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Diary

In this blog we are posting news from around the network, reflections on general news items and other broad-ranging items of interest. Current contributors are Sightlines Initiative directors Robin Duckett, Liz Elders, Debi Keyte Hartland and Chris Merrick.
We have a Library View (see left column) to help you find past articles.

Imagination encircles the world

click to read interview

"Imagination is more important than knowledge" 

That banner-statement of Einstein's came back to me yesterday, as I was reflecting on the questions and uncertainties of an enthusiastic team of educators with whom we're currently working. Keen to thoroughly shift their practice from 'instruction' to 'construction', they are encountering  that 'rug-pulled-from-under-their feet' feeling of  what it might mean to do things differently, with a different mindset:

"What should we do if we're not instructing?"

"What if the children have different interests and ideas to ours?"

"How can we understand what to do?"

Their imagination is kindled, nudging them towards 'doing things differently', yet like many/most of us, their own experience of 'what education is' had been solidly instructional: that's what they'd had, and that's the common practice in the schools around them. Very unsettling, to say the least. I recall how education students participating in our Floor Four exploratorium also discussed how they felt initially de-skilled by the challenge of beginning with listening and observation, rther than predefined ctivities (as they'd been taught in college.)

How different the challege is to work with imagination at the fore, rather than repetition and ingestion. 

What a positive call of encouragement Einstein's famous proclamation is, and I was prompted to hear more, so I tracked down the 1929 interview.  If you click on the statement , you can read the full interview too - I hope you enjoy it as much as did I. Einstein discusses so much, so elequently - the artistry of being, thinking, examining, living - and the serious danger of living withough so doing.

“Life is like riding a bicycle." letter to son: February 5, 1930

"Life," Einstein said later in a letter to his son, "is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving." 

Maybe that is good enough advice for us educators too, as we learn, uncertainly, but with inner energy, how to do things differently: learning how better to work with our children who themselves are also born natural examiners of worlds.

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Only Life Educates ...

"Ultimately only life educates, and the deeper that life, the real world, burrows into the school, the more dynamic and the more robust will be the educational process. That the school has been locked away and walled in as if by a tall fence from life itself has been its greatest failing. Education is just as meaningless outside the real world as is fire without oxygen, or as is breathing in a vacuum."  Vygotsky, L. (first published in 1926) Educational Psychology 

I have this quote on my desk, thanks to colleague Mary Jane Drummond, and when this morning I heard about the UN Global Youth Survey, it seemed to be a fitting comment.

Here is an extract from their pilot study, of 10 - 18 year-olds:

from the Pilot Study publication

 "The most alarming result Irom the test run of the Global Youth Poll is the common agreement by all participants that school is not a place they enjoy spending their time. Vietnam and Mexico show the best results among the 11 different regions, where only 29% and 28% of those interviewed answered with a clear NO when asked if they had enjoyed their time at school in 2017. Other countries such as the U.S. are clear with 44% of young people turning their back to the vision of education they experience from secondary school up to university. In the U.K. the frustration is at 42% of the respondents. Together with the other questions asked around education in the Global Youth Poll this sends a stark alert to all in charge of education ... "

At the moment the poll is for secondary age children: HERE is the link for more info and for children to participate.

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Making space for learning, Saying NO to squashing children

Right now, 420 educators including 50+ from the UK, are encountering the optimistic and determined work of the city of Reggio Emilia to build an education which is founded on celebrating children's learning potential. The determination and enthusiasm of everyone here fuels optimism and example that things can be different for children and for schools - in the UK and worldwide -even when we experience the 'brick wall' of governments which seem determined to build warehouses of instruction in place of the creative learning which children deserve.


In the UK , whilst working imaginatively and persistently to bring life to education, we also have to confront those who are keen on turning it into an unhappy place of testing and passive instruction. 
Government has announced a new testing plan for young children, which it would like to extend. 
Go here to join the petition against it.

Below are extracts from ​recent articles highlighting the situation, and suggestions of other actions you can take to convince MPs and government to reconsider their wisdom, and instead, support intelligent and humane education. (And you can read more in our last week's diary item.)

'Compulsory national curriculum tests taken by primary school pupils are too closely linked to school performance, the House of Commons Education Committee has said, and are having a negative impact on children's education and wellbeing.

In a new report on primary assessment, the committee found pupils are being taught a narrower curriculum, with staff neglecting arts and humanities subjects by focusing too heavily on maths and English to ensure pupils pass the controversial exams.​'

Read More (The Independent)

'Thousands of parents consider withdrawing primary school children from Sats exams over mental health concerns.​'
Read More (The Independent)

'More than 700 academics, early years experts and teachers sign open letter opposing new national test for four-year-olds

Hundreds of academics are among those who are signing an open letter urging the government to scrap plans to create a baseline assessment test of four- and five-year-olds, which they say will be both pointless and damaging to pupils.'

Read More (Times Education Supplement)

'Increasingly parents are asking what they can do to protect children from the high stakes testing in primary schools. There's a mainstream awareness that the system is not fit for purpose and that the pressure children face in primary school is damaging.
It's hard for parents to know what to do for the best. Parents are very respectful of teachers and headteachers and trust them with the well-being of their children. However, parents are also aware that the teaching profession is speaking out against SATs and being ignored.

  • This Question Time clip shows the strength of public opinion against the high stakes testing and the frustration felt by the profession.
  • This article shows that MPs are aware of the link between SATs and mental health.
  • This report shows the severe impact high pressured testing can have on young children.'

LetKidsBeKids are promoting a parent-led 'withdrawal from SATs' campaign -

Read More here. (Let Kids Be Kids)

Children do not live in the future - they live today. We can change their present. 
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