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Can we ever agree on purpose and vision? A thought piece from Fiona Forbes

Can we ever agree on purpose and vision? A thought piece from Fiona Forbes

Following the launch of the FED National Education Consultation Report, we are hosting a series of 4 roundtable discussions seeking the views of all stakeholders to focus on what is needed to deliver a long-term vision and plan for education on our 4 workstreams.

In our first roundtable we are discussing Workstream 1 – Develop a vision, purpose and objectives for a 10-year plan. For this important discussion, we asked Professor Fiona Forbes to provide a think piece during the roundtable to help stimulate our thinking. 

In this blog, Professor Fiona Forbes, a FED Trustee, the CEO and founder of ConfigurED – an education transformation consultancy eco-system with a specific focus on school leadership, argues that ‘England is having a Net Zero by 2030 for education’. This blog can be read alongside the accompanying slides to the think piece.

‘Can we ever agree on purpose and vision?’ Fiona Forbes

It was an honour and pleasure to contribute the think piece for the recent Fed Roundtable to kick start the series of conversations centred on the four emerging themes of the National Consultation Report.

Theme one is quite rightly Vision and Purpose and to that end I opened my contribution with this statement…

Net zero by 2030

Interesting you may think, and a bit left field, however, if you bear with me, I hope all will be revealed…

Net Zero by 2030 – is a statement that people recognise as inherently positive for the climate and our emissions.  It evokes thoughts of contributing to the climate emergency and when governments use it there is a sense that they have listened and have finally decided that something needs to be done to address the crisis our planet is in.  It is a big statement – a vision – a purpose even.  It is a statement, light on detail but nevertheless compelling and something people want to be a part of. In fact, it has spurred a raft of business buy-in with solutions thinking on how this lofty statement can be achieved.

Education is having a net zero by 2030 moment and Fed has started a conversation about a long-term vision and plan that has been long overdue in England.  Fed’s neutral space really has allowed people to be free to contribute, without the usual constraints from employers, affiliations, or political persuasions.  By placing children and young people at the centre of the conversation has allowed a cut through and focus on who education is for.  With no beginning or end to the conversation it has allowed for blue sky thinking towards the future.

Over the past 150 years public Education in England has existed.  During that time there have been many great reports, thoughts, ideas, and people that have shaped where the system is today.  Fed demonstrated this in part through the Looking Back – Moving Forward 150 Years launch late last year.  The insights of the 12 Secretaries of State for Education and the think piece from Sir Michael Barber, demonstrated that there has been a fair amount of tinkering and tailoring of the education system. 

With each Secretary only in office for less than 2 years – they themselves lamented this fact, and for whatever political reason they did not continue in their position, they all had a sense of more work to do and a bit of, “If only I had my time again, I would have done this different and this the same”.  What they all agreed on however, was that there was a view to the future in their work but that was not driven by an agreed vision and purpose beyond their political term.

No education system is perfect but for the ones that thrive – they have in common an agreed long-term vision and purpose.

For my contribution, I decided to present a snapshot of a few systems and highlight what they say about vision and purpose.  In doing this I was mindful of a 2018 UNICEF report – An Unfair Start – Inequality in Children’s Education in Rich Countries, which states that educational comparisons do not help develop a more equitable system. So, with that in mind I presented the information to promote discussion about vision and purpose, not compare.

The slides accompany this blog, and I encourage you to look at the information I presented that spoke to vision and purpose in Finland, Australia, and New Zealand.  These are systems I am familiar with and two of them I even work/ed in..

These brief snapshots were designed to stimulate conversation and I hope they continue to do so.  International inspiration from thriving systems with similar visions and purpose are important to inform the journey forward but do not hold a silver bullet for England, as we all know that context is everything.  However, a significant key that I wanted to highlight by shining the spotlight on the 3 systems was the two factors that align them all – collaboration and meaningful, real consultation where everyone’s voice matters and has real impact on the future.

To conclude this short piece, I head back to the start –

Net zero by 2030

I believe education in England is having a Net Zero by 2030 moment. 

Can England develop a long-term vision and purpose for education – I say yes – in fact this has started and already there is a ground swell of support through Fed for deeper conversations, full of thoughts, solutions, and ideas on how to get there. 

If you have taken the time to get this far in the blog then you are interested and I encourage you to be a part of this movement. Think can do and no barriers, think big picture and into the future. I will be bold in my conclusion and say… the future of the children and young people of the nation depend on it.

Register to be involved with the FED and for more information here.

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