Education for a new era

Schools can be incubators for innovation and adaptability says Suzie Longstaff, Principal of London Park Schools.

Suzie Longstaff

Suzie Longstaff

In an era defined by complexity and uncertainty, the world we inhabit is paradoxically connected yet isolated, technologically advanced yet grappling with mental health challenges. The limitless opportunities before us come with a responsibility to ensure our planet’s sustainable future, adding further layers of complexity to the already challenging task before us.As educators, our duty is to prepare our pupils for this new world, but the educational system seems to be operating in a framework designed for an industrial past. To truly serve our young people, we must equip them with the mental resilience and higher order thinking skills needed to navigate a changing landscape.Addressing the intricacies of our VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous) world necessitates a shift in pedagogy, cultivating thinking suited for a new era. This shift involves moving beyond rote memorisation and standardised testing, redirecting our focus towards fostering creativity, adaptability, and problem-solving abilities. I envision schools as vibrant incubators for innovation, encouraging students to explore, question, and think independently.At the core of this vision is the development of effective spoken communication skills – oracy. Oracy serves as the bedrock for higher order thinking, enabling students to articulate thoughts, engage in meaningful discourse, and think critically about complex issues. In a world where collaboration and communication are paramount, honing oracy skills transcends being a mere educational objective; it becomes a vital life skill.As the use of artificial intelligence (AI) moves forward at pace, the imperative is on us to prepare students and staff alike for this brave new world. We too need to be brave and rather than fearing automation, AI should be used as a tool for good, developing higher order thinking, as well as allowing for deeper levels of understanding, data analysis and algorithmic thinking. Using oracy to consider the ethical implications of AI technologies is a great starting point for our pupils and ensures that they won’t just accept its use without consideration, stimulating critical thinking and questioning mindsets – all vital skills for navigating the complexities of our information age.Preparing students for a future dominated by new ways of thinking demands a paradigm shift. Collaboration and practical application emerge as key components of this transformative process. Schools should metamorphose into vibrant hubs of collaboration, where students engage in real-world projects, work in teams, and apply their knowledge to solve authentic problems. This experiential approach not only enhances higher order thinking but also instils a sense of agency and confidence in students.In the context of modern, innovative schools, a pressing need exists to bring this vision to life. Departing from traditional models that prioritise rote learning, we should embrace innovative pedagogies, leverage technology, and create dynamic learning environments that foster curiosity and critical thinking.Moreover, as we help our pupils navigate this VUCA world, schools should evolve into learning hubs that prioritize mental wellbeing, nurturing an environment conducive to growth and learning. My passion for biophilia and its impact on health and wellbeing will be a focal point of exploration at London Park Schools in the future. In summary, to help us thrive in this new world, we must empower young people with higher order thinking skills and the mental resilience needed not only to survive but to thrive. This necessitates a shift in priorities, placing more emphasis on oracy, debate, critical thinking, subject integration, collaboration, and experiential learning. These are the foundational elements of my vision for modern education – one that prepares students not just for exams but also for confident, happy futures. As I embark on this journey, I am excited to be part of London Park Schools, where we think differently to shape a brighter tomorrow. The changes ahead demand we design and plan our schools to educate in a way that prepares students for this new world, and it is this commitment to innovative education that fuels our passion and purpose.

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