Back to school advice from Sir John Jones

FEBRUARY 01, 2017 / Announcements

News release - Leading Remarkable Learning Conference

1 February 2017

Time to Break-Free from Teaching Comfort Zones

Global education expert Sir John Jones identifies two crucial priorities for school leaders and teachers as they head into a new year. He also has some advice for parents.

“First, schools must develop learning environments that encourage the relentless pursuit of excellence.

“Second, they must promote a culture that not only questions the status quo but also invites staff to take risks and embrace change.”

Sir John is among a leading-edge group of speakers convening in New Zealand in March for the Leading Remarkable Learning conference organised by Westmount School. His presentations are motivational in their intention. He is concerned some teachers and schools are failing to change at the rate needed. 

“For decades, education has taken the option of repeating itself, comfortable in a culture of standardisation and compliance.

“The curriculum we deliver today is almost the same as it was 100 years ago so, in effect, we are trying to prepare our children for tomorrow by using a system designed for yesterday.”

At the Leading Remarkable Learning conference, Sir John will call on teachers to break free of their comfort zones and let go of traditional methods on the journey from controlled to free, self-directed learning. 

“Quoting writer Thomas Friedman, ‘what we need is to develop the four qualities of creativity, ingenuity, portability and flexibility'."

Parents have a key role in enabling change, says Sir John. Drawing on the “Growth Mindset” research of Dr Carol Dweck, he urges parents and teachers to adjust their thinking on high performance.

“Some years ago, as a young teacher and parent, I thought being clever was more important than working hard; ability was fixed; being correct was good and failure was bad and; you are who you are and changing is difficult. I was comfortable with words like gifted, talented, natural and prodigy. 

“How wrong I was. 

“Now in my sixth decade, I have come to realise that effort and hard work should be praised more than being smart; that learning how to handle failure is a key life skill; that all of us possess that inner spark and that finding your genius is more important than being a genius. 

“In the right political system, in great schools, working in new ways with brilliant teachers and supportive parents, anything is possible - for all.

“It’s called ‘learning without limits’.”

About the conference

Leading Remarkable Learning has been convened by Westmount School to share the opportunity for advancing knowledge, skills and expertise in delivering learning that is available to all students.

It will present and interpret the latest research and technologies in key areas of 21st century learning:

• Self-organising learning environments

• Schools in the cloud

• Designing schools as incubators

• Developing teachers as coaches and facilitators

• Cross-curricula, cross-continent collaboration


Conference Dates
Conference - March 2, 2017
Master Class - March 3, 2017
Vodafone Events Centre, Manukau
Conference - March 6, 2017 
Horncastle Arena
Sugata Mitra, whose work has been in the areas of Schools in the Cloud, Students as Teachers, and Grannies in the Cloud. It shows very powerful impact and results, particularly for young learners. Sugata Mitra’s work to develop the learning capacity of slum children in India inspired a movie (Slum Dog Millionaire) and is propelling the shift worldwide to schools in the cloud. In these schools, which are a government priority in New Zealand, global collaboration will create exponential leaps in learning capability. Sugata’s projects have interesting links for all schools as part of ongoing research and enquiry into opportunities for students to make progress. 
Sir John Jones was knighted for his services to education and is a speaker who inspires us to think about why we are in education, and the impact we have on young people.  He inspires us to be better, to give it all, on behalf of our students. He reminds teachers of their unique role as the magic weavers who ensure a child’s life becomes a rich tapestry of learning experiences. He offers insight into the world of education leadership with a particular focus on developing leadership capacity organisation-wide. 
Frances Valintine is listed in the Top 50 Ed Tech thinkers globally. Founder of The Mindlab and Tech Futures Lab, she challenges us to think about the purpose of education in the context of a future that is changing exponentially.

Mark Osborne specialises in innovative learning environments, change leadership and teaching as inquiry. His personal mission is to turn all schools into awesomeness incubators.
Gordon Poad has worked in theatre and education, and has a passion for developing a learning offer that is creative, highly personalised, focused and authentic.