A Research and Development Proposal submitted to
The Department for Education by Education 2000
A Project to demonstrate significant improvements in pupil performance by mobilising the full resources of the community* to support learning.
*Definition: Community – a place of well defined geographic boundaries within
which there is a strong sense of internal identity, resourcefulness and pride (likely to have a population of less than 50, 000 people).
The Proposal is predicated on sets of ideas:
- 1. That it is unlikely, that even when the recession is over, there will be any significant increase in the funds available for Education; the competing demands from health, old age and industrial infrastructures will be most strident. Ways have to be found therefore, to increase significantly the outcomes of the Education system, at no extra cash cost.
- 2. Government has done much already to improve the effectiveness of schools so that it is now unlikely that many more improvements can be made within the present system, either through separate initiatives, legislation or through schemes for greater efficiency. The increasing percentage of expenditure in secondary schools allocated to staffing (now estimated to be in excess of 80% of total budget in many schools) and the limited expenditure on learning resources (down to as little as 2% in some schools) is measure enough of that. To effect further improvements a way has to be found to mobilise the huge potential resource of the community and of the new technologies; it is the community which has to become the ‘unit of change’, not the school.
- 3. The imperative to empower all children to become life-long learners to enable Britain to retain its international competitiveness, dictates a radical re-thinking of the present structures and strategies of schooling. In addition to the traditional role of the school in transferring culture, and a range of skills, habits and attitudes developed in earlier generations, formal schooling has now to start a dynamic process in which young people are progressively ‘weaned’ of their dependence on teachers and institutions, and given confidence to manage their own learning using a range of learning resources, situations and colleagues.
- 4. There is now a wealth of research evidence (much from overseas), as well as the experience of individual programmes in the UK, to suggest that:
- a. Further improvement in Educational performance require the active participation of the family, extended family and the community at large.
- b. For some kinds of learning, expenditure on learning resources – books, videos, computers, CD Rom, etc – is more productive than expenditure on teachers.
- c. It is critical to ensure the successful start of formal education for all pupils through the provision of better staffing levels at primary, and pre-primary level, at the expense of staffing in secondary schools.
The ideas that are presented in the following argument suggest that, if all aspects of formal schooling were reviewed and tested simultaneously within a few identifiable communities of, say, up to 50,000 people, (looking as much at informal provision as at formal), it should be possible to find new ways of distributing all resources so as to improve significantly the overall performance of all pupils, at no extra on-going cost.
It is the belief of Education 2000 that a properly structured R and D programme should be set up to test such a thesis in three or four communities over a period of several years. As a pilot programme there would be initial ‘cost of change’ expenditure which would not exceed an additional 10% of normal school expenditure; these costs would Cease with the completion of the Project leaving the revitalised system functioning more effectively through a new, more imaginative way of using normal levels of resources.
The programme would provide fully tested evidence of the viability of such a model of learning, and could be used to shape Government policy in later years.
The programme, being concerned as much with informal as formal structures, should represent the coming together of government, community organisations, business and the academies community. The programme should, therefore, be funded and administered jointly.
The Programme should feed off, and feed into, similar international programmes.
A Programme to improve Pupil Performance:
1 National Prosperity, as never before, depends on the intellectual and practical capabilities of people to demonstrate that they can be more creative than those of other nations, and so attract vital international investment. What business is seeking is not a docile work force with a range of basic skills, but an enterprising, creative work force of confident, self starting, quick thinking, problem-solving and risk-taking individuals who can operate in collaborative situations.
This range of skills and other attributes cannot be taught solely in the classroom; nor can they be developed solely by teachers.
2 The role of the school has to change. Traditionally schools have been concerned with the transfer of culture and the development in pupils of a range of skills, habits and attitudes evolved from the experience of earlier generations. Schools now have an additional and vital task. They have to start a dynamic process through which pupils are progressively weaned from their dependence on teachers and institutions and given the confidence to manage their own learning, cooperating with colleagues, and using a range of resources and learning situations. Sixteen or eighteen is no longer the end of schooling; it becomes the launch date of the autonomous lifelong learner.
The change is of enormous significance.
3 Government has done a great deal already to improve the effectiveness of schools; there is much more ‘in the pipeline’. Further improvements necessitate looking beyond the normal definition of schooling to incorporate far more of a chi1d’s experience than can be handled formally within the five or six hours a day which children spend in school.
Education 2000 believes that significant improvements in pupil performance would be gained if the ‘unit of change’ were to be the community, not the single school.
Community became a weakened concept with the growth of formal institutions. Changes within many aspects of life are, however, reawakening interest in the importance of informal, social units (communities) as the essential mechanism within which individual responsibility can be effectively utilised. This has particular importance to education where a range of resources – human and material – are needed to support the cognitive and social development of young people. To release the ‘hidden’ resources of the community in this way is not just altruistic; it appeals directly to the community‘s self-interest in improving its long term viability.
In its response to the White Paper ‘Choice and Diversity’ Education 2000 suggested that the shift in emphasis away from the teacher to the learner necessitates the greater involvement of both parents and community in supporting the young learner (see Appendix 1). The Trust also believes that these developments have to be underpinned by a careful analysis of current research on learning coming from work in several cognitive sciences.
The Trust urges Government, and other key groups, to set up immediately an appropriate structure to take a ‘long view’ of what is now known (and being discovered) about learning; about the brain and natural learning; about learning and social development, and about the potential of new technologies to support learning. The Search has to be engaged to describe that education provision which is both necessary and desirable for the future, but which may not be reached by a process of normal incremental steps.
It has to be a matter of profound disquiet that, after 6 or 8 generations of compulsory formal, institutionalised learning in this and so many other countries, the systems are showing so many signs of malfunction. Perhaps the system, as we understand it, and the assumptions which underlie this, have now become part of the problem, not the solution.
The country needs to know, if we are to rise to the challenge posed in paragraph 1.
Education 2000 was probably ahead of its time when, in the later 1980’s, it attempted to explore the significance for schools and communities (the providers and the locations for formal and informal learning) of empowering young people to manage their own learning within the context of self-defining communities.
For such empowerment to be effective Education 2000 saw that a number of changes would be necessary
– in teaching style;
– in the balance of resources within schools;
– in the balance of resources across different sectors of education;
– in the use of technologies to support learning, and
– in the role of the community to provide the location and support for active learning and personal development.
These Changes were never the Concerns of Education 2000 alone. They were, and continue to be shared by many other organisations, learned societies and several Government Departments.
Education 2000 was alone, however, when it argued that, to bring about ‘Whole systems’, Change all these issues had to be addressed simultaneously and progressively if new ‘models of learning’ were to be established. The Trust was further isolated when it suggested that all these changes, while needing additional funds in transition (project) stage to cover the ‘costs of change’, had eventually to be self-sustaining through radical re-distribution of normal funding. Good ideas had to be cost effective and lead to very obvious improved outcomes.
The enthusiasm with which these ideas have been received and the willingness of groups within communities to band together to seek local implementation strategies has been impressive. Education 2000 is working directly in nine separate communities, but the influence of the ideas is far wider.
The Trust’s ability to bring about such ‘whole systems change’ has been limited (a) by its status as a private sector initiative without statutory power, (b) by its almost total dependence on charitable donations during a period of recession and (c) the second place its programmes have had to take first to LEA initiatives, and subsequently to Government legislative change.
Despite these limitations the Projects have amazing vitality. They have produced interesting and valuable case study materials of several of the mechanisms necessary to bring about radical change. Specifically they provide ample evidence that communities can be involved-in this way, and ample demonstration that ‘hidden’ resources can be mobilised to good effect.
The Trust has worked closely with a number of organisations both in this country and increasingly abroad as it has developed these ideas. There have been strong mutual advantages; the Trust now has ready access to much research being carried out on the brain and on learning in a number of countries.
As a result of this involvement Education 2000 has been invited into discussions with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to show how innovations of this kind could be networked internationally. Internationally there is Considerable interest in the contribution that it is anticipated could come from the United Kingdom.
The Trust is now even more convinced that a major initiative, more embracing than anything it has been able to undertake on its own, should be established nationally. There are a number of potential partners who could contribute ideas, funds and essential long term commitment, but without Government support this will not happen. Government must be a partner in, but not master of, such an initiative.
The programme should be limited in size involving no more than four communities each with sorne 50,000 people; it should, however, be intensive, all embracing and developed over a period of at least 5 years. Whilst being separate to current Government activity, it would have to be perceived, by Government and others, as being entirely complementary in the long term as it carries out the essential long term testing of ideas.
The programme requires two strands.
Strand A: A systematic Search needs to be made of all the literature and research findings on how the brain learns; and the ways in which others have started to design learning strategies which build upon what is known about the brain’s natural capacity to learn, eg. much is now known about the distinction between the ways in which learning takes place in the workplace, and those Ways in which young people are required to learn in school. The evidence, much of which come from outside the United Kingdom, will need to be carefully evaluated and then presented in ways which make it easy to understand and to the research will feed into Strand B, but could also be made more widely available for the benefit of education in general.
Strand B: There needs to be an extension of Education 2000 work on the ‘learning community’ as the unit in which formal and informal learning can be intensively developed. Education 2000 on its own has barely scratched the surface, what needs to be done is far more complex and far reaching. lt needs to be concentrated within 3 of 4 Projects, each selected on the basis that the whole community would be willing to work together intensively for a period of at least 5 years. The community would be charged with finding ways of integrating all their resources, formal and informal, to create environments rich in ‘learning opportunities’, and so distribute resources eventually as to improve significantly the overall performance of all pupils at no extra ongoing cost, once the Project ends.
It is essential that the theoretical (Strand A) and the applied (Strand B) are fully interactive. The practice must have a secure intellectual basis, and the theory has to be confirmed by the practice.
Those communities chosen to host Projects will need to have strong and imaginative community and business leadership. All schools within the community, primary and secondary, would have to be involved. The communities would be contracted over a period of at least 5 years to redeploy their resources in ways which would respond more closely to the learning needs of their young people. Change on this scale and over such a period will require additional ‘cost of change’ funding, though no more than an additional 10% of the total schools budget for the lifetime of the Project. The funds will be required to finance the cost of teacher development, community involvement and learning technologies in equal proportions.
To achieve the right climate for change and to ensure that each community would be free to develop real alternative strategies, agreement with Central Government and LEA’s would be needed to grant waivers from those regulations which effectively define and constrain present practice.
An Educational Trust should be established within each participating community to receive all those funds which would otherwise have gone direct to the separate schools, or which might have been held back by the LEA; it should also receive the additional 10% ‘cost of change’ funds, and any other specific development grants.
The Educational Trusts will require careful establishment to incorporate the idea of ‘community wide’ provision of learning opportunities. The Trustees would have to reflect the full range of educational, business and Community expertise.
In it’s development and operation an Educational Trust could provide a new model for local financial responsibility.
Strand A: The cost of research into learning and translating this into effective learning strategies is estimated at half a million pounds per annum (£25 million over 5 years).
Strand B: The exact cost of development work will depend on the age profile, size and composition of the Chosen communities. For a community of 50,000 the ‘cost of change’ element at 10% of normal school budgets would be between one, and one and a half million pounds per annum (£5m to £7.5m over 5 years). Four such communities is likely to cost up to £25 million over 5 years.
The total cost of the programme over 5 years would be less than £30 million. As suggested (8 above) this should be a joint initiative between Government and the private sector and, as such, by no means all the funding should come from central Government.
The Outcome would be the creation of a proven new model of learning producing, in a highly cost effective way, an enterprising creative generation of young people who are confident, self-starting, quick-thinking, problem-solving and risk-taking individuals who can operate as well collaboratively as they can in isolation.
The experience of such a programme could be extremely influential upon shaping educational policy at the end of this decade.
Education 2000 would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Department to elaborate further on these ideas and to find ways in which these proposals could be seen as complementary to Departmental strategy. Education 2000, while keen to do whatever is necessary to expedite these ideas, would wish to involve other organisations, the private sector and learned societies in the implementation of such a Project.
Education 2000 is currently undertaking an internal review so as to sharpen its ability to focus on and promote the key issues relating to learning in contemporary society, and how it can concentrate its resources most effectively on building models of successful innovation.