I have recently had the privilege of being part of an evening of education debate held in the centre of Manchester.
As we are all aware these events occur quite often in London, but it is refreshing to facilitate such an event in the north.
One Education has been involved with education research for a number of years working closely with the international educational policy think tank: Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education (CMRE).
‘Schools that work for everyone’
Continuing our support of education research and debate, One Education has sponsored a paper from CMRE, ‘Optimising autonomy: a blueprint for system reform’ considering whether the balance between autonomy and accountability is right. This debate revolves around the issues raised in the education green paper 'Schools that work for everyone'.
The audience at our Manchester education debate last week comprised a variety of individuals representing the highest leadership positions in schools and multi-academy trusts of all sizes, alongside Diocesan representatives, representatives from formal cluster groups comprising of over 20 schools and various independent education charities and organisations, all from regions across the north. A true cross-section of the people who work within and alongside all educational establishments.
Multi Academy Trusts
After welcome drinks (which are always needed after a full day’s work) James Croft, Executive Director & Founding Director of CMRE provided a detailed and insightful talk based on the research. This included the performance indicators for the academy programme so far; and dispelling the myth that there is a leadership blueprint that can work anywhere. This area of the research correlated with our previous sponsored research with CMRE 'Taking a lead: how to access the leadership premium' where leadership skill is proven to be a contextual issue. Poor sponsor fit within MATs was also highlighted as an area that needs acknowledging. Additionally James highligted that the key for any MAT is the quality of relationships and cohesion within a MAT itself.
There were topics that had general consensus from the floor, such as the need for an improved and clear relationship between Ofsted & the regional schools commissioners, citing the current conflict between central government and the RSCs and other education organisations.
‘For Profit Schools’
After James completed his summary of the problems faced in the education sector and possible solutions, there was plenty of opportunity for questions. A lively debate followed, probing some of the statements and included comments from other attendees due to their own circumstances and opinions, not least the idea of 'for profit schools'!
The numerous thought-provoking ideas meant that discussions continued over drinks and canapes. An evening which was meant to finish at 8pm was still going strong well into the night with some attendees chatting and networking ‘til gone 10pm! Other directors of One Education and I were asked on several occasions during the evening when we were going to host the next education debate which we interpreted as an indication that it was a worthwhile evening. We already have places reserved for those who saw the social media coverage of the evening as well as from those who attended.
Our Next Event
I was delighted to have been able to meet people from across the education sector, new faces and as well as old friends, to debate such fundamental leadership and strategic matters. Evenings such as these are crucial if the education sector is going to be profession-led and to build a system based on research not rhetoric.
Watch out for the next phase of this research and future events by One Education and CMRE.