The Next Big 10

A collective voice within the system

Yesterday was an exciting day for Big Education, as we launched the Next Big 10 – a network of schools who believe in a broader and more meaningful education for young people.

Much change is needed within education. We believe that the system is too focused on academic success, which we believe is only one piece of the puzzle which schools are trying to solve in order to enable young people to thrive. We are working hard within our own schools to ensure our young people achieve more than good test results. The vision statement of School 360 is ‘think differently, learn together, change the world’, at School 21 it is ‘empower young people to take on the world’, Surrey Square is ‘more than a school’. We all have different practices, developed in response to a core belief that education can and should be a meaningful process which ultimately empowers young people to make change with their communities to shape their futures.

The most recent Labour Council of Skills Advisor’s report on education, which signposts the need for change, gives us hope. We welcome the acknowledgement that the National Curriculum needs to be more balanced and the assessment system needs reforming. However, we are getting on with this without policy change. We do not want to wait. 

As a multi-academy trust, our primary focus is on practice and finding approaches which work for our students in line with our overall philosophy.  We have sought to ‘find gaps in the hedges’ (A quote from Sir Tim Brighouse) – to get on with the kinds of changes we believe are needed and possible. This project is about extending and developing this work.

We know that Big Education schools have become known for ‘doing education differently’ within the system. Sometimes this can be positive and inspire other schools to rethink their practices. Sometimes it is unhelpful, since it makes these very different practices seem unusual and unattainable. Big Education schools still face the same challenges that other schools face and work within budget and staffing constraints. We are proud to model our values to BE curious and BE brave – we do think it is critical that we give a more expansive education. We also seek to BE authentic – we know we don’t get it all right.

We also know that there is lots of amazing work happening in many schools across the country, and other educators offering their young people something that goes beyond the rigidity of testing and Ofsted. Our intention through the Next Big 10 is to connect (the fourth of our values) these schools and bring them together as a group who can provide models and examples which show what is possible. 

Next Big 10 brings together a group of likeminded schools – in collaboration with Rethinking Assessment – to support each other’s work, to develop and test what we mean by ‘A Big Education’, and codify this to share with the system through the following principles: 

  • Breadth: innovation across four key areas – leadership, curriculum, assessment, pedagogy;
  • Pragmatism: consideration for tight and diminishing resources, staff capacity and accountability pressures
  • ‘Disciplined innovation’: a systematic approach to risk taking in which risks are made explicit and managed; the creativity and ideas of stakeholders are contextualised into the frame of the existing knowledge base; impact is evaluated with rigour;
  • Collaboration: including a culture of mutual support and challenge, and an emphasis on sharing of learning both within and beyond the community;
  • Action: developing a deep understanding of implementation science.

 

We are hugely grateful for our recent grant from Salesforce which has enabled us to set up this network. Ron Smith, Vice President of Philanthropy at Salesforce says: “Salesforce is proud of 6 years of collaboration with Big Education. Through their innovative approach, they challenge the status quo by testing new ways to provide students with the resources and experiences they need to realize their full potential”.

We will be sharing updates as this unfolds – so do look out for these!  And if your school wants to be part of the Next Big 20, or Next Big 30, contact Ellie – [email protected]

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