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COVID-19 put the world in a time machine and took it forward at least 10 years in the space of a few months which created the greatest disruption to education in more than a century, trend forecaster and best-selling author Michael McQueen will tell Queensland independent school leaders this week.

Mr McQueen said the home-learning period forced schools everywhere to change faster and more comprehensively than they had in the past 100 years.

“Schools that had done the hard work to thoughtfully and deliberately integrate technology into their operations and programs were able to hit the ground running when the pandemic forced a complete rethink of education,” he said.

“The challenge for education leaders and educators is not to go back to the way things were, but to grasp the opportunity to move forwards with what worked.”

Mr McQueen is among a thought-provoking line-up of speakers at the 2021 Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) State Forum Celebrating Change on 17 June.

He will encourage school leaders to familiarise themselves with trends in artificial intelligence, robotics and machine learning, their impacts and future applications in classroom learning.

“We don’t want to see students using the most exciting technology everywhere else in their lives and go to school to use the old stuff,” he said.

“Schools don’t have to be at the cutting-edge, but they do have to be moving with the times to help their students gear up for a tech-saturated world. If they don’t the tech companies and app builders will be the ones doing it because it’s in their best interests.”

Mr McQueen said the COVID-19 disruption also reconfirmed the critical social and emotional anchor schools provided for particular groups of students.

“For some students, school is the only stable and predictable thing in their lives; it’s where they get breakfast, where there is routine, structure and adults who are safe and reliable,” he said.

“We didn’t realise how valuable this role was until it wasn’t there.”

Mr McQueen will also talk about the importance of schools and parents sharing a common and agreed approach to building student tenacity and resilience and the benefits of forging partnerships between schools and other services such as policing and health.

ISQ Executive Director David Robertson said the past 18 months had been as enlightening as they had been challenging for schools and their leaders.

“Parental confidence in Queensland’s independent schooling sector and the quality of their learning and wellbeing programs is stronger than ever with sector enrolments growing by 4.5% between August 2019 and 2020. Indicative data shows student numbers lifted again at the start of 2021 by about 5% compared to the start of the 2020 school year,” Mr Robertson said.

The 2021 ISQ State Forum Celebrating Change will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on 17 June. Queensland independent school leadership teams and school board representatives can register for the forum here. Seats are limited.

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