Tag Archives: Future Schools Network

The Opening Minds Conference 2008: letting schools provide the answers

The annual Opening Minds Conference was held at the RSA yesterday. Yet again the event was a sell out, and most of the team spent a lot of time standing or sitting on the floor to listen to the presentations.

Despite the warm day in the packed Great Room, delegates listened and responded to a range of speakers including Michael Gernon, principal of the RSA Academy, Mick Waters, Director of Curriculum at QCA and Paul Hammond, Deputy Head at Oasis Academy.

The conference was themed around assessment and brought together some different perspectives on what is always described as a ‘thorny issue’. How do you assess the Opening Minds competencies and demonstrate progression? How do you measure progress in creativity or relationship skills? What are the links with the QCA’s Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills?

True to the nature of Opening Minds itself, the conference did not try and dictate the answers to these questions to delegates, but provided a starting point by sharing what some schools were trying out for themselves.

This sort of issue is where the new RSA online platform for schools using Opening Minds (due to launch this year) will be useful. It will provide a space into which schools can upload their ideas and their practice around assessment or any other issues and share them with other schools.

We think that it is unlikely that any one person or organisation will come up with the answers to some of the really difficult questions in education and what is right for one school or one community is rarely right for them all. We think Opening Minds represents the RSA at its best, helping inspiring practitioners to share ideas and collaborate with one another to find their own answers.

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Room for subversion

As many will know, this Monday the RSA, in partnership with the Innovation Unit, will host the first event in the life of the Future Schools Network.

 The purpose of the Network is to create schools fit for the 21st Century – by which we broadly mean schools which are responsive to a world which is changing fast, and which enable all young people to fulfill their potential.

We’re really excited about the possibilities. And schools are too – members of the network have already begun to tell us their thoughts about what practice schools need to develop to meet this challenge (thank you to all those Network members who have got stuck in to the wiki!)

With all those next practice ideas in mind, I was interested when Mike Baker posted an article on BBC Online last Saturday about what makes a good teacher. There is a lot there about teachers’ practice. However, it was a wider point he made about the culture within the teaching profession that particularly caught my eye:

‘The big question now is whether – after 20 years of being told exactly what and how to teach – there are enough teachers ready to be “creatively subversive”?’

The take up of the RSA’s Opening Minds work indicates that a proportion practitioners never lost that readiness, and that there really are more ready to take a risk and do something out of the ordinary because they believe in its worth for students. Indeed, the Future Schools Network is betting the farm on that being true.

 Are we right? And while we’re at it, what do you make of the ideas in Mike’s article about good teachers?

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Future Schools Network – tell us what you want to work on

Today we are posting the first of our background documents. Written by Mike Gibbons, Chief Executive of the Innovation Unit, it begins with a brief outline about the idea of ‘Next Practice’ as opposed to ‘Best Practice’.

Then it highlights four broad ideas members of the Future Schools Network could consider when deciding what themes we want to work on together.

 You can find the document here.

But don’t just read it! We want you to be thinking and talking to each other before the event on the 4th February.

Of course you can tell us your views on Mike’s words by commenting on this blog. If you are a member of the network, by the time you read this you will probably also have recieved an invitation to join the wiki. The wiki is your opportunity to take that document and rewrite it with your own ideas in mind.

As members of the network, you will decide what we work on together. That process starts now, so get involved and share your ideas.

 Ian

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Collaborating Online

A quick post to give us something to chew on over the Christmas break (other than chocolate, I mean).

 The RSA have been developing an online platform to support networking and collaboration which we hope to use for the Future Schools Network. We will be meeting the developers in the new year to move forward with our discussions about what is needed.

Before then, I want to get your ideas and experience about what tools and functions make for good collaboration online. Are there sites you have enjoyed using in the past? Are there things you have tried to use and found yourself cursing in frustration?

 Please comment below and let us know what we should be saying to the people developing the online components of the Future Schools Network.

Merry Christmas!

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Networks of knowledgeable people

In the last post I mentioned that we visit schools a lot.This means each of the team are in schools every week and have the opportunity to talk to staff and students (though probably not as often with students as we should, and our conversations with staff aren’t as ongoing as we would like).Being in a school is a constant reminder that so much knowledge is created by schools taking some pretty raw ideas and making them work in practice. There’s a close knowledge that only comes from being directly involved in delivery. There are often questions asked by schools thinking about Opening Minds, for example, to which I don’t know the answer. However, I will tend to know someone who does. Almost invariable, they will be people who have had to work through a similar issue in detail to implement change in their school. There’s nothing new to practitioners having tonnes of knowledge that others need.But, what is new is RSA Networks. The RSA is making a major effort to understand how we can create networks which, on their simplest level, mean that you have a connection to the people who you really want to ask questions, and whose questions you can answer. Hopefully it will go beyond simple questioning to sharing ideas and resources, and ultimately making a difference to our schools together. About 90% of you said you would when we surveyed you last term…What will this mean? Well, one of the main things is that the RSA Education team is working to create an online platform for some of this sharing to happen in the Spring. In slightly different ways we hope it will support both Opening Minds, and our RSA Future Schools Network.  

We’ll be meeting the web developers again in a few days. Tell me what you think about these ideas, and anything about what you want to see the new site.

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Welcome to the RSA Education Blog

Welcome to the RSA Education Team’s new blog. Let me try to explain why I hope it will be useful.

The point of this blog is to have a more regular conversation about what is on our minds with regards ideas and practice. We don’t want to meet you and then be out of touch for months at a time. This blog will keep you posted with what we are thinking about, how our work is developing, and enable you to share your thoughts and opinions. It’s only a first step down a road that I hope means we can we can shape each other’s work as we go.  

Most think tanks worry about being at the cutting edge of thinking, and about shaping government policy. What happens after that is anyone’s guess. The RSA is a bit different – for a start I’m not really sure I’d call us a think tank, though some people do.  Anyway, while we too worry about being at the cutting edge of thinking, we are preoccupied with the direct connection between ideas and action. That is something that defines our Education programme, and increasingly all of the RSA’s work. So alongside engaging with theory, we worry about classrooms.

The people that influence students’ experience of education most are teachers, school leaders, parents and students themselves. Some of the schools that have used Opening Minds (over 150 and counting!) are proof of that. They have taken that core idea, and reshaped the aims, content, and process of learning in their schools pretty dramatically. It is perhaps surprising how little policy has got in the way (and some credit for that must go to the people shaping it every day).

An important theme for the blog over the coming months will be the RSA Future Schools Network. We will be regularly covering our progress towards getting the Network up and running, the ideas that Network members will be thinking about, and some of the practical details. We want to keep people in touch, and help you shape it as we go.

My next blog post will go into a bit more detail about this new phase in RSA Education’s workWhat do you think? Is there anything else you would like the blog to cover?

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