At a recent conference to prepare the trainees for schools, we asked them what would be the ethos and values of a school they would like to end up working for. The most common answer was ‘progressive’. Here at UOB Towers, we don’t accept the traditional/progressive dichotomy and instead embrace a pluralistic approach which sets out that the evidence informed teacher (and there is a debate about what constitutes evidence) selects the pedagogy best suited to their unique class at any moment in time. So we asked them – what do you mean by progressive?
It turns out that the prog/trad divide was not what the trainees meant. They didn’t mean do group work rather than teach from the front. They were not saying they wanted to work at schools that eschew SLANT and TLAC. What they were saying was they wanted to work for a school that provided a progressive curriculum and a progressive approach to staffing. We asked them what they meant by this. Their early answers on what kind of school they wanted to work for are really quite illuminating.
“A school that has good behaviour management and a strong belief in the arts”
“Accepting, forward thinking, values student and staff well-being, inclusive”
“Strong focus on equality and diversity.”
“A creative teaching environment – progressive.”
“One that values all parts of a student’s wellbeing, Not just the academic side of things.”
“Strong pastoral care and pupil well-being at the core of values. respecting all subjects equally.”
“Clear school-wide systems (behaviour, etc.) and also has staff welfare as a high priority.”
“A school with the ethos of being all about individual students achieving the best they can be – not through grades but in their own abilities.”
“A school that treats all subjects the same, every lesson is important.”
“Engaging with the local community and celebrating of arts, sports and culture.”
“Supportive, progressive and allowing for a number of different teaching approaches.”
These are just a selection, but key themes emerged: inclusivity, diversity, equity, caring, supporting of staff and students and high expectations around student behaviour. They wanted to work in a school which is a tight self-sustaining diverse community heavily supported by SLT with a flatter hierarchical structure where everyone is valued and respected regardless of subject, age, gender, etc., and encouraged to explore a wide range of pedagogies.
Still, this use of the term progressive by trainees who might have no awareness of the prog/trad divide and instead use it with a different meaning intrigued us. ‘Define progressive’ We asked.
“A school that keeps pace with the changing needs of education and the world beyond school – supported through education and extra curricular activities.”
“Progressive to me means continued training on problems that are new for the next generations, training for teachers on current mental health issues, up to date.”
“Progressive – open to new ideas and adapting to change. Modern and relevant teaching.”
“Willing to adapt and use new research along with key principles of teaching to continually adapt teaching methods and styles.”
“A school that won’t be too rigid with how they want lessons delivered. I want to be free to lead my lessons for individual classes and tailor them for their needs.”
The trainees want to be free to read papers and books and try out these new ideas in their teaching. This includes being inclusive, focusing on a work life balance, pupil mental health, approaching the issue of diversity in cohorts and teaching itself, teacher autonomy and really the biggest theme of them all – curriculum. They want a wide curriculum with contemporary relevance in which all subjects and pastoral care contribute to a strong starting platform for young people.
Now, this is simply a couple of hundred trainees starting on their training. Their ideas will change between now and the end of placement, but they aren’t inexperienced. Many come from a background in education or have already held a professional role prior to switching their career to education. It is interesting to see where they are starting from – their values and mores. Further, this is the next generation of teachers. Many of them will go into middle and senior leadership. Their ideas will permeate our profession over the next 5-20 years. It will be interesting to see just what the future might look like under the leadership of these new wave progressive teachers.