Headmaster's Newsletter Friday 11th may 2018
For part of this week I have been at a conference for the Heads of schools with choral foundations. It’s a gathering of Heads drawn from both prep and senior schools, united by our common (and often ancient) origins. This year we were celebrating the conference’s centenary: its first meeting in 1918 was driven by a concern about government legislation which might threaten the particular purpose and ethos of our schools. Not much has changed there, then! One of the most engaging speakers was the MP for Tottenham, David Lammy, who recalled how one of his primary school teachers in a deprived area of London had spotted his musical talents and suggested he go to the Cathedral School at Peterborough. It changed his life, he said. He had learned from that teacher what excellence was and, in his education at Peterborough, discovered a creativity and breadth of thinking which still informs all he does. He went on to aver that it is precisely that creativity and reflective thinking which will serve our pupils best in a future where technology, particularly artificial intelligence, is likely to bring huge changes to the world of work. He urged us to keep alive the beacon of creativity in our schools.
In a similar train of thought, Rose Luckin, Professor of Learner-Centred Design at UCL, told a recent meeting of the Headmasters’ and Headmistresses’ Conference that teaching a knowledge-based curriculum is “naive” because it imparts facts in a shallow way, leaving pupils unable to compete with artificial intelligence systems which can recall facts much faster. She urged that pupils should be taught to be self-reflective about their knowledge. So rather than teaching pupils to remember that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066, teachers should be asking how we know that the Battle of Hastings was in 1066. She concluded: “The development of AI that can learn academic knowledge faster and more accurately than humans has brought about a situation that requires us urgently to make some dramatic and significant changes to our approach to education."