Challenging times inspire education change - Government’s old fashioned approach to education is the latest victim of the virus

According to research commissioned by the Edge Foundation, the Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound effect on parents’ and teachers’ attitudes towards education. They share the same vision for the changes they want to see. Spoiler alert - it’s not a return to the government’s nineteenth-century rote learning curriculum.  

In an online survey by YouGov, more than 1,000 parents and 500 teachers from across the UK were asked about how their attitudes had changed as a result of the pandemic.

Two thirds of parents (66%) agreed that teaching and education in the future need to change following the pandemic. You may think that teachers would disagree, following the hackneyed stereotype of being stuck in old ways. Nothing could be further from the truth – over three quarters of teachers surveyed (78%) agreed, rising to 84% of younger teachers (aged 25-34).

Parents and teachers were also united on how things should change. 

More than nine in ten parents (92%) said they want education to help their children develop a range of skills like critical thinking, creative problem solving and communication. Nearly all (96%) teachers surveyed agreed that they wanted their pupils to develop a range of skills.

The truth is that employers have been saying for years[1] that they value problem solving and team working and that they see so-called ‘softer skills’ as equally or more important than hard skills. That has fallen on deaf ears as the government has continued to promote its old-fashioned approach of prioritising traditional academic subjects and rote learning to fulfil its EBacc and Progress 8 performance measures.

What today’s figures show is that parents and teachers have lined up with employers following their experience during the pandemic – government is now the odd one out.

Given their recent experience during lockdown, both parents and teachers are also placing a renewed focus on the values our education system instils in young people. Nearly all teachers surveyed (96%) said that they want to help pupils develop values like kindness, empathy and community cohesion. More than eight out of ten parents (86%) agreed that they wanted their children’s education to do this.

Alice Barnard, Chief Executive, Edge Foundation says,

“This pandemic has brought so many challenges in all of our personal and professional lives, but it has also caused us to step back and consider the future. These figures show clearly that teachers and parents are united in wanting to move forward - to a modern education system that, alongside an essential core of knowledge, helps young people develop the skills and attitudes they need for the future.

We hope that the government will want to stand alongside parents, teachers and employers to consign their old-fashioned approach to history and create a once-in-a-generation transformation for our education system.”

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