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Put teachers at the heart of education reform

It is an exciting time for education in the UK. For several years, advocating for assessment reform – to provide greater breadth and balance in school curricula – was considered a specialisation.

However, it’s now refreshing to see progress on this within UK education systems, with many embracing such change.

I was fortunate to spend time in London earlier this year meeting policymakers and education leaders who are open to the pedagogy, curriculum and assessment advancements that the International Baccalaureate (IB) has long championed.

Embracing assessment reform

Among our conversations, we discussed the government’s plan for (ABS). I also learned more about .

I welcome and celebrate both initiatives. Though in their infancy, they have the potential to reverse the narrowing of the curriculum in English schools and bring fresh thinking to contemporary education.

Proponents of both initiatives understand the scale of the challenge presented by such reform. They recognise the depth of thinking required if they are to deliver meaningful change.

The time frame for adoption of the ABS demonstrates this understanding, with a full roll-out scheduled for 2035. The process is anything but rushed, nor should it be.

As we take careful steps towards enacting these changes, it’s critical to learn from the past.

Take your time with big policy changes

One lesson I bring from my policy days in my native Finland is that success in reform lies not just in the policy detail or specifics of curricular design. Rather, success lies in how well schools are able to bring educators along with them.

I don’t mean that it’s vital to persuade educators that your reforms are a good idea or that they’re well-intentioned.

While that is important, I argue instead that it is crucial to focus on preparing educators, training educators and providing educators with the tools they need to implement the changes that we seek. Without educators who are willing and ready, it’s futile to enact any change at all.

I am not the first person to make this observation, but it bears repeating: if you really want to make a success of education then ongoing CPD for educators must be central to your thinking.

We live by this rule at the IB. Educators are central to the curriculum and assessment reviews that we constantly undertake. Educators have access to resources that guide them and help them grow, supporting the IB’s central mission to provide an international and holistic education to all students.

We put educator conferences at the very centre of both the design and delivery of reform, hosting regional IB Day events as forums for discourse and sharing best practices in the classroom.

Professional purpose and pride

We have learned over many years that supporting educators – and, yes, educating them – is the single most important part of delivering the IB and its vision.

The benefits of this approach go further than just the delivery of a new scheme of work or curricular plan.

Professional development builds self-esteem and confidence within the educator workforce.  that educators with high self-esteem and a strong sense of co-curricular curation are more likely to stay in their role, reducing turnover.

Political parties in Britain who are thinking about bold curriculum reforms would be well advised to consistently consult and support educators along the way.

Educator wellbeing and input make the difference between success and failure. Supporting educators will make inroads in addressing the crises and challenges facing the teaching profession at large.

This is why it’s time for supporters of inquiry-based and holistic education, who prioritise student and educator wellbeing, to come off the sidelines and become more active advocates for these changes.

Olli-Pekka Heinonen is the director-general of the International Baccalaureate