2019 Spring Term 2


  • Brave new world
    Geoff Barton highlights an innovative new study partnership between ASCL and tech giant Apple that could bring about a revolutionary new way of leading and teaching. More
  • The true cost of education
    ASCL Funding Specialist Julia Harnden highlights her analysis on what education in the 21st century should look like and how much it will cost. More
  • We are Sparticus
    Coordinator of the WorthLess? campaign, Headteacher and ASCL member Jules White says the movement has enabled headteachers to find their own independent voice and speak up on issues that truly matter to education. More
  • The moral maze
    Chair of ASCL's Ethical Leadership Commission Carolyn Roberts writes about the practical programmes that school and college leaders can join to help them navigate through the moral maze. More
  • Renewed optimism
    In January, the DfE unveiled its long-awaited Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy. Carole Willis, Chief Executive of the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), provides her thoughts on the renewed focus on retention. More
  • Deeper understanding
    Educational neuroscience draws evidence from several fields of study to deepen our understanding of learning and teaching and debunk some 'neuromyths'. Educationalists Professor Derek Bell and Richard Newton Chance explain the latest thinking about thinking. More
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Geoff Barton highlights an innovative new study partnership between ASCL and tech giant Apple that could bring about a revolutionary new way of leading and teaching.

Brave new world

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently..."

Those were the words that signalled one of the biggest corporate turnarounds in business history.

Back in the mid-1990s, Apple, the company that had created the personal computer, had woefully lost its way. It was now simply creating beige boxes that looked pretty much like any other computer but at a higher cost.

In the process the board of directors had fired the company’s originator, Steve Jobs. Now the brand was fighting for its life.

Then something unexpected happened. Steve Jobs returned as interim CEO in 1997 and Apple was reborn. Under Jobs’ leadership, the company rediscovered its original innovative mission for technology to be about more than mere technology. Computers were to help us to be more creative, to unleash our human sense of who we are and what we could do.

Suddenly, via our desktop and laptop devices we could watch movies and edit movies. Via a new iPod, music became a thousand favourite songs that we could carry in our pocket. And the iPhone gave us devices for finding restaurants, connecting live on-screen with our far-flung families, taking photographs and much, much more.

Visionary thinking

As Apple’s 1997 advertising campaign exhorted: it was time for us to ‘think different’. And its television commercial gave us flickering images of some of the 20th century’s great visionaries such as Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, Alfred Hitchcock, Martha Graham, John Lennon, Maria Callas and Martin Luther King, Jr.

The 30-second advertisement finished, in colour, with a young girl opening her eyes, and peering optimistically into the camera. Then came the punchline: “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”

It was audacious, cheesy, uplifting and powerfully persuasive. Here, we were being told, were the people who had defined the 20th century. And here, through Apple computers, we could all do the same.

It’s the power of the advertiser, of course. But it’s also the power of the educator. Because essentially the message that we pass on to the children and young people we teach, and to the staff we lead, is that learning matters hugely. Education, we are saying, is what will help you to define who you are and then to go on and take your place in the world. It’s the optimism of education as one of life’s greatest stepping-stones to success.

And sometimes, with all our talk of funding, inspection and accountability, we can lose sight of this important subtext – this message to the next generation that we can help them to become better citizens, to create a better world, through the work we do in our schools, academies and colleges.

Innovative partnership

I was reminded of this sense of astringent optimism before Christmas when ASCL was asked to join Apple as part of an innovative study partnership. We invited 15 or so leaders of schools, multi-academy trusts (MATs) and influential organisations to learn more from Apple about learning, leadership and some of the implications of a world being redefined by technology.

We all found the process stimulating, eye-opening and a privileged opportunity to step back from day-to-day concerns and to think more boldly about education and our role as leaders.

And the person who had the biggest impact, for me, was Dr Jon Landis, National Development Executive at Apple. We are proud that he is due to join us as a keynote at the ASCL Annual Conference.

He said two things that particularly challenged me. First, he made the point that for the first time in history we have children and young people sitting in our classrooms who, through technology, have access to all the world’s knowledge. This means that the role of the teacher is different from what it was. It doesn’t mean teaching is less important, or that knowledge doesn’t matter, or any of those other easy soundbites we too frequently encounter.

Instead, in this changing context, the role of the teacher itself alters. Our purpose now isn’t simply to impart knowledge. It is to help learners to decide what they can trust and what they cannot, how some knowledge fits with other bits of knowledge, how to navigate your way through a complicated and sometimes misleading world. In this brave new world, the role of the teacher, Dr Jon Landis reminded us, becomes more vital than ever.

Technological revolution

And then Dr Landis said something else. He looked that group of senior educationalists in the eye and said that once in every 250 years or so new technology changes society. The printing press did this, suddenly bringing knowledge of the present and the past into the hands of anyone who could read. It democratised learning.

And here’s what Dr Jon Landis said: “Yours is the generation of leaders that has to realise that simply doing what the previous generation of leaders did will not be enough. You are the tipping-point.”

There’s something empowering about such a challenge, and daunting too, because in truth we as leaders are ourselves trying to come to terms with the social and educational implications of a world redefined by technology, by social media, by the dying away of many familiar ways of doing things.

And that’s why organisations like ASCL are so important. We aren’t a think-tank. We aren’t just run by people who once worked in education but now spend their time talking or writing about it. Our members are the current guardians of the UK’s young people, in all types of institutions and all kinds of areas. We are the people with the responsibility to shape children’s future. It should be us, rather than think-tanks, who contribute to the thinking about what being a 21st century learner, teacher and leader could look like.

As the months unfold, you’ll see how the Apple study partnership feeds into our thinking, as we help to redefine how learning can directly connect with young people once marginalised, how technology might help teachers to rediscover the joy of the role, how a changing world calls for leadership that is bolder and more forward-looking.

“Here’s to the crazy ones,” said that 1997 Apple commercial. Yes, here’s to us.

“Yours is the generation of leaders that has to realise that simply doing what the previous generation of leaders did will not be enough. You are the tipping-point.”
Dr Jon Landis

Geoff Barton
ASCL General Secretary