December 2020 edition: Introduction

Introduction

Welcome to this December edition of Trust, which is the final edition of 2020. In some ways it would be nice to describe this as a bookend to what has been a very difficult year for many of us; a symbolic closing of the page, if you will. But to view 2020 in that way would be to draw an unhelpful hard and fast line between past, present and future.

Now more than ever we need to develop a rich understanding that traces a coherent path between where we’ve been and where we are going. This means reflecting on what we’ve learned through the pandemic, and rebuilding better, but not at the cost of the many good things that existed in our system before Covid-19 came calling.

It’s also about ensuring we get the right balance of serving the needs of the here-and-now as well as those of the future. If we don’t lift our heads to the horizon it is harder to plot a course to the future we want to see. However, the problem with some future-gazing is that it can overlook the simple reality that what we do in the present will lay the foundation for what comes next. As Ghandi said, "The future depends on what you do today.” And of course, while we might dream of the education children will receive ten years from now, millions more children will be passing through our schools in the meantime. We must ensure past, present and future policy and practice are coherently connected.

In the lead article, Leora Cruddas argues that Michael Young’s ‘Future 3’, underpinned by his notion of ‘Powerful Knowledge’, should be a rallying point for education. She describes the risk of polarisation and dichotomous culture wars and argues that we must instead steer a course towards education as an entitlement for all to the best knowledge we have.

In another piece which bridges the present and the future, Richard Gill, Chair of the Teaching Schools Council, outlines the opportunities provided by Teaching School Hubs, explaining why the role of the Teaching Schools Council must evolve to offer more focussed support and development for hubs. As he explains, some hubs won’t have delivered on such a large scale before, and they will require new forms of support from the Teaching Schools Council.

There are thoughtful contributions from Martin Shevill – Senior Education Advisor for NTA & Leila Mactavish, Head of Ark Teacher Training, on how COVID-19 is affecting teacher training. Within what they describe as a ‘crash course’ year, they have spotted opportunities which might be built on subsequently, including the possibility for technology to play a greater role in professional development.

The contribution of technology is a thread picked up by Winston Poyton, Senior Product Director at IRIS Education. In a piece which evidences the financial costs of the pandemic, he also offers an insight into systems and processes which can help trusts to better manage potential uncertainty ahead.

It is also important to remember that the education sector – like wider society – was also grappling with important issues that preceded and reach far beyond the current pandemic. Hilary Spencer, CEO at Ambition Institute, makes a compelling case that we must maintain a clear focus on improving racial equity. In particular, she argues, it is important to develop and deploy evidence if we are to make the biggest difference and avoid well-meaning but often deleterious consequences of poor equalities practice.

Similarly, wellbeing is another issue which occupied our thoughts before COVID-19, and it is an issue the pandemic has undoubtedly exacerbated. Peter Fonagy and Jaime Smith from the Anna Freud Centre explore what the evidence reveals about how the wellbeing of children and young people and indeed the wider school community has been affected by the crisis. It’s a sobering analysis.

Governance is another area of pre-COVID-19 policy which continues to prompt discussion. Naureen Khalid, founder of @UKGovChat, lifts the lid on what it’s like to chair a local governing body within a large school trust, challenging the misconception that large trusts are in some way distant from local governors. Stuart Burns, CEO of the David Ross Education Trust, looks at the complexity of the school system and argues that a simpler structure could be adopted, one which would make it easier for leaders from different institutions to bring their collective influence to bear to improve communities. Much of this resonates with CST’s work on Trusts as new civic structures.

Finally, Paula Williamson, Partner at Stone King, provides a precise and accessible overview of problems associated with data breaches and what trust leaders can do to in the here-and-now to guard against problems arising in the future.

So, in this edition of Trust you will find a range of excellent pieces which together probe the curious place we find ourselves at the end of 2020: learning from the past, including that which existed before COVID-19, improving what we do in the present and making plans for the future. At CST we see it as our mission to support you on this journey and we look forward to doing so in 2021 and beyond.