The journey ahead


Deciding how to tackle the educational issues of our time requires some reflection. Simon Larter-Evans of St Paul's Cathedral School looks at how the past decade has shaped the educational issues ahead.

The beginning of a new decade often provokes reflections on the one preceding, and so it is a good time to reflect on some of the big questions of our time.

The last decade saw major reforms in education, with curriculum and assessment changes, some of which we've been able to soften in the independent sector. Alongside these are high stakes social changes. Children are born into the ubiquity of the world of social media, where pressure for conformity and success is at fever pitch and, if left unchecked, can haunt children 24/7. Social media makes it easy to link with strangers, and half the fun and attractiveness of the huge number of apps is sharing content of all kinds (which, dear reader, children probably don't want to share with parents).

A corresponding, and some argue correlative preoccupation among educationalists, psychologists and parents alike was, and remains, a concern about well-being and mental health (let us not forget our adult selves, too). These ideas manifest themselves in myriad ways, from supporting children's resilience to offering lessons in 'happiness,' and in some schools providing full time counsellors for children. Various books have been published that purport to provide a key to various psychological traits, not to mention the burgeoning market in selling mindfulness programmes for kids, plus the myriad online guides to helping your children manage themselves, er... online. There is an endless cacophony of aids of all kinds from the fields of social psychology to pedagogy. Invariably, these things have their day, or evolve or are supplanted by a new way of thinking – one only has to look at how nomenclature in learning support has changed over the years (at my school in the 1970s it was the Remedial Department), the demise of traffic lights in classrooms and a growing suspicion of the Lesson Objective as being too narrowing.

Simon Larter-Evans is Headmaster of St Paul’s Cathedral School.