BLOG: Reflections on Challenge 2012 and the Policy First: Breaking Down Barriers launch
25 September 2012
As a prospective policy researcher and writer focusing on education, skills and social mobility, I found no event more important to attend this year than the Challenge 2012 tenth anniversary of Teach First. It is a great pleasure that I was asked to reflect on the day for the Teach First blog.
The vibrant energy from the Southbank Centre drew away the dreary misery of the clouds and rain! Walking around the many exhibitions, I could see what amounted to the future of British education for primary and secondary levels. I never thought I would have seen such a wide array of exhibitors sharing their passion and enthusiasm for pushing education to the centre of the agenda for Britain’s future.
One thing that became apparent to me was the necessity for education policy to be conducted more than ever with the voice of the education practitioners. The Policy First publication launch seemed to be an appropriate launching pad for this next step, involving dynamic, entrepreneurial, leading teachers in the policy making process to improve the state school sector within the next decade. After watching the delightful presentation by Brett Wigdortz and the 10 policy recommendation authors (all Teach First alumni drawing upon their classroom experience for the recommendations), I was impressed by the ambitions of the Teach First cohorts for their future careers and how to involve education within new industries and avenues of work, whether the cohorts decide to become consultants at McKinsey’s or choose to set up new social enterprises to combat education inequality.
The title of the Policy First publication, Breaking Down Barriers, had a two-pronged effect on my thinking. How to ensure an excellent education for all British children within the next decade; and how to break down barriers in education policy making between Westminster and the think tank world and the users and providers of education, teachers, parents, pupils, head teachers and governors. Far too often the debate around education policy in this country has been driven by stubborn antagonisms from vested interests, who seem more concerned about territorial policy disputes instead of collaborating to improve the broad reach of education. Challenge 2012 and the Policy First launch represented a shift toward collaboration, rather than division over the purpose of improving education.
The policy recommendations that stood out to me in the publication were: Teachers as learners and peer coaches, School work that has value to external audiences, Promoting and supporting local schools and Incorporating Action-Research elements into Teacher training and development. As multitasking and communication across various forums and boundaries grow, it is integral that we reflect that through how we prepare our teachers and pupils for the challenges of the future, making themselves the master of destiny in their own lives and institutions, seeking consistent evaluation and improvement instead of passing the buck when things don’t always go to plan.
As a prospective researcher and writer of education matters, who is keen to improve education provision in my local borough of Croydon, it was a pleasure to attend Challenge 2012 and the Policy First launch, where I made many new friends and contacts. As such, I am keen to work with Teach First and any other passionate education advocates and researchers to fulfil the Teach First mission to combat educational inequality in the next decade.
James Gill is an aspiring researcher and writer in the area of Education and Skills. He tweets at @JamesGill13