There can be no doubt that now more than ever is the time for those engaged in the education of children and young people to take stock and consider what sort of world we are preparing our young citizens for. Prompted by local, national and global attempts to maintain impactful schooling during the ongoing challenge to public services posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is a time to question and review the purpose and impact of our respective schooling systems.

To help in this review, we have invited Valerie Hannon, one of the leading thinkers on future schooling in the UK, to provide us with a series of prompts or provocations to our thinking. We hope these will serve to stimulate discussion and provide signposts to further resources which will support further dialogue and inform practice.

The materials have been arranged into three think-pieces outlined below, each with additional resources to prompt thinking and raise curiosity.


This first think piece provides an overview of how and why the world is becoming more open, less predictable, profoundly exciting as well as unsettling.

It brings together the very latest thinking on the shifts in society, employment, the environment, technology, and how the world might look in 2030. The piece explains how we have entered the Age of Disruption, or hyperchange; and that this is not a fleeting moment but an inflection point in human history. The immense challenges and opportunities confronting us arise from interlaced shifts. For example: future pandemics are to be expected, since they are zoogenic, and arise from the failure of environmental stewardship. What will be the place of humans? The piece examines how futures thinking (or futures literacy) has developed as a discipline: how to use it; and how this is valuable to those in leadership positions in public services particularly in these times of disruptive turbulence and change.


Educators are increasingly focusing on the ‘why?’ of learning and not just the ‘what?’ and the ‘how?’ If it is acknowledged that the world is transforming, then the old purposes of schools have not kept pace and are in urgent need of review.

This second think-piece examines the basis on which this can be done – and how we need to be shaping a new public narrative about education. Without a new narrative, leaders face an impossible struggle to effect the depth of change that is needed. And where does the emerging narrative lead? Despite the accelerated use of technologies in learning as a result of COVID-19, and the emergence of hybrid approaches, there is no question that the institution of schools will be needed in the future, but only if they are fundamentally redesigned. This piece summarises new research that looks at the design principles that are being employed to create such future schools across the world.


Valerie’s third think-piece explores new thinking from across the world about the nature of leadership (especially in the public services) that is now required to maintain a ‘split screen’ i.e. managing both for the present and its immediate requirements but also laying the foundations for a different future. 5 key ‘signposts’ for emerging leadership of future systems are suggested, with examples of how these are playing out in practice. They include the idea that leaders increasingly need to understand their roles in learning ecosystems – not just hierarchical service silos.

Valerie Hannon is a global thought leader, inspiring systems to re-think what ‘success’ will mean in the C 21st, and the implications for education. The co-founder of both Innovation Unit and of the Global Education Leaders Partnership, Valerie is a radical voice for change, whilst grounded in a deep understanding of how education systems currently work.

Formerly a secondary mathematics teacher, and then researcher (University of Sheffield) Valerie became the Director of Education for Derbyshire County Council. In that capacity, she worked with Sir Ken Robinson to produce All Our Futures, the report of the National Committee on Creative and Cultural Education. Following this she became an adviser on creativity in the UK Department for Education (DfE).

Valerie now works independently to support change programs across the world. She has advised governments and worked with systems and schools on every continent, from Australia to Finland, and from Canada to Singapore. Her span includes working with some of the most challenged systems in the world (Delhi and Rwanda), fast changing systems in the Middle East (Qatar) and the leaders in education innovation (British Columbia and New Zealand).

Valerie is an adviser to the OECD in its Education 2030 project. She is a regular keynote speaker and facilitator at international conferences and workshops, drawing upon her substantial research and publications, including:

• Learning A Living: radical innovation in education for work (2013) Bloomsbury;

• Redesigning Education: shaping learning systems around the globe (2014) Booktrope

• Local Learning Ecosystems (2019) WISE

• THRIVE: the purpose of schools in a changing world (2021) Cambridge University Press

Following a series of global webinars on leadership in 2021, Valerie published The Future of Educational Leadership: five signposts with Tony Mackay at the Centre for Strategic Education, Melbourne.

Valerie was the Australian Learning Lecturer for 2020 on the subject of The Future School. The resulting book FutureSchool: design principles in practice will be forthcoming in early 2022. In 2021 she received the Edufuturists’ award for Outstanding Achievement in Education