I shouldn’t really have been there.
After all, how could I justify taking two days off school to attend a jolly at Wellington College? For the record, Wellington College is Hogwarts without the wizards.
Luckily, my head decided I was allowed two days out for good behaviour and as a present for the publication of our first book.
Wellington College is an amazing setting for what turned out to be two days of high-quality speakers that left my head reeling with ideas. It was incredibly difficult to choose the sessions to attend as all of them had something to offer. What I appreciated in particular was there didn’t seem to be an ‘agenda’ for the festival; all too often you can attend educational events and realise that everyone presenting has the same educational outlook, which can get a bit much by the end of the day. Here, difference of opinions were not only tolerated by positively embraced! All pedagogical approaches were given airspace which made the festival a real joy to attend.
My highlights of the festival
Normally when I get back from a conference or course, the inevitable write-up of what I’ve learnt and how I will disseminate it takes place; I have to admit that I have found it a bit tiresome at times… This time, however, I couldn’t wait to get back to school and share with colleagues some of the exciting and innovative ideas I heard over the two days.
Things that have stuck with me over the weekend…
Geoff Barton’s passion for literacy. The man seems to live and breathe all things literacy. I came away from his session inspired and determined to implement a more cohesive approach to reading in my school. He also challenged anyone who starts a sentence with ‘Well, Ofsted says…’ to remove an item of clothing as punishment!
Dylan Wiliam has to be one of the cleverest people working in education. Having done my PGCE at King’s when Inside The Black Box was one of the most exciting pieces of research doing the rounds at the time, I have always viewed him as some sort of educational god. I feel no different over a decade later. He had the crowd eating out of his hands and he makes the most difficult of concepts accessible to those such as myself who may struggle with data and graphs. He is awesome.
David Didau has really put his neck on the line with his latest book. He pulls no punches when it comes to telling us we’re all wrong but he does it with such panache that it’s hard to take offense! He got one of the biggest laughs of the day when he said that ‘Good’ had become the new shit. This certainly rang true for a lot of us listening in the hall. He convinced me of my ‘wrongness’ so much that I shelled out 25 quid for his book before I left the festival.
Going to the Pupil Premium funding session, led by Andrew Morrish, Mary Myatt and Apples and Pears Foundation was a real eye-opener. I have to admit I was doing some metaphorical fist pumping when Andrew said that some of the best work we do with disadvantaged students cannot be measured. The panel were full of useful tips for making effective use of Pupil Premium funding and the audience were asked the question: ‘If Pupil Premium funding ended tomorrow, what interventions would you stop doing? Get rid of those anyway as they’re not worth it.’
Meeting up with Carl Hendrick, head of research at Wellington College, who I haven’t seen since we finished our PGCE. He hasn’t changed a bit and I had several pangs of nostalgia listening him speak to the audience about the role of research in schools. He is such a passionate speaker and is doing great, innovative work with Harvard Graduate School of Education to improve the way schools use and participate in research.
Bumping into Phil Stock on day two of the festival; we ended up having a great geeky chat about all things CPD and he made an excellent lunchtime companion – although he shamed me into buying four new books to read over the summer to keep up with his ferocious reading habits!
And then there was Tom Sherrington. I would work for him in a heartbeat (as would Mel). His values are spot-on. He discussed his efforts in implementing a National Baccalaureate and incorporating the principles in Martin Robinson’s Trivium 21st Century. Listening to Tom speak really does make you believe that the educators of the Heads Roundtable can make a difference to our educational environment. It was touching to see Tom get teary eyed as he ended his presentation with a photo of one of his students enjoying an outdoor adventure experience and learning so much from it that a classroom alone couldn’t give that young man. This moment reminded me of Andrew Morrish’s earlier words about some of our most important work not lending itself to measuring impact in terms of hard data.
As I mentioned earlier in the post, I have collated all of my notes from the two days and am ready to share with colleagues. If you’re interested in finding out more about the speakers discussed in this post, then you can check out my Prezi here.
Thanks to all those involved in making it such a great two days of learning!