Covid-19 has been a catalyst for change for many professions, but for Education it’s shaken our fragmented systems and structures to the core and, from the outside looking in, it appears to be more divided than ever.
For us though, looking out – “as champions at the coalface“ it may have unleashed a tidal wave of frustration and desperation, but it’s also created something incredible, a calling from all corners for a coming together. This calling for unity is hardly new; there have been myriad previous attempts to find one voice. A joint vision that can be heard above the politics at play, above the usual and predicable voices, that speaks for those delivering directly to our communities. Yet we find ourselves in the middle of an epic crisis; all we can hear is noise and all we can see are the daily headlines getting it wrong, so wrong, once again. So, we must try again. This time we must succeed.
Ed Lead Collective is ten days old today. Amidst a catastrophic week of uncertainty, blame and u- turns, its reasons for existence are glaringly obvious. Within that context its perhaps not surprising that it sprang from the field of governance. A candid conversation between some former colleagues and some new introductions, outed a collective voice of deep concern which soon became a groundswell of grievance. Like the rest of the nation, digesting initial guidelines and daily briefings presented numerous challenges, but the constant changes, the polarisation played out in the media and across party politics and misplaced accountability started to create an unacceptable level of anxiety.
From seasoned Education Leaders, it was clear we were directed to take a lead from voices of “reason” that didn’t speak to us or for us. It didn’t remotely represent our daily experiences or address our collective challenges in our maintained or academy schools. For many of us it just compounded feelings of remoteness and reduction; do they really care at all?
Our group, like the thousands of groups on Whatsap, messenger and DM threads across our country, became vital to us all. We wanted to share the support and comfort we were giving to each other in certain knowledge that there are too many who don’t have that net. We genuinely wanted to know if we were alone in our thinking and if anyone else needed to find those connections. That day across twitter we got our answer in almost 1,000 votes of confidence from differing pillars of education and political persuasions. The collective voice was loud and clear, and the narrative we write is that our profession, and indeed society, is so clearly in need of renewal.
How we keep that voice fresh, united and meaningful is our next challenge and can only be achieved by breaking down the real and perceived barriers that have blighted our profession and sector for years, and then finding a glue to hold us together.
The glue, defined by Rae Snape, is our collective purpose. Rae, a Headteacher and a National Leader of Education, senses the urgency of our actions. As the curve flattens, she says, now is the time to prioritise unity over division, communication and connection over needless hierarchies and burdensome bureaucracies. What if we appreciated that education is not about ideology, politics and policy, but it is about people? What if irrespective of whether we are working in MATs, Maintained or Independent, Nursery, Secondary, Special or HE that as educators we recognise that we have the same passions and ambitions, and a collective purpose to improve the lives of others and to positively transform society.
As CEO of a Multi Academy Trust Cathy Anwar articulates what we all hold dearly, that no Trust is an island, no school is an island and no leader is an island. As well as combating feelings of loneliness Cathy also believes that coming together with a collective not personal agenda work promotes good will and creativity and though resources are tight, releasing time, support and expertise “for the public good” raises everyone’s game. Reaching out to those outside of our usual networks and relationships encourages better thinking, sparks richer ideas and provides useful contacts and resources.
A truly Collective Voice makes the whole arena more agile, responsive and productive. It removes barriers and being “for the public good” fuels generosity. Reciprocity nurtures relationships, and mutual generosity always pays rich dividends.
As we begin half term with yet more uncertainty, mixed messages and a position of anxiety for us all- as leaders, as mothers, as brothers, as humans- we now need to bring the support for the idea into actions and impact. The response from you all-across sectors, across phases, across structures and across previous divides has given the strong sense of the diversity needed to ensure that the breadth, as well as depth, of what we achieve is sustainable and profound.
We are finalising our group based on Registrations that will consider some of the key questions we posed less than two weeks ago to begin to find areas of consensus and coalescence. Our voice will translate into a collective position and our position into a policy that emanates from the communities we serve to inform and improve the offer they so richly deserve.
Although sometimes, in dark times, it can be lonely, we are all interconnected by our passion for learning, and for educating our young people to create a better society. Breaking down the silos will reveal a world of potential connection and growth. With openness, trust and transparency and a real commitment to change we can do this. Seeing eye to eye in solidarity with others, a new collective, a new conversation, collaboration not competition, a fresh start.
If a new voice and a blank page can appear in just ten days, imagine what we can create for our next generation of teachers, our children and our communities. The page can no longer stay blank because there are others who wish to write on it and the story is now all of ours to be told.
Find your voice, tell the stories of those you serve and join now. We need you and, more importantly, we need each other. Now is the time as we finalise our registrations to tell us that you want to be part of this journey so please do sign up by following the link @ELC_Voices
Share this. Join this. Be this. #UnitingVoice #ShareJoinBe