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The winds of change

| March 26, 2013 | 0 Comments

By Paul Guthrie

One is always looking for good reading material when travelling, and I recently read an interesting article by Graeme Codrington entitled ‘Tides of change’, which outlined the five critical issues shaping a new world of work.1

As I read, I realised that these same aspects apply not only to the business world but also to education. The economic downturn has not just been a financial crisis. At the same time, significant forces are reshaping the world: political, social, organisational and personal changes are rewriting the rules for success. Codrington comments: “The danger of many business leaders is that they think they can wait out the storm, and very soon things will get back to the way they used to be.” He suggests that successful leaders need to identify, anticipate and respond to the forces that are changing the world around us.

The forces that will drive change will certainly be very relevant to our independent schools. Research suggests that there are five: technology, institutional upheaval, changing demographics, the environment and shifting societal values.

Ignore technology at your peril

Changes in technology over the years have had significant impact on our schools, not merely from a budgetary perspective but also in the way we teach and pupils learn. This massive shift has also opened up many more new career choices for our pupils, which is exciting. Recently at Hilton College, we have allowed boys to bring any electronic device to class for them to realise that they can use these various devices sensibly and for good use in their classroom learning. Your Blackberry phone is not merely for ‘BBMing’ your mates or girlfriend, nor is your laptop just a device for watching DVDs or playing games, but should be very useful educationally! The reality is that just like the business world, we need to look for new and useful opportunities to embrace technology to enhance our teaching in a meaningful way.

Collaborative leadership

The manner in which schools are run from a management perspective has changed, and schools need to embrace a more collaborative style where all stakeholders feel part of a meaningful decision-making process. This is not to say that operational matters should be governed by all! The organisational structure will need to be relevant and effective for our schools to succeed. This may cause some uneasiness, but contributions are required from all relevant parties.

We must go green

‘Going green’ has been a buzzword for some time but environmental sustainability is now, more than ever, an educational imperative, and should be developed as a critical educational strategy for all independent schools. Paying lip service to environmental issues in schools is no longer acceptable. We need to be making pupils more aware of their environment, otherwise we are failing them, and they will be entering a business world where environmental sustainability is a must.

Societal views shifting

Schools are built on values that stand the test of time, but societal views are changing. For example, the fundamental values of knowing the difference between right and wrong should remain, because these important values are what parents are looking for and why they will choose one school above another. However, views are changing on issues as diverse as the role of women, sexuality, the shape of the family, work–life balance, how we will work virtually, and how the classroom and teachers can motivate us. These issues are real and relevant to us in schools, and cannot be ignored. They beg the question, are we discussing them with our pupils?

On the move

Finally, the issue of changing demographics is one we are all experiencing. Codrington suggests that “government legislation, aging populations, plummeting fertility and global migration” are just a few of the causal factors that are changing the world. These aspects will also change the demographics within our communities and our schools, as people become more nomadic. Do our systems and integration for new pupils at schools take this into consideration, or are we just hoping they will fit in? And are we ready to deal with the changing demographics? Schools by nature are conservative, but the winds of change are blowing – and how we deal with them will determine the success of our school, and maybe, their chance of survival!

1. To access Dr Graeme Codrington’s work, visit He is a futurist, author and speaker, and international director of a strategic insights consultancy.

Category: Autumn 2013

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