Indonesia is the bamboo shack accommodation at the back of one of the schools that housed dozens of 14-16 year old students being looked after by a “nanny” because these students wanted to continue with education after compulsory education finished at 14. They were away from their families and villages in the hills around Bandung and were enduring this situation because they wanted to learn so desperately and they needed to continue their education to break their cycle of poverty in West Java. I cannot think of anything more humbling as an educator when I think back and it certainly left its indelible impression on me as a teacher when I think about the duty of care and responsibility we have towards our young people. I sat in the Gloucester Heads meeting the next day after the conference in London listening to the various discussions and one of the most pressing discussion points for the county schools is the government’s proposals on the national funding formula. I want to say now no school leader wants to take money off a school struggling in another part of the country. It has been raised by school leaders and organisations this week about the £385 million allotted in May 2016 to developing more MATs that has suddenly disappeared back into the Treasury. When schools across England are struggling with real term funding cuts of 10% over the last few years and reducing quality education in their schools back to the minimum why can’t this money be found to fund a World Class education system? Surely the reason why China, South Korea, Singapore, Canada et al fund their education so well is to ensure that the next generation are not only good citizens but they are building the skills for the economic wealth for the future prosperity of society.
My Monday this week started off as it normally does with answering emails at 7am at my desk in my study in school, writing up the weekly briefing for staff for the 8:35 meeting, holding the daily operational meeting at 8:10 with the leadership team, say good morning to sleepy (eager to learn…) students starting school after the weekend and on the with another week. This week, same routine only at 9am the Lions Club of Chepstow came into school to present Trinity Jones in Year 11 a special award for her recent exceptional progress and a £75 Amazon voucher. As we had a photo taken at the front of school I noticed she was beaming. Rightly so. Her school principal was bursting with pride at the same time. I was also extremely proud looking at the tweets from the University of Bristol on Wednesday as Lucy Roberts, our Latin and Classics coordinator, spoke to a special conference in the Wills memorial building about the developments and huge impact here of the subjects. The Wyedean Warrior sporting success also goes from strength to strength and earlier this week the badminton teams in the county finals in Stroud acquitted themselves well. I have invited them to have a celebratory lunch next week to mark their success. Nice to be a proud principal.
In the week the British Parliament voted to allow the government to trigger Article 50 next month and start negotiations to leave the EU I held a wonderful Skype Classroom talk with staff and students of partner school Gheorghe Asachi High School in Chisinau, the capital of Moldova. My thanks to the brilliant educator and eTwinning Ambassador, Tatiana Popa, and her wonderful students who spent over an hour talking about their favourite books, President Trump and his first actions in the White House, the EU and Brexit as well as Moldova’s own delicate relationship as a former USSR republic with Putin’s Russia. There are moments in this role when you occasionally question your sanity and what you are doing and there are moments when you are engaging with young people like the students 3000kms away on the other side of Europe and you are just bowled away by their hope, intelligence and their faith in education. I need more of these opportunities in global learning.
One more week until we break up for half term. I know this is a shorter term after Christmas but it is astonishing how much work gets accomplished and how many important decisions get taken now that have a huge impact later in the school year. Henry Adams once said: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops”. Lucy and Tatiana will no doubt be enjoying a deserved rest this weekend but despite being on the opposite ends of Europe in two very different countries they have both given opportunities and compelling learning to their students that will resonate and influence long after this particular time in February at the start of the year has been forgotten. As Dr Ambaye said in London to me, the hope he has for his country whatever the state of the world, lies in the optimism of education and its transformational power of good in the lives of ordinary people.
Global Learning in the 21st Century – Guest blog posted for Show My Homework/Satchel