The moral purpose

Innovation expert, Charles Leadbeater was in Australian recently sharing his ideas on why we need better models of schooling to improve social cohesion.

In moving towards greater efficiency, Leadbeater believes that our societies have focussed not on people but on processes, systems, structures and yes, technology.

The work of public institutions like schools is not simply to provide a service but to build and nourish relationships in which people feel valued; are motivated to do well, have opportunities to work collaboratively and in doing so feel they are making a positive contribution to their community.

History shows that throwing more money at education doesn’t solve the problem of student disengagement. We know that at risk children and their families need greater support before starting school and during the early years of schooling.

Leadbeater suggests two new approaches: finding ways of schooling that is motivational and bridging the gap between school, family and community.

Both Leadbeater and Stephen Heppell see the dismantling of large secondary schools as the first step in creating smaller, personalised learning environments in which students are recognised and feel comfortable within their space.

This is what the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Development has aspired to with their massive redevelopment of the Broadmeadows site.

Under the old model, Broadmeadows was facing a dim future: high youth unemployment, schools seen as 9-3pm institutions, parents not involved in the learning.

After a significant period of planning and redevelopment, the Broadmeadows site has become a contemporary educational village. Students learn in smaller hubs connected by communal resource areas. Parents are invited to use the facilities.

Sometimes those of us in education are at risk of forgetting that improved learning outcomes are a result of our investment in people not our systems.

The great American pedagogue, John Dewey is as relevant today as he was one hundred years ago:

Mary Mackillop 119When the school introduces and trains each child of society into membership within such a little community, saturating him with the spirit of service, and providing him with the instruments of effective self-direction, we shall have the deepest and best guaranty of a larger society which is worthy, lovely and harmonious.


3 thoughts on “The moral purpose

  1. Interestingly when I listened to Charles I found myself taking notes of some key words/phrases:
    Relationships;
    Problems of isolation and loneliness;
    Sense of purpose;
    Closing the inequality gap;
    Motivation;
    Families;
    Communities;
    And the three prerequisites for schools:
    Ethos, Order and Calm.
    In a community, an educational community in this case, where relationships are the foundation upon which everything else rests there comes a social cohesion that allows for the success of the members of that community – students, teachers and families.
    As Leadbeater says it is the social organisation of the school/community that holds it all together.
    Organisations/communities where relationships are nurtured, valued and encouraged are where people want to be. I have recently be challenged by a comment made by Andy Hargreaves when he said that if we really are passionate about what we do we will invite discussion and collaboration with everyone within the community. This may mean approaching other schools, preschools, community services etc to ensure that the very best is being done for the communities in which and for which we work. This gives another dimension to the moral leadership of a school community and the moral purpose from which all of us are working.

  2. Change is threatening to most people but I wonder if we change the langauge to explore, to improve, to get better value for our efforts we might get less resistance.

    I had the Geelong regeneration of schools visiting last week looking at consistency of practice in using assessment for learning across the schools before they merged into the new beings.

    They are merging in about 12 months time into new buildings with flexible spaces. They have spent 3 years now in dialogue about the regeneration of the area into a sustainable entity. There were 7 schools and now there will be 5 under one framework and entity but with different compositions: Years P-4, P-8, Year 9, Senior Years 10- 12 are just some of the combinations. I wrote about some of their journey on my blog.

  3. Mark, It is all about language I think. as I’ve written before we need a new dialogue in the profession that reflects learning in today’s world. We borrowed the industrial and business models of language so ts no wonder that it doesn’t resonate with teachers. It’s the language of learning and collaboration

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