Spring is almost with us and, to misquote the song, trust is in the air. I remember striking an apologetic tone when I first introduced ‘Trust to Transform’, my presidential theme, last summer. At the time sound-bites relating to ‘standards’ and ‘being tough’ filled the air and the theme was not exactly in tune with the mood of the times.
However, since then ASCL has played a significant part in changing the tone and shifting the political rhetoric. Whilst unhelpful sound-bites have not entirely disappeared (75 days and counting to the general election), suddenly a new language appears to have entered the discussion of education. Recently in the TES Ed Milliband talked about the need “to re—establish trust between the government and teacher”. The tone of working together with the profession echoes comments made by Nicky Morgan at the end of last year when she said that “Education is a partnership. It isn’t a battle or a war. It isn’t pitting different parts of the education system against each other”. At about the same time David Laws told the Teaching Leaders graduation ceremony that our education system “requires teachers and leaders to step forward and take more control. It requires politicians to step back and trust in the skills of the profession”.
In that first article about trust in the summer of 2014, I argued that we stood at “a tipping point”. As we prepare to launch our blueprint for a self-improving system at a parliamentary reception tomorrow, I think we are seeing the first movement of those scales. We are only at the beginning and still need the shift in mindset that the implementation of our blueprint would require, but it is a start. Through its challenging and creative ideas for the future, ASCL has in a real sense changed the language of the debate about the future of education.
So where do we go from here? One of the phrases that we have used repeatedly over recent months is ‘carpe diem’ or ‘seize the day’. If the debate is moving onto our territory we need to grab hold of it before the exchange of ideas moves elsewhere. If we want government to step back and leaders to move our system forward, then it is essential that our voices are heard now. It is only through this happening that we can address huge, current concerns such as inadequate funding and the looming crisis in teacher supply. In return the theme of trust challenges us to build constructive and sensible dialogue with policy makers across the political spectrum so that we do not lurch from one set of short term policy announcements to another.
Our parliamentary launch of the blueprint provides a perfect opportunity to maintain this positive momentum which will then be carried forward to what promises be a seminal Annual Conference in March (20-21). As we move into spring 2015, the tipping point is moving toward trust.