London Festival Of Education Report #2

I’m going to steal a literary device from Michael Rosen, who spoke at one of the final sessions at yesterday’s excellent London Festival of Education.

“A few fragments,” he said, starting his short talk on memorable teachers before bringing to life a handful of characters: the teacher who bombarded them with dramatically-performed French literature; Ms Pope, the biology teacher who made them always find a new way to tell their partner what they’d just learned; and his father who gave him the same advice Karl Marx gave his daughter – ‘be curious’.

My fragments, then.

Michael Wilshire arriving with two men carrying attaché cases, and coming across very well indeed. This is despite fact he still clearly believes in an old-fashioned top-down view of excellence: that only leaders can inspire and that it is the job of leaders to make everyone else obey.

Bill Lucas‘ instructive workshop on how parental engagement helps improve schools. “Parental engagement is forgotten territory,” he says, pointing out that 80% of waking hours are spent out of school, and that parental engagement helps raise achievement unequivocally. It has positive social impact and helps shape children’s learning character. “There are two games in town: exams and learning dispositions. You can do both, and if you focus on learning dispositions, your exam results go up.”

The Rebel Teachers workshop: “Make a nuisance of yourself” (Mike Kent); “The government are desperate for solutions. We have to stand up and speak out.” (Martin Latham); “Heads have power. They should speak out, and not be afraid of speaking out.” (Kenny Frederick)

The session on breaking down the achievement gap between middle class and ‘disadvantaged’ young people, with head of Generating Genius, Tony Sewell, speaking persuasively about ignoring class, race and gender to ‘provide young people with a ladder to the moon’.

Remarkable head Bushra Nasir outlining how her school had got 74% of her students achieving at least five A-Cs at GCSE, which including spending £50K on textbooks for GCSE students. Teach First alumni James Toop who is now CEO of Teaching Leaders, suggesting that schools should rename rooms after the universities teachers attended, and that caps and gowns could inspire students to aim for top universities (to be fair, he gallantly expanded on this when I collared him afterwards to find out how this might work, and he said it could help break the cycle of deprivation by helping inspire individuals from families where no-one’s been to university.)

Camila Batmaghelidjh describing how hard it was to receive SEN teaching – and how one teacher recognised what she could do, and worked with her abilities not her disabilities.

Poet (and part of the extended LIVE Magazine family) Bridget Minamore, reading a poem about her favourite teachers – and the one who stopped her writing for a year and a half.

And Michael Rosen, again, to bring us back to the start…

“The fundamental basis of education is talk.”

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