“Innovation is seeing what everyone has seen and thinking what nobody has thought.” Dr.  Albert Szent Gyorgyi

The World Economic Forum published the 2022 Skills Outlook in 2018 –providing a well-educated and research informed prediction of what organizations will be looking for in their employees, and it shows categorically that heavy teaching of content should no longer be a consideration. “Reading, Writing, Math and active listening” are listed as declining skills, as are “memory, verbal, auditory and spatial abilities”. This does not mean, of course, that these are not important skills and curriculum areas – but it does paint a very different picture of what we should be expecting our children to learn. In the category of Growing Skills, we find “Emotional Intelligence”, “Active learning and learning strategies” and “Leadership and social influence” alongside the more commonly discussed areas of higher order thinking and problem solving.

So, when we are thinking about the structure and content of our curriculum – which is often, and more so when we are still adjusting to Distance Learning – whilst we have to recognize that there are key concepts and building blocks of information that students will have to know to be able to build their understanding in the future, I believe it is clear that we should be more concerned with how they are going to learn the central content. We should be less concerned with whether they can recall the names and dates (so to speak) and more interested in how they can work with and manipulate that information to propose solutions and alternatives.

At Lancaster, we pride ourselves on being a community of learners. We are teaching our students to be lifelong learners – to understand that what is important is the journey with all its bumps and turns, rather than the destination. We begin by building the foundational skills for learning and behaviour; then we provide them with the moving parts that they will need to construct their pathway. We start to support students with these metacognitive processes as early as Kindergarten and we encourage them to question what they are told, even by their teachers. These are the things that we deem to be important. That our students will be able to see a larger purpose in their learning so that later in life they will be independent, confident individuals who can face challenges knowing that each one presents an opportunity.

We have the opportunity now to model this approach and those behaviours for our students of all ages. We are living and learning in complicated, unprecedented times and that calls for a new, innovative approach -and innovation means taking chances; doing things in ways that seem alien, because we are in unchartered territory, and it is not easy to fit innovative approaches into our existing schema. As human beings, we like to be able to relate the new to the old, to make comparisons which allow us to label things familiarly. When presented with true innovation – this is not possible.

As a community, we need to work together. Our academic teams are working constantly and consistently, reflecting and evaluating to ensure that we are solving problems and providing opportunities for students to thrive. We are working alongside the administration to ensure that our channels of communication continue to develop and prosper. Now more than ever we need to be clear and open in sharing our thinking and learning – and we ask that parents and students do the same. Most of all, we need to consider what is best for the whole community and how each decision and action can impact not only other members of our community, or even the spirit of our community as a whole. We are also teaching our students to consider their places in a global society – and we are trying to model for them how we, as Lancaster, form a part of this wider community of learners. Innovation can be scary territory – but wouldn’t it be wonderful to consider ourselves pioneers?

Through our philosophical approach, which already emphasizes skills over content, we are addressing the future predicted by The World Economic Forum, amongst other prestigious organizations. Our innovative approach to the challenge of Distance Learning is one more example of our forging a path – only time will tell for sure, but we know that breaking new ground is not easy. However, I would like to assure you that it will be worth it.

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