Curating a debate about the future of education

15 July 2020

We spoke to Chartered College of Teaching‘s Chief Executive, Professor Dame Alison Peacock, and Cat Scutt, Director of Education and Research, about new Big Change project partner The Education Exchange. 

This hub will place teachers in the driving seat to shape the future of teaching by connecting teachers across the globe and bridging the gap between research and classroom practice. 

Alison and Cat share their ambitions for The Education Exchange, the importance of supporting teachers and reflect on similarities of classrooms across the world.

What motivated you to create The Education Exchange?

Alison:  I’ve always been restless. I’ve always wanted to make things better and have spent my whole career teaching in different contexts. When I saw the role advertised to lead a new professional body for teachers, the Chartered College of Teaching, I thought how amazing it would be if we could create this sense of collegiality across the whole teaching profession. 

To enable teachers to have a voice about what was happening in their classroom is transformative but even better would be to bridge the research agenda with the tacit knowledge of classrooms. 

We have tens of thousands of members, potentially impacting millions of students. We know that we have an influential voice and now through The Education Exchange we want to encourage and connect the plurality of voice, not just in the UK but internationally. 

How is The Education Exchange responding to teachers’ changing needs?

Alison: The Education Exchange is a new platform whereby we can curate a debate about the future of teaching. The reason we felt so confident it was needed was because this crisis has made every single one of us stop and think what really matters. 

When you’re a teacher you’re leading a community of learners, you provide reassurance and you hold their anxiety for the future. 

I was teaching Year 6 when 9/11 happened, I remember it vividly. I came back into school the next day and a boy called James said to me ‘Mrs Peacock, is the world going to end?’ I said, ‘No, James, absolutely not’. You saw the whole class sigh in relief. None of us knew what was going to happen, it was terrifying, but your teacher needs to be the one that says ‘everything is going to be all right’.

So The Education Exchange is a professional space that will support teachers to hold a sense of purpose for the future, to debate what we are learning from these weeks and months. We see ourselves as trying to lead a global conversation that really matters. 

How will The Education Exchange work?

Cat: It aims to open up a productive, respectful, powerful, international debate that brings teachers’ voices to the forefront and recognises the power of teaching as a global profession. We can get fixated on differences in national curriculum or exams systems, but in crisis mode we’ve realised that what’s happening in classrooms around the world is strikingly similar, we can learn so much from each other.

The site is built around an initial five themes that are relevant in this moment but open up much longer-term conversations; from the purpose of education to independent learning. Questions will range from ‘what are schools for?’ to ‘how can we support our students to become self-motivated learners through meta cognitive skills’?

We want it to be structured, respectful debate – so the first step is to learn! We have research summaries, perspective pieces, short videos from academics around the world on questions and themes we’re exploring, as well as case studies from schools about how these work in practice.

Our goal is that the hub can go some way to replacing costly full day CPD workshops for teachers, that involve travelling across the country. Teachers will be able to access specific CPD materials about subjects they’re interested in.

There will also be an opportunity for users around the world to connect. They can comment, discuss and debate these key themes through functions within the platform, as well as suggesting further resources we might signpost out to from the site. 

How will the hub turn debate into action?

Alison: We have a peer-reviewed journal, Impact, which is published four times a year, and I anticipate that the authors of the liveliest debates on The Education Exchange will be invited to develop their ideas for that format to reach a wider readership to make changes on the ground, in classrooms.

There’s also a dynamic loop between the content and the discussion. We can commission further content from people involved in the discussion or researching in those areas, and in doing so drive the debate forward constructively.

Are you focusing your influence at school level or are you trying to influence policy too?

Alison: We’re trying to influence at every level! We have members or Fellows on almost all the working groups that exist currently at the Department for Education. Having a seat at the table makes a huge difference.

However, the classroom is the place where there’s a lot of power. Our teachers are the experts and we’re keen to work with teachers at all levels through the profession, from teacher training to leadership. When teachers are informed about what they’re doing they massively influence the lives of their young people. This is why this is so important, because that must be a positive influence – it’s a huge responsibility.   

What is your most ambitious vision for what The Education Exchange could become?

Alison: The Education Exchange is a way of working across the world; seeing what we have in common and how we can learn from each other. We want it to build humility, create opportunities to listen and to learn from others, as well as encourage and enable teachers to share.

It’s about the human condition. How do we enable the flourishing of our children and young people? How do we enable teaching to be an irresistible profession, as opposed to one you do for a couple of years and then get burnt out and leave? We have to have the very best people working with our young people. Our mission is to support teachers as lifelong learners themselves.

We’re so pleased to be working with the Chartered College of Teaching team on The Education Exchange. The Chartered College of Teaching is launching a year-long campaign, the #FutureOfTeaching, to discuss what long and short-term solutions are needed for teaching.

Join the discussion and share ideas with the Chartered College on Twitter and on The Education Exchange.