Has the Covid-19 pandemic given you time to reflect upon what schooling should be about? Stephen Tierney has written ‘Educating with Purpose: the heart of what matters’ during the global pandemic to examine this very question.

Stephen Tierney, a retired secondary and primary headteacher from Blackpool UK believes the global pandemic has been a unique time for educators to self-reflect and analyse the meaning and content of their work. Are we equipping chidren with the necessary skills for life? And how do schools combine the double role of educating and caring for children in the face of pressing societal problems? Also, is the curriculum meaningful in today’s world? The pandemic has shown how schools were forced to provide places of refuge for vulnerable children, provide food, continue learning and update news and links to services for worried families. He states, ‘greater prominence needs to be given to schools as societal centres… [including] prepartion for citizenship’ (p.134).

In this book Tierney begins the discussion about the repurposing of education to something more embedded and reflective of the communities it serves. The ‘Great Pause’ caused by the global crisis is an opportunity to stop the ‘burdensome’ and ‘narrowing testing system’ which, Tierney believes, would benefit pupils to learn from teaching through mastery instead.

These arguments have been reiterated many times by educators, and while it is easy to agree on the points raised in the book, the fact remains that we live in an accountable education culture that places high stakes on league tables, etc,. If a headteacher feels powerless, then the rest of us wallow in the mire of the present educational climate without real hope that change will come about nationally.

However, it is a book worth reading because even a teacher in a classroom can make small changes in the curriculum for their pupils and bring to their settings some needed compassion. This book provides ideas for a model of education from an experienced ex-headteacher, and in my opinion, it is up to an attentive senior management within a school to see if the past few challenging months can affectuate any ‘repurposing ideas’ into the goals of the present national curriculum.

Tierney, S. (2020) Educating with Purpose: The heart of what matters, Woodbridge, John Catt Educational Ltd.