Yesterday I attended the inaugural London Festival of Education – it was a great day with lots of thought provoking questions raised – not always answered and a programme that was packed. For me this was part of the problem – there was just too much good stuff at one point delegates had the choice between listening to Micheal Wilshire, Guy Claxton and Michael Rosen – it was a toughie. I was able to follow a lot of the other talks/debates via twitter and catching up on blog posts today, but it was a shame that there were these clashes and also that some sessions were put in rooms where the capacity was limited to 150.
I started the day by listening to Michael Gove – may be not the most ideal way to start at Saturday but I enjoyed the conversation – he does have an unerring belief in his own beliefs which I do not always agree with. Yes, there are schools that are not operating as outstanding schools, but surely there should be support for these – not just turning into academies. Yes, I believe that education should be assessed but the notion that education without assessment is just play – well then I will continue to ‘play’ in my teaching and learning as surely this is how we learn? Yes as Michael Gove pointed out if you tell someone that they are a failure this will have a devastating effect they why does he do this to our profession as a whole?
Graeme Eyre has written a more detailed account of the conversation which you can read here. Also Tom Bennett as ever has written a great account of the opening conversation with Gove which you can read here. Oliver Quinlan also blogged here
Next was a panel with Sir Tim Brighouse, Vic Goddard and Munira Mirza talking about What does it mean to be educated? very interesting perspectives from all three. Vic Goddard kicked it off and I really agreed with his point that listening was important within the classroom and talking and listening – hearing the aesthetics in a conversation – he spoke of humanising knowledge – promoting empathy and that if all we do is fill children with knowledge then they are no more than a dictionary. Everything we do is about making connections. Sir Tim Brighouse was next quoting Temple as the purpose of education as this: ”Are you going to treat students as they are or as they might be?” Going on to say that if you want to have human liberty you must have education – to ‘think for yourself, act for others’. As ever he spoke so much sense that I could have listened to him all day – he also made the point that Eton can give a false sense of confidence, like making you think you can run the economy or country when you can’t – again hitting the nail on the head!
At this time I have to confess on leaving the main hall, a combination of needing something to eat and also to process what had been said in the morning sessions – it was that full. I had also missed Oliver running his session on ReconsiderED; the discussion – he has written this session up and can be read here. I also missed Dug Belshaw discussing Learning technologies, but again he has blogged both the session and his thoughts on the conference. It did mean that I could grab some lunch and have those conversations which was needed and I think to build on this year would be great to build in a slice of thinking/wandering time into next years programme to give delegates the chance to visit the various pop up spaces around the festival which I missed.
After lunch it was back into the main hall for ‘what makes great teaching – the global view’ this had John Hattie and Pasi Sahlberg on the panel and was fascinating. Hattie spoke of the impact of teachers of their passion – not just a love for the job but the passion that enables teachers to see ways to improve own impact and that see teaching as part of their lives. It was also ways to build on these high impact teachers within schools, it is about the impact of teaching on students, not the teaching, that ”we must recognise ourselves-the impact we have as teachers.However, we reward and recognise student effort – not ours” he spoke out the biggest issue being within our schools, not without and asked where is our professional teaching body within the country? Sahlberg continued this theme by stating that in Finland ‘we trust our teachers, we don’t test them to death, we dance and play as well as do the academic and that - The quality of the education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachrs. He spoke about Finish findings on good learning saying that learning had to be goal-orientated, contextual and cumulative. He also got one of the biggest round of applause when he suggested that politicians stay out of teaching. Hattie made a great point during the questions when asked about time and where was the time to become a High IMpact teacher – that these teachers ahd the same amount of time as everyone else!
Then it was off to #ukedchat – looking at how social media can connect educators this was run but Tim Rylands and Martin Burrett – it was great – we did some speed dating – talking to others in the room about the pros and cons of using tools such as twitter and tips for the best way of using tools such as twitter. As well as this we were also introduced to some great tools – on the iPad/iPhone – GroupZap, brainstorm and syncspace for sharing ideas. There was also Cacoo and linoit for min mapping as well as memplai. Sarah has also created a lino that people in the session were asked to add to that can be found here. it was a great fast moving session and at the same time there was a live #ukedchat occurring!
Next was back into the main hall to listen to two of my favourite authors Michael Rosen and Anthony Horowitz – who spoke about developing a love for reading – at the heart of this was creating a great library, that literacy and reading are not the same thing, reading is not a passive activity you are actively involved in the themes and characters of the text that you are reading, reading is not something to rise up to – if you are not enjoying it – leave it – find something that you do. Rosen was more political – asking what we were doing to put children off reading – giving them tests like the Spag! Transformational power in reading for pleasure, but with all the strategies in place and the form filling that teachers had to do there was no time – we need to make time! It was a great session, although I had missed Sir Michael Wilshire talking, thankfully it had been recorded and a transcript of it as well as the recording can be found here
Finally was the question of what qualities do the best teachers share? Camilla Batmanghelidjh spoke of the best teaching being rigorous, demanding, aspirational and that worked to abilities, Bridget Minimore read her own poem about English Teachers , some things will stick with you forever! Celia Hoyles, spoke of the fact that great teachers give everyone a grounding but also a glimpse of the horizon, Michael Rosen – more highlights advice to be curious and that the fundamental basis of education is talk. Kindness was also mentioned but if you want the teachers to be kind to the children, the management has to be kind to the teachers was again a great point from Camila.
It was a great day! For next year – easier entrance, more time to have those conversations- over coffee, in break out rooms. Congratulations must go to all who organised and I look forward to next year!
To end a thought from Camila again – ‘Why are donuts always round and not triangles”