A new education story – what’s the purpose of it all?

A New Education Story - a LinkedIn Insight series from Holly Branson and Big Change
Image from Big Change
Holly Branson
Holly Branson's writing
Published on 8 September 2020

I’m thrilled to launch a new insight series from Big Change – bringing together some of the most brilliant minds in the education space and beyond to debate some of the biggest questions the sector is facing today. 

Simon Sinek, Adam Grant, Molly McMahon, George The Poet and the honourable Jim Knight are just a few of the contributors who will be sharing their thoughts on the future of education and the possibilities this period of global disruption presents for creating a whole new education story. 

Image from Ben Wilkin
Image from Ben Wilkin

Without further ado, I’d like to introduce our very first contributor - the brilliant author and educator, Stephen Tierney, to hear how he has been putting purpose at the heart of education for the past 30 years.

A New Education Story - Holly Branson speak to Stephen Tierney about the future of education

Stephen published a fantastic book during lockdown called Educating with Purpose: the heart of what matters that builds upon his knowledge from working as a teacher and headteacher for over three decades, the last two in Blackpool. 

In his book, Stephen sets out the true purpose of schools using four different philosophies - all of which have played a critical role in his teaching career. These are: preparation for citizenship, preparation for work, cultural transmission and personal empowerment. By balancing these areas and placing them at the heart of what schools want to achieve, education can develop the whole child and tap into their true potential – rather than focusing on meeting quotas, criteria sheets and report cards. 

Stephen Tierney quote about the purpose of education
Image from Big Change

On that note, Stephen believes we need to fundamentally reconsider what schools measure. As he puts it:

“Things that genuinely matter are no longer considered important simply because they are not measured. Currently, standardised testing tells us more about a school’s intake than its effectiveness. For schools serving the more disadvantaged communities, this is doing more harm than good.”

According to Stephen, real change comes through community engagement, policy change, shifts in the accountability system, funding re-allocation and genuine partnerships with social services, healthcare clinicians, counsellors and social workers.

Image from Big Change
Image from Big Change

When it comes to implementing change and managing limited resources, Stephen says we should always ask ourselves the following questions:

  1. Why are you taking on this project? 

  2. Does it align with your purpose?

  3. If you had to pay your employees overtime to implement it, would you? 

Stephen also stressed the importance in education of setting time aside to stop, think, read and gather your thoughts so you can make the most effective decisions, see the big picture and stay true to your purpose. He refers to this current period of global disruption caused by the coronavirus pandemic as ‘The Great Pause’ and believes we all need to use this moment to bring about the long-term changes in education we may not have otherwise had time or momentum to make. 

I couldn’t agree with Stephen more and it’s brilliant to hear our ethos and hopes for education at Big Change echoed by such an experienced figure in education. Thank you so much for contributing to this series and helping us to imagine a new education story.

Holly Branson quote about the future of education
Image from Big Change

If you have any thoughts about what we’ve written or about the future of education more generally, let us know on LinkedIn and stay tuned for our second piece in the series written by the incredible Simon Sinek and George The Poet. Stay tuned!