10 Feb 2020

Looking Forward: Leadership in Education in the new Decade

Alex Hems recently took part in an interview with Saxton Bampfylde, a search and leadership advisory firm about how leadership is changing, and particularly how it is evolving in the education sector. Her comments are detailed below.  For the full article which also includes the views from Neil Brooks, Head of Cranleigh Prep School, and Mark Taylor, Bursar at King’s School Canterbury, please click on this link Saxton Bampfylde.

As we stop and look ahead into the forthcoming decade, can you share what your educational priorities are for your school and young people more broadly?

St Georges School Edinburgh"First and foremost, to ensure my students are equipped to live and work as global citizens, with a full appreciation of both the opportunities that this brings and of their responsibilities in the world. Secondly and essentially, we must seek productive collaboration across all sectors in education so we can raise attainment and break down barriers." Alex Hems

How do you hope assessments will evolve over the forthcoming decade to ensure they remain relevant?

"I am an old-fashioned advocate of academic disciplines and content, and generally GCSEs have served all the schools I have worked in well. It has been good to see good schools recognising that students’ best interests are not always served by cramming in as many qualifications as possible at this stage, while still maintaining breadth for young people who are not yet ready to specialise at 16. Nine or ten examined courses at this stage should be fine, exploring subjects in both depth and breadth, while still allowing for wider interests such as involvement in sport, performing arts, community service etc. I am not convinced that GCSE meets the needs of all 16 year olds, however, and for those who are not able to achieve a pass grade in English, Maths or Science, there is a need for a meaningful qualification that indicates a level of achievement and ensures that they have acquired skills that they will need to function effectively in life after school." Alex Hems

Do you believe that the Governance model for your school, and indeed the education sector more broadly, will have changed in the next ten years?

"Yes, I believe that some change is inevitable. Independent schools are medium sized businesses, many of which are operating in an increasingly challenging market. School governors are volunteers; many are extremely generous with their time and are very hard-working and committed. Their support is invaluable, and they carry significant personal liability, but as the financial pressures on schools, and the level of accountability and expectations of governors, increase I suspect that this model will be hard to sustain." Alex Hems

How would you like to see the curriculum progress in the next ten years?

"I hope that we can maintain a sensible balance between skills and knowledge in our curriculum; creativity and collaboration are immensely important, but they do not occur in a vacuum and specialist knowledge, as well as the skills to manipulate it and the ability to think hard, will continue to have value. I would like to see a more central position given to critical thinking skills. In an information-rich environment, we need the ability to discern fact from fiction and to identify flawed arguments more than ever. Development of metacognition as part of learning would also help to develop the adaptability and successful life-long learning habits that I think young people today are going to need." Alex Hems

Can you share your biggest aspiration for the education sector in this new decade?

"Although I have spent my career in secondary education, and largely in highly selective schools working with very bright young people, I believe that the best possible outcomes for our society will come from greater investment in really high quality pre-school to primary education and early interventions with families in need." Alex Hems