By Sue Williamson, SSAT Chief Executive
‘I want them to work hard… I want a real scholar… I want a winner.’
These are the words of Michel Roux Snr, one of the founders of the Roux dynasty of chefs, as he introduced the final of the competition for this year’s Roux scholarship. Six chefs, all under age 30, were competing for the scholarship – some were participating for the second or third time. The challenges they faced throughout the competition tested both knowledge and skills. The judges – some of the best chefs in the world – critiqued the chefs’ preparation and final product. The feedback was often hard, but always constructive. Most importantly, each young chef accepted the criticism and used it to improve the quality of his work.
The chefs worked under time pressure, their every move observed by a judge, and their final product was tasted by eight judges. All the young chefs had aspirations to work in the best restaurants in the world and to go on to own their own Michelin-starred restaurant. Another thing they had in common was that none did well at school when judged on 5 GCSEs A*-C. Staying at school until they were sixteen was a waste of two years of their lives. Their real learning started after they had left school.
Our school system needs to transform, so that it caters for the needs of all students, including the six young chefs who want to be vocational ‘scholars’, in Michel Roux’ terms. This means not providing just the right qualifications, but an educational environment where they can spend long periods of time mastering processes and knowledge. UTCs such as the JCB Academy are partnering with a university and an employer to provide students with real world challenges that help develop the knowledge and skills they need, including those to pass GCSE English and mathematics. It is early days for the UTCs, but indications are that these academies are providing a successful vocational pathway
It is not only students seeking vocational or technical qualifications who might benefit from being set real world problems to solve, in periods of time longer than the standard lesson. I think it is time that schools review how they allocate time in the school year. In System Redesign – 3: Curriculum Redesign (2007), Guy Shearer, Kai Vacher and David Hargreaves provided case studies of schools that were moving to a variety of time structures including short workshop sessions, hour-long lessons, half-day, full day and multi-day blocks. Single-subject teaching was being complemented by competency-based, thematic, and trans-disciplinary approaches, including problem-based and project-based learning. SSAT will be conducting research to see if this approach has continued or has stalled because of concerns about the accountability framework. To be world class schools must innovate. If school leaders are afraid to do so because of concerns about Ofsted, this issue must be addressed.
Watching the Roux scholarship programmes reinforced for me the importance of the profession leading on the development of the next generation of teachers and school leaders.
At our National Conference on 5 & 6 December 2013, Professors Michael Fullan and Andy Hargreaves will be working with school leaders and teachers to explore the meaning and reality of the new professionalism. How can we ensure that we create a high quality profession with a relentless focus on continuous improvement that brings together the best of practice and research?
Andy and Michael have dedicated their professional lives to the development of the teaching profession and can share with us some of the best practice from around the world. I hope that you will take this opportunity to define what we want to leave as our professional legacy.
If we fail to act now, what might the teaching profession be in five years’ time?