Creativity, global learning and inspirational teachers
Happy #UNDay everyone! It’s been a packed few weeks of global learning activity. Following the TEESNet conference (presentation slides for which can now be viewed here), I've been involved in some fantastic other global learning events here in the South West of England..
First, Haygrove School, Bridgwater, hosted a carefully-planned Global Goals themed CPD day event supported by the Global Learning Programme (GLP). This kicked off with Haygrove students giving all attendees a guided tour of the school and the global learning activities that they have been engaged with. Later we moved on to hearing about the global learning journeys of teachers Kirsty and Jeremy (from Haygrove), Natalie (from Bruton Primary) and then Lynn Cutler (from the Global Learning and Development Education Centre GLADE) and I. It was a great day, involving lots of teachers, and a large group of trainee teachers from Somerset SCITT. My take away from the day was how creative and empowering global learning can be for teachers. When times are tough or pressurised, it is sometimes the creativity of global learning pedagogy and curricula that provides solace and motivates teachers to keep going.
At Yeovil Football Ground, Jonathan from Preston School shared his experience of global learning and bringing the World Cup to the entire school with teachers from local Primary schools. All form groups in the school pick their World Cup football team from a hat, and set about learning everything about their team’s country. The student research and learning culminates in a whole-school sharing event with parents and the wider community. Lots of interesting issues arose within the discussions such as: the power of football (and, in this case, global learning) to involve not always traditionally engaged students; issues of gender; the SDGs and football (including the global goals world cup, see video below); and how to translate this sort of activity into Primary School contexts. My key learning was that successfully tried and tested projects should rarely be abandoned, but instead developed and rejuvenated to keep enthusiasms alive. Another learning was that when undertaking whole-school projects of this size, it is important to build a supportive team to share tasks and responsibility, so that individual teachers do not feel like they are working in isolation.
Other activities, meetings and school-visits took place in between, but the next event I want to mention was he truly electric Global Learning Programme Expert Centre conference. With over 100 participants, teachers from across England met up in London to share their experiences of global learning and learn from each other. I attended the great workshops led by Julia from Admiral Lord Nelson School, Portsmouth (see an overview of how they have integrated the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals here) and Bobby from Fairfield High School, Bristol, and Garry from the Castle School. Students from St Mary's Menston in Leeds and Brentford School for Girls also wowed us all with their expressive and eloquent presentations - again proving that global learning offers excellent opportunities for reverse-mentoring and intergenerational learning.
The day ended with the a panel made up of the global teacher award finalists. Thanks to Lottie from Commonweal School in Swindon, Jane (@philos_backpack) and Andrew from Whitehill Junior School for joining the panel, your voices were really appreciated. I also had an inspiring chat with Alison Hooper over a glass of wine, Head of Egerton Primary, who helped put this brilliant video together with the GLP (and Cheshire East Council) about the opportunities of global learning.
To top off a fab few weeks, last week I ran a Tackling Controversial Issues GLP/CPD session at St Monica's School in Southampton with all of their teaching staff, and a number of other teachers from nearby schools. It involved condensing a session we normally do in 3-4 hours, into only 2, but it seemed to work. There were some excellent discussions about what constitutes a 'controversial issue' within particular contexts and interesting pedagogical strategies and suggestions for dealing with the more complex (often global) questions that young people bring with them into the classroom. It also involved learning about some very useful sounding CPD on offer in this area, including that from Dorset Development Education Centre DEED.
So far I’ve mentioned Bridgwater, Yeovil, Swindon, Southampton, Portsmouth and Bristol. Six South West towns and cities, each with their own set of challenges, issues and opportunities. The teachers in these schools deserve huge celebration. They do not have to go above and
beyond and spend many extra hours planning for the embedding of a global dimension to their school curriculum, but they do it because they know what difference it makes. They invite outside speakers in, they get involved in projects and research (e.g. Lottie has supported students and teachers who have wanted to get involved in Send my Friend to School, the GLP and the Harbour project ) and they allow external folk to get involved like me! These teachers are amazing, they are also driven and motivated - in most cases, they are also supported and appreciated by the school’s senior leadership team for the contributions they make within the school and the wider community. A national government-funded programme like the GLP, acknowledges, recognises and celebrates the achievements of these teachers and I know this is appreciated and fuels motivation to do more.
In this context, conversations during these last few weeks have referred to the contradictory messages coming out of the DfES and Ofsted over numeracy and literacy targets juxtaposed a ‘broad and balanced curriculum’. Creativity in the curriculum is seen to be an incredibly important thing to global learning teachers and it is a core part of a broad and balanced curriculum. But the story is not all doom and gloom, although there is plenty to moan about, it is also one of hope and inspiration. If policy makers want to look at examples of innovation and creativity in schools, they need look no further than those involved in global learning – included within this umbrella term are global citizenship education, education for sustainable development, education about the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, and human rights education (see earlier piece).
Passion and determination to make the world a better place and to ensure that young people have the skills, knowledge and values we predict, as much as we are able, to be important for 21st century living (see latest Nesta/Pearson findings about these), is found in abundance within teachers involved in global learning. What these teachers say to me is that they need and want is more space, time and support to co-create their visions with other teachers and students, so that the agenda is inclusive, creative and co-owned and unstifled by performance-based tests and numeracy and literacy targets. 'More opportunities like this please', one teacher remarked to me after the GLP conference, a sentiment echoed by the wonderful Helen Cox from Sir John Lawes School in her tweet below.
*Other titles could have been: 'Global Learning in the South West' and 'Innovation and creativity in schools? Look no further...'. As always, this blog contains my own views and does not represent the views of the GLP.