Future Proof Your School was a hideously ambitious title and I was initially reticent when Julia at Critical Publishing suggested it.
The more I wrote, the more I realised that this is indeed the challenge that we, as educators face. Having taught and led a school in special and desperate measures, I know how difficult it is to think strategically when each day can be mentally and physically overwhelming. We were trapped in a desperate loop of knowing that where we were was untenable, but not having the creative energy to begin to dismantle some of our current inappropriate practice. Many teachers had become reactive and defensive, giving the pupils simple, unchallenging and soporific learning diets to help them manage the day. The only way to break this loop was to re-focus, work collectively and have a clear and shared vision of the excellence we wanted to achieve.
Even the schools I have worked with which have been judged to be effective and successful tend to have a very limited view of the idea of strategy. Usually they apply it to the annual academic cycle and aim to get next year’s results better than this year’s. They don’t plan in terms of the life cycle of the child working through their school, a five or seven year plan. That would be strategic thinking and it might come up with some radical ideas for change.
Radical ideas are not enough without mechanisms to implement them. That is why I focus in the book on the concept of reflective learning – being explicit about what you are doing, how you are doing it, sharing findings and building improvement mechanisms. As I’ve had the privilege of working with a large number of schools, helping them re-focus their vison and efforts, I’ve been able to give this considerable consideration and have developed a process led system for moving forward which I summarise as a Learning Vortex. This allows for a quality assured methodology to deliver consistent improvement which is organic to the circumstances of the school. For that reason this approach can be implemented in Albania to Afghanistan and Zambia to Zimbabwe, the cultural context is not significant.
Beyond Future Proof Your School will be a second book about developing excellence in learning and it is as well here to outline the methodology I’ve use in the first book to make learning effective. Effective in this context means constructing ideas which enable the reader to Assimilate, Retain and Recall (ARR) the essential ideas in the book and implement ideas based on this input.
To this end, Future Proof Your School is written around a particular formula for A.R.R.
Each chapter is prefaced with a cartoon and an outline of the Key Issues to be addressed. Problems are outlined and I dip into my own experiences, by way of notes from my case files, to illustrate the general problems in a more specific context. We developed a system of triangulation points, with prompts, to allow the reader to contextualise the issues presented to the specific circumstances of their own school so that the systems and ideas presented can work for them.
Each chapter is summarised and provided with a link to the next chapter. There are references to academic papers and notable news stories to give readers greater traction in developing their own solutions by broadening and deepening their research.
Teachers have often said to me ‘I could never write a book’. I thought the same, and to be honest I have never written a book, despite having a series of books for young people (The Reso Trilogy by Ambrose Conway) and a number of academic papers published. By using the system outlined above, I never aim to write more than a single coherent chapter. Once that is complete I stitch it logically to a fresh chapter. It is a similar incremental and manageable structure that the book presents to school improvement and excellence.
I’d like to thank the esteemed educators, and colleagues in progressive learning, who have endorsed the book:
Formerly Headteacher of Rushcliffe School and CEO of the Trent Academies Group.
Ashok Pandey, FRSA,
Principal, Ahlcon International School, India, Educationist, #TeachSDGs Ambassador, and action partner for UN’s #Act4Sdgs
Director at Nehru World School, New Delhi.
Executive Director at St. Carries Center SMART Academy, Greater Los Angeles Area.
If the ideas presented in the book are of interest to your school development programme, or for conferences, I’d be happy to support you in person or online to discuss how we shape schools that provide a 21st century education of quality for all pupils.
You can see more of my work and collaborations on my blog at:
This is the final briefing paper. Future Proof Your School launches on April 4th.
Future Proof Your School by David W Hughes for Critical Publishing (ISBN: 978- 1- 912508- 44- 0) is published in the first week of April and is available at www.criticalpublishing.com and all good bookshops.