Education and the redistribution of power: Russell Hobby

by

3rd October 2019

Russell joined Teach First as Chief Executive in September 2017 building on more than 15 years developing and promoting leadership in schools. Prior to joining Teach First Russell was General Secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT), which represents over 29,000 school leaders in the UK and before that worked as a management consultant, founding Hay Group’s education practice. Russell is a trustee of Bounce Forward and the Brilliant Club.

It feels like we live in difficult times – and that is particularly the case for young people. Right now, we risk losing their confidence that tomorrow can be better than today.

Underpinning this unravelling is, I think, a basic failure of justice.

We have not worked hard enough to ensure that every young person has a stake in the future. If you do not feel that you will benefit from change in some way, then change is not an opportunity, it is a threat. If the future does not belong to you, why would you work hard to build it or protect it?

If you do not feel that you will benefit from change in some way, then change is not an opportunity, it is a threat. @RussellHobby @TeachFirst #DecadeInMaking Click To Tweet

Does technology connect you to kindred spirits or force you into a zero hour contract? Does globalisation reduce the size of your grocery bill or the size of your pay packet? Does the infrastructure always go to the towns down south?

For some young people, the tomorrow they are offered just does not seem very inspiring, so what does it mean for young people to have a stake in the future?

It means the power to make their own choices. To take a shot at the opportunities out there, and claim their benefits. To see how to navigate from where they are to where they want to be. To have the skills and knowledge they need.

Education can provide that stake in the future. Education is the difference between spectating and performing, between alienation and taking part. It tips the balance from threat to opportunity. A great education for everyone is the foundation of a just society, and only a just society can rediscover its common ground.

Education is the difference between spectating and performing, between alienation and taking part. @RussellHobby @TeachFirst #DecadeInMaking Click To Tweet

Despite the dedication of so many fantastic teachers, not everybody gets access to that great education. In fact, it is a bitter irony that those who already start with less, are too often deprived of the means to more, since the outcomes of education are too often carved up along the lines of wealth, class, race and privilege. Teachers are here to change that.

But justice does not come from charity. It comes from the redistribution of power. Teachers are not saviours. They do not rescue young people from their circumstances. Nor should they lead them away from their communities.

“Teachers are not saviours. They do not rescue young people from their circumstances.” @RussellHobby @TeachFirst #DecadeInMaking Click To Tweet

They give young people the power to change their own circumstances as they see fit. They give choices, options, a map of the future ahead. So let the next ten years be the decade of the teacher. Let’s make it an attractive profession once more for our most talented graduates and career switchers. This means paying people properly but it also means treating them properly.

When we have got people in we need to equip them to succeed with high quality training throughout their careers and the resources and curricula to put that training into effect.

There is nothing original or profound in these suggestions yet we seem to neglect them.  Perhaps because they are less dramatic and harder work, than sweeping structural reforms.

Put simply, investment in teachers and schools is the best investment we can make in young people over the next ten years.

Teachers redistribute power, giving young people a choice, a chance and a stake in the next decade.

A great education for everyone is the foundation of a just society. @russellhobby @TeachFirst #DecadeInMaking Click To Tweet

Download our full anniversary report “A Decade in the Making: What next for young people in England?”