I was honoured to deliver the Sir Harold Wyndham Oration two weeks ago. In my speech, I argued that it is time to be bold and creative and to take the radical path in imagining what schools need to be. It is time to go beyond an improvement agenda and instead adopt a transformation agenda. In calling for this, I’m not the first to the say that things need to transform. In my speech, I outlineD five touchstones that underpin the transformation agenda we are driving in Western Sydney.
The first is that learning is the game. This means that everyone who is a member of the learning eco-system (students, parents, teachers, school leaders, system) see themselves as learners. To learn is to grow – you can’t learn without undergoing some kind of change, which is why we need teachers to be continually transforming the learning and teaching.
The second is diversity is the norm. Schools were designed to foster uniformity, which might have worked for preparing children for industrial jobs. We know that today’s work has been transformed by technology, so schools have to be places where innovation, creativity and critical thinking are nurtured in all students.
The third is there is no one size fits all. We have to design systems that meet each student where they are at developmentally, socially and academically. It’s a tough leadership challenge when the system has been efficiently replicated over a century. While technology is an enabler, we need to re-imagine schooling by recognising the endless possibilities.
The fourth is collaboration trumps competition. Despite the last 40 years of being told that competition is best, human progress has always flourished when people have worked collaboratively. Schools and systems are now embracing this way of working in order that everyone progresses.
The last is equity. We must do more than just talk about the equity gap in education. The current approach whereby each student is entitled to the same level of resourcing does not address the growing divide between the have and have-not schools. Those students with the greatest need have to get the most funding, regardless of where they go to school.
These pillars are not directives but touchstones to inform the work we do on behalf of our learners, learning communities and the broader society.