The notion of three horizons has long been established in futures thinking. My interpretation draws on the work of Andrew Curry and Tony Hodgson published in 2008 in the Journal of Futures Studies, used here with permission. It draws on experience of the energy industry but is readily translatable to education today.

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The first horizon represents the way we generate and use energy at present. It is inefficient, damaging to the environment, short-term, and ultimately unsustainable. That is the way I and many others regard schooling policy today, damaged beyond repair by flawed accountability mechanisms and competing demands rooted in short-term political and economic thinking.

A third horizon represents the outlook of those who have seen these limitations and are trying to create alternative, viable, sustainable solutions to meet future energy (or education) needs. These might include, for example in energy terms, solar and wind power, hydrogen cells, biofuels, and changing consumption patterns. Such solutions are currently still experimental, are not yet proven, may be contradictory, and none are yet to scale or fully tested. However, at some point in the future, a new way forward will emerge from this experimental cauldron to supersede the unsustainable status quo.

Between these points lies another conceptual horizon, termed by Curry and Hodgson the second horizon, falling as it does between now and the future. This is the space in which leaders try to make sense of and navigate between the failing, unsustainable present and the as yet uncertain future, in order to create a meaningful future for their organisation and those who are dependent on it.

The parallel for education leadership is uncanny. There is a strong and perhaps growing body of opinion which recognises that our present concept of schooling in England in terms of its purpose and our understanding of what school quality looks like are reaching the end of their useful life.

There is, as well, a range of alternative thinking going on, frequently small-scale, unproven, and often on the basis of individual enthusiasms. Think perhaps of studio schools, some free schools, or project-based learning (PBL) among many other initiatives. Some make progress, others fail. None is established on any meaningful scale.

But for the vast majority of school leaders, there is never going to be a completely clean slate from which to start, a day in the future when everything can begin afresh and be wholly reconstituted from the ground up. There are always real children to be educated today, who have a single best shot at their own future. There will always, legitimately, be government expectations to meet, although these may be more or less helpful. So leaders of change have no choice but to build their future plane in the sky, as they fly it, rather than work on it in its hangar.

This website aims both to explore, with the help of other like-minded thinkers, the second horizon and beyond, and to serve as a resource, and a source of both light and heat, to support the challenge to shape a better tomorrow from the failures of today.