In February 2020, Whole Education invited 20 trust leaders involved in the ‘Leading a whole education at trusts’ programme to engage in a four-day study visit and education meeting with Apple in San Francisco, USA. Whole Education network programmes are based around co-operation, helping leaders learn from each other and from the best that the national and international education system has to offer.
The trust leaders flew over 5000 miles across the world, without so much as an agenda, to find out more about what makes Apple – Apple and how this could support their mission to lead a family of schools that provides excellent outcomes but is not solely defined by doing so.
The objectives of the Apple International Leader programme were to:
- Give system leaders unique insight into the work of one of the world’s most successful organisations and learn leadership lessons to apply to their organisation or trust context.
- Share how learning technologies are enhancing pedagogy.
- Engage thought leaders on creating high performance organisations.
- Establish cutting-edge thought leadership and practices to disseminate within the UK school systems.
How do we empower all learners today and prepare them for tomorrow?
In the first session of the week, Dr Jon Landis outlined that we were at the point of a Gutenberg moment, a tipping point in social history, similar to when Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon.
The world that we are entering is remarkably different to the one we have grown up in.
Technology has created a monumental shift in how we live and how the world works, meaning that everyone has access to everything in the world. Advancements that have bought us to the ‘people age’ include: mobility, cloud, big data/analytics, augmented reality, machine learning, artificial intelligence, business social and security/privacy.
Great emphasis was placed on the work of the World Economic Forum in ‘The Future of Jobs Report 2018’. Dr Landis outlined the new job roles that will gain significant importance over the coming years (e.g. people and culture specialists), while other roles will become increasing redundant (e.g. postal service clerks).
Education is a fundamental human right for everyone but the skills set required to be a productive human being is no longer the same. It is our responsibility to bridge the gap between the students’ current lives and the future they will graduate into. The report lists the following skills as ‘in demand’ in 2022:
- Analytical thinking and innovation
- Active learning and learning strategies
- Creativity, originality and initiative
- Technology design and programming
- Critical thinking and analysis
- Complex problem-solving
- Leadership and social influence
- Emotional intelligence
- Reasoning, problem-solving and ideation
- Systems analysis and evaluation
This means that it is of vital importance for the government to understand how the landscape has changed as a result of new technologies and how this translates into education policy which aims to support improvements in the school system. This raises the question ‘What is your school’s vision for the future and how is technology helping you get there?’ Technology is most powerful when it empowers everyone.
Doug Beck, Senior Vice President (Apple, Worldwide) described the values that Apple care about deeply: environment, supplier responsibility, inclusion and diversity, privacy and security, accessibility and education. He explained the passion that Apple has about the innovation that happens at the intersection of education and culture.
Education is core to Apple’s DNA and has been since the beginning. They have created amazing products and programmes that enrich people’s lives and they are committed to helping to shape and re-shape teachers.
Doug empathised with the challenges of the education system our leaders work within but encouraged them to not lose sight of truly great teaching and learning, take the risks when they are worth it, rely on each other, lean on Apple for support and to push the education sector to be better equipped to realise the benefits of technology.
Culture = Vision + Values + Norms
Leading whole school innovation is a continuous process that requires strong, visionary leadership and an engaged community. Sue Meyer, National Educational Development Manager (Apple, USA) outlined the importance of culture in an organisation. Culture is the character and personality of your organisation and what makes you unique. It is as important as your strategic plan and shaping it is one of your most important responsibilities as a leader.
Apple has over 150,000 employees and is still growing. Sue told the story of how the unique culture of Apple has evolved under the leadership of Steve Jobs and Tim Cook and how they articulate the core values of Apple, its DNA, and how this doesn’t need to be written down as it is evident:
“Apple is about people who think outside the box, people who want to use computers to help them change the world, to help them create things that make a difference, and not just to get a job done.” (Steve Jobs)
“Our goal is to create amazing products that enrich people’s lives.” (Tim Cook)
She asked the Whole Education trust leaders to define ‘culture’. They agreed that it could be defined by what the majority of the people in the organisation are doing and what happens when the trust leader is out of the building. It is how the vision, values and norms manifest themselves.
A quick look at a school budget speaks volumes about leadership priorities.
When asked to reflect on their observations of the culture at Apple throughout the week the group agreed that rigour, design principles, attention to detail and total alignment (similar to that running through a stick of rock) were evident. They witnessed this, first hand, in every building and with every interaction they had with Apple employees during the visit.
If Apple can ensure this consistency across a rapidly expanding global business, then we can do the same within and across a network of schools.
A commitment to leave the world a better place than we found it
After inputs from numerous worldwide senior leaders at Apple the trust leaders returned to the UK with many points for reflection, including:
- The importance of a clear strategic vision, values and principles that are well understood and embraced.
- Consideration of ‘why’ they do what they do, reflecting on the values and ethos that
underpin their work and development.
- Clarification of the ‘why’ and then embedding it, through a process that involves the whole school community.
- The need for MATs to consider the ‘non-negotiables’ of what they do, which helps them and schools seeking to join them to consider whether such a partnership would work.
The impact of working with a growing national network of schools and the world’s most innovative technology company
“Travelling over 5000 miles and not knowing what to expect was a little daunting. Apple organised an amazing experience for us all, but spending a week with so many inspirational school leaders, who I was in awe of, was the greatest CPD I could ask for – Thank you each and every one of you! I received some wise words from a number of you and look forward to putting some of this advice into practice.”
“Intentionality should be in all we do; from setting the vision and values, making appointments, to what your students and staff experience every day.”
“SIMPLICITY – We are known to try to over complicate situations. Focus on our vision, values and norms when making decisions.”
“Relationships really are key to success. I have been fortunate enough to work closely with some ‘movers and shakers’ in education on our visit, who have all been supportive and fantastic communicators with a real depth of emotional intelligence. I went from feeling a little bit of an imposter at the beginning to really enjoying being part of this special group by the end. I feel I have learnt so much more than just Apple. What we do next, with the constraints of our Education, system will be key, and I look forward to playing my part.
Whole Education is a dynamic network of schools and partners who are united in their belief that all children and young people deserve a fully rounded education. Find out more at www.wholeeducation.org or contact Jo Corrigan at Jo@wholeeducation.org