A whirlwind...

My feet haven't touched the ground. For those of you who are vintage Snooker Fans, it's been like watching the 'Whirlwind', with a bit of 'Hurricane' thrown in for good measure...

A whirlwind...
Hurricane Higgins

I'm taking about the start of term. A week in. And I've already been 'blown way' by what our amazing students have achieved.

It actually started before the start if term, if you know what I mean. As a staff we always come back a couple of days before our students. 'Baker Days' as they were originally known, after Kenneth Baker, Margaret Thatcher's Secretary of State for Education in the 1980s, who introduced the idea that a number of days in the academic year should be set aside for teachers' professional development and training. INSET - In-Service Education and Training - Days, as they are now known.  

Kenneth Baker Margaret Thatcher

The difference is that we involve students in our INSET. If the purpose of teacher training is to make learning more effective, then to me it makes sense to ask the learners about what it's like for them! So it was a great pleasure to have members of our Student Learning Makers Team, who took part in the Student Learning Conference I blogged about in July, working alongside side staff to further develop shared understanding of what really does make great learning...

Student Inset Day


Later that day, a number of those students together with others from Years 10, 11 and 13 got on board a bus to Manchester where, for the second year in succession, they nationally showcased their debating skills in the context of the Sainsbury's School Games, using sports themes and issues as the motions for heated competition as in 2014...

This year, however, our students additionally chaired the debates and acted as mentors to students from other schools, leading the way in every sense.

Then, on only their second day back, this:

BBC Panorama


I was thrilled that from all the schools in the country we were asked to talk about how we are developing learning for 'The Second Machine Age.'

The Second Machine Age

The theme of the programme was inspired by the recent book of that name, by MIT professors Erik Brynjolfson and Andrew McAfee. The premise is quite straightforward. The 'First Machine Age' - The Industrial Revolution of the late-18th and 19th Centuries - fundamentally transformed working patterns and the social structures and cultural norms associated with them through mechanisation and the factory system. These structures, and the skills skills needed to be successful at a variety of levels within within them, did not really change for the next hundred years... Until now! The Second Machine Age, the digital age - our age - whilst not removing altogether those older skills now reaquires a whole set of new ones and a growth mindset as we learn to interact creatively with new and rapidly changing technology.

The programme goes out later today (Monday 14 September). Looking forward to it!

My only contribution, for what it was worth, was to comment on how all this creativity in learning - and the flexible skills that students develop as a result - are not tested by a rigid exam system, more suited to the first machine age than the second.

It's a system based on testing the 3Rs - reading, writing and arithmetic - in silence, with students sat at desks four feet away from each other with no access to any form of technology other than a biro. Of course these skills are still vitally important as enablers, but in a new context. What, too, of the three Cs: Creativity, Communication and (working as a part of a) Community? For me, in the Second Machine Age, it's these skills that will determine our - and our young people's - ability as Brynjolfsson and McAfee put it 'to learn to race with the machines'. I've blogged about this from related perspectives a couple of times before...



A whirlwind...

It's really all a bit of a whirlwind, isn't it!?