My interest in the education of others has a very long pedigree. It stems from the life chances and successes I have had. One of those being fortunate enough to have benefited from a good education funded by the state, but in humble origins. My business empire was founded on four nouns: Communication, Education, Measurement and Reward. Each was separate but connected, like the world’s greatest toy Lego. In the 40 years from its inception to my departure, I have managed to get some significant movements underway with the help of others attracted to the causes and the ideas. The centre of this business’ pillar were such things as performance coaching, now spread around the globe, and within the UK we pioneered the mass understanding of disability awareness, and the need to make diversity in our great society a focus of knowledge. Millions of people took part.
So, in this new era of my life: Education, Education, Education. Any decent society has an obligation to its children to provide amenities and facilities to learn not simply pass exams. Headway is a seeker of ways and a provider of much needed services. Britain has 450,000 teachers. They are hard pressed, under constant scrutiny and working in an under-funded sector. These good and noble citizens do not do it for great personal gain; indeed, this profession is a true vocation. The demands on their goodwill have grown and grown, yet the provision of support has seemingly diminished year upon year. The most important asset we all have is time, so, the Headway goal is to try to provide resources which are time efficient, yet do not compromise on standards.
Machiavelli wrote, “It should be borne in mind that there is nothing more difficult to arrange, more doubtful of success and more dangerous to carry through than initiating changes in a state”. Perhaps he should have said state of mind – because that’s where the gauntlet lies on the ground of education. Education is not just the ‘3 Rs’ with a sprinkling of other things. Education is for life, the ways in which we might lead our lives in a civil and civilised society. So, for the young not simply the questions in ‘SATS’, but the very essence of the extraordinary challenges of modern life.
Headway’s first major challenge is the space called PSHE (Personal, Social Health and Economics). It’s a part of the curriculum which in state schools has not been compulsory, indeed it’s the space that any teacher of those 11 years old and under would see as the hospital pass, please not me. It has the least resource and if it takes place, it’s at the back of the queue.
Two years into our work to provide the most contemporary resource online with kid appeal, we find ourselves in a space being made compulsory by government legislation. The act ensuing the work passing through the ‘House’ with a majority of nearly 500! Great news, but not without its challenges. Cultural and societal opinion makes the Machiavelli comment ever more appropriate. So, we have created a very special resource: flexible, easy to use, reducing organisational time for hard pressed teachers. The 100 schools in our market test love it, teachers and pupils alike. It gives monitoring so Ofsted will be happy, it gives a smattering of Maths, English, Art and we have made it cheap to acquire.
What could go wrong apart from the Machiavelli warning, “initiating change”. I will have to keep investing in the resource. We will have to monitor tens of thousands of views and we have to get the funding to schools but more on that later. What we are sure of is that children, my grandchildren amongst them, must be offered the skills and understanding to cope with fast changing lives. Coping with cyber life and street life, with health issues and the money issues they will always need to manage. So far so good but thanks to Niccolo Machiavelli, I will never underestimate the degree of difficulty.