'It’s time to establish an education museum'

An education museum would be a perfect opportunity to celebrate recent achievements, as well as being a permanent monument to some of the mistakes of the past, say Ty Goddard and Geraldine Davies

Ty Goddard & Geraldine Davies

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Our schools change lives. We still have a way to go, but most acknowledge the transformative power of education, even against a backdrop of what can seem like an endless blizzard of suggestion and pressures.

The profession’s achievements come despite it often being the butt of jokes or the target of cynical commentary.

Step back from those irritants and take a moment to acknowledge successes across our education system and the talented and committed people who work within it. Our educators are a truly trusted profession.

Education should be celebrated for its power to change people’s lives and inspire them to better things. Similarly, we need to be more ambitious about its future.

It’s time for us to find a permanent way to acknowledge the impact and role of education in our society, as well as learning from its history, providing a legacy for the future generations. It’s time to establish an education museum.

Most have had the thrill of a day at a well-curated museum – whether as a teacher or as a student – and found ourselves learning something new, or thinking about something we hadn’t thought about before, or thinking about something familiar in a completely new way. Museums are a great resource: for teachers, students, the wider public and policy makers. There are thousands of venues for people from all age groups and cultures to find out fascinating things about fascinating things.

Museums offer a rich vein of learning. They explore the history and culture of the areas they specialise in, acknowledging and celebrating people, events and places that have helped our society mature and become what it is today. From advertising to children’s toys via planes, trains and automobiles – and yes, even the Post Office – there are places you can go to that show the contribution of a cornucopia of ingredients that make up the world we live in.

So why don’t we have a museum of education? Education is the silver bullet of opportunity for many, to help lift people out of poverty and transform life chances. It plays a momentous role in the world. It shapes us as individuals, our communities and the society we live in.

The Educating… television series entertains and inspires understanding by seeking to reveal the realities of teaching. The new NEU teaching union also aims to be a positive voice for national education policy change.

A testimony to our teachers

Education has a longevity that may make it seem part of the furniture – something that feels like it has always been there. But it can also be fluid, as new demands are made of it, whether they be policy initiatives or population changes. In the last decade, technology has arrived front and centre in our children’s worlds, teaching and learning – transforming the skills they may need in adulthood.

We need to anchor our amazing history as educators. We need a place where the endeavour of generations of people who care about education can be recorded, referenced and built on and look at what’s gone before to avoid the mistakes of the past.

It won’t be long before the collective memory of teachers shrinks, as growing numbers age and retire. Soon there will be no working teachers who remember a time before we had a national curriculum.

We also need a resource that civil servants, policy makers and politicians can use to gain an insight into the disciplines, culture and tradition of education – not only in Britain but also from around the world. France has helped with a blueprint via its own National Museum of Education, which has nearly 950,000 objects and documents at its base in Rouen.

And we need to support developments such as the Chartered College of Teaching, which aims to support our educators to do their job well, share ideas and good practice.

We also need something that is a testimony to our teachers. Educators are the engine room of our education system, guiding our children against a backdrop that is sometimes a challenge, be that something as fundamental as poverty or lack of family support.

People need to understand better the role and professionalism of our teachers – in doing so, people would understand better the skills and commitment of those in the classroom, seminar room or lecture theatre.

The growth in grassroots teacher conferences across the country and networks are responding to a need for evidence-informed policy and practice.

That helps us with mythbusting, as well as with sorting the wheat from the chaff. As our knowledge base grows from myriad sources, it isn’t always easy to see beyond the dust cloud of new findings, which leaves us in real danger of obscuring, rather than clarifying, progress.

A curated exhibition space would help us make sense of the whole, to see how our understanding of teaching and learning has, and is, developing.

An education museum shouldn’t be static. We need a base where we can have collections on educational disciplines and exhibitions on key issues such as SEN, teacher training and further education.

We need a space for conferences, events and workshops that support professional development and provide a resource for school students as well as education professionals. We also need somewhere we can develop a strong digital presence around resources for pop up, mobile exhibitions and initiatives, enabling a museum for education to reach beyond a fixed geographical area.

We need a museum that highlights the ambition we have for education and shows not only where we’ve been but also where we might go. Most of all, we need to celebrate and elevate the national success story of our education system and the people who work across it.

To find out more about the campaign to establish an education museum, go to www.ednfoundation.org

Ty Goddard is director of the Education Foundation. Geraldine Davies was founding principal of the UCL Academy in London

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Ty Goddard & Geraldine Davies

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