Day two at the festival started with Rt Hon Nick Gibb MP – Minister of State for school Standards.
Well I don’t know what country he was talking about, but it didn’t seem very familiar to me. If our ministers are so out of touch of what is really happening in our schools’ then how can we expect change. According to Nick, everything is great, and we have achieved so much over the 10 years. Not wanting to be negative, I am sure there has been some great improvements but the feeling in the room was not very positive.
Nick seemed to set my morning up to follow the same thread. My next session was on Research to support the teaching of children with dyslexia, apparently phonics is the way to help them. Different fonts, coloured paper or word spacing have no scientific value. Several people walked out, and several argued with the Associate Professor. Dyslexia is a complex subject and there is no “one size” fits all. There are people out there who understand and then there are others that don’t. Disappointing.
“Why I like noisy classrooms” was the next one. This was interesting and about the use of oral questioning skills in lessons. Getting critical thinking and debate happening in the classroom from reception upwards. I really like the idea, but it was being trailed in a group of independent schools with small class size. When asked how this would work in a state school with classes of over 30 no one could answer.
After another lunch in the sunshine it was off to my final two lectures. Firstly, we had “A journey from tragedy to legacy” by Dr Neville Lawrence OBE.
Well this was someone with great presence and he had the whole room in silence. Quietly spoken he talked about forgiveness and then about the importance of second chances and education. He was asking schools to find a way of not excluding students and give them guidance to finding a purpose. He believed education gives opportunity to those who feel there is nothing for them and we must work together to give everyone equal opportunities.
I don’t know how we get to this place but as I see more collaboration between independent and state schools, grammar and comprehensive schools then perhaps we open the door to more opportunities for all.
To end the day, I attended “A whole school’s approach to emotional well-being and why it’s a win, win! By Dr Zoe Brownlie.” For me it was the best session of the whole two days. Dr Brownlie, clinical psychologist, together with healthy minds in Sheffield are working on helping children over come their stress and anxiety. Helping them develop their emotional well being and resilience not just for school but for life. The programme is designed to help children manage and understand their feelings and give schools the tools to support this. With mental health issues becoming a major problem for our younger generation I was impressed with the work that Dr Brownlie was doing. All great ideas that will be easy to use with students overcoming anxiety.
I had a great two days and will definitely attend again. The setting was brilliant, but I think quite a lot of the attendees and exhibitors were geared towards independent schools. How easy it would be to get the number and calibre of speakers to a state school, only time would tell? I also left with the sense of the gap between a state school and a fee-paying school like Wellington. If I had the money to send my children to a college like Wellington, would I? Probably. Excellent quality education should be for everyone and our Government must start investing in our teachers and make it the profession people strive to be in.
I look forward to next years Education Festival, where ever it may be held.