“Very interesting, enjoyable and relevant from start to finish” |The TSSW Virtual Summer Conference | Wednesday 1 July 2020
Remodelled in its social distancing Covid-19 virtual format, over 270 delegates participated in this not-for-profit second TSSW conference. Executive Lead (Executive Principal of Kingsbridge Community College) Roger Pope welcomed delegates and presented Teaching Schools South West as one of the Department for Education’s six national pilot Hubs at the forefront of the school-led system supporting 317 schools across Devon, Torbay and Plymouth. After three months of enforced change to action for the future, he reinforced that the next phase is to “re-imagine” how education can be even better in the future and set the tone for the conference.
Renowned Emeritus Professor of Educational Psychology at the Open University of the Netherlands, Professor Paul Kirschner led the keynote speeches. Amongst his string of many academic accomplishments and accolades, Professor Kirschner is Guest Professor at the Thomas More University of Applied Science in Mechelen, Belgium and owner of kirschner-ED. See here to read more about his profile.
Taking Einstein’s quotation as the title of his talk, “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants,” Professor Kirschner explored what Educational Psychology tells us about good teaching. Essentially: “if you don’t know why you’re doing something then you have no idea if what you’re doing means anything,” as he took delegates on a cognitive and educational psychology journey, introducing theorists: David Ausubel Charles Reigeluth, Alan Beddeley and Graham Hitch, Allan Paivio and John Hattie.
With easy-to-relate-theory to classroom practice, delegates were encouraged about using all the senses to aid memory retrieval, both verbal/non-verbal systems, and processing deeply to access deep learning in this stimulating start to the conference.
Professor Becky Francis, Chief Executive Officer of the Education Endowment Foundation (EEF) led her keynote on “Using Evidence to Narrow the Gap” – of particular pertinence following school closures in an unprecedented time for the teaching profession. Professor Francis was previously Professor of Education and Social Justice at King’s College London, Director of Education at the RSA and Standing Advisor to the Parliamentary Education Select Committee.
The impact of academic research has always been integral to her work, working with teachers and policy-makers and since 2011, over half of national schools have collaborated in the largest programme of educational research funded by the Education Endowment Foundation to identify the most effective ways to raise the attainment of disadvantaged children as evidence in practice.
Four months on from the lockdown, the figures were stark. If work with Pupil Premium students over the past ten years has gone a long way to narrowing the gap, Professor Francis discussed the sad reality that the effects of school closures on disadvantaged children are likely to have reversed this positive process. Anticipated to be most significant in Maths and for younger children, she advocated “a concentrated collaborative holistic programme” to compensate. EEF evidence supports the holy educational trinity of: good teacher quality, targeted academic support and wider strategies of social and emotional (holistic) support.
Associate Professor in Sociology at the London School of Economics, in his keynote, Sam Friedman examined, “The Class Ceiling: Why it Pays to be Privileged” and has published widely on class, culture and social mobility and is a Commissioner at the Social Mobility Commission. His current work is on a new project looking at the historical development of the British elite, drawing on the entire 120-year database of Who’s Who.
Sam questioned the premise whether getting ahead is a matter of merit and hard work – or whether, it can be attributed to class background. “The Class Ceiling” used 175 interviews from four occupational case studies in: television, accountancy, architecture, and acting. Findings demonstrated the four main drivers of the class pay gap were: the “Bank of Mum and Dad” as a financial cushion against risks; sponsorship bringing through younger staff in an organisation; dominant behavioural codes, in how people perform in working environments and self-elimination of socially mobile, when people fully embrace “culpable aspects” into their social life.
Even if Dr Friedman noted that sociologists are inclined to diagnose rather than solve – looking at how to break the class ceiling, he acknowledged that it is important to measure, monitor and publish and to start a conversation to ensure that everyone’s voice is valued.
With the curriculum all the more significant in the post-Covid-19 return, as the final keynote, Christine Counsell’s talk, “Shaping a Powerful Curriculum: Knowledge, Literacy and Inclusion” was especially relevant. An Education Consultant and previously a Senior Lecturer at The University of Cambridge with responsibility for the History PGCE; Ms Counsell specialises in supporting schools, partnerships, Trusts and Teaching Schools in curriculum and teacher development. Her extensive experience includes working with the Department for Education, Local Authorities and Ofsted; she is editor of Teaching History and recently joined the David Ross Education Trust as Trustee.
Looking at SATs reading passages, Ms Counsell explored research about how children learn to read and decode and demonstrated the importance of knowledge in transforming the achievement and experiences of the disadvantaged pupil. Cognitive Science work on memory refers to chunking and joining up words and concepts into schemata so that children can read more fluidly through association. With cognisance of key Ofsted terms “scope,” “coherence,” “vigour” and “sequencing” Ms Counsell reiterated how sequencing the curriculum is vital and links across subjects can increase long-term memory capacity and reading speeds.
Motivating and thought-provoking workshops led by a wide range of experienced and expert professionals and senior leaders addressed key educational topics. What Does Key Stage 3 Assessment Look Like When the Curriculum is the Progression Model? Some Practical Solutions for Secondary Leaders (Christine Counsell, Education Consultant); TNT – Trauma Needs Talking About. Exploding the Myth of Trauma in Children (Mark Escott, Life Chance Education); Improving Boys' Attainment (Mark Roberts, Assistant Principal at Tavistock College); Looking Through the Keyhole into the Boardroom (Naureen Khalid, Trustee and Governor); Evaluating and Improving Impact: Working Out What's Working in the Classroom (Joe McGinn, Head Of School Partnerships at ImpactEd); Improving Performance in a New Educational Landscape (Adam Reed, Director Of School Improvement at TT Education); and Tackling the Challenges of Curriculum Design (Chloe Wardle, Fellow, Learning Design at Ambition Institute).
“Retro Rules for Classroom Conduct” by John Stanier, Assistant Headteacher at Greater Torrington School was founded on the premise that behaviour policy often kicks in once the bad behaviour has happened; with prevention better than cure. John advocated a more knowledge-focused approach and harked back to the work of educational theorist Jacob Kounin’s 1970s research “Discipline and Group Management in Schools” who came up with the top five effective qualities from his observations of teachers: With-it-ness, Overlapping, Momentum, Smoothness and Group Focus.
Deputy Head at Charles Dickens Primary School, Jemima Rhys-Evans’s workshop “Reduce Workload to Improve Outcomes” was timely with the risk that too many teachers leave the profession within their first five years and she endorsed happy, motivated and rested teachers with energy to do more besides teaching. With onerous marking top of the list in a workload survey she referred to EEF’s 2016 Marked Improvement research that recommends live marking, self and peer assessment, whole class feedback and one-to-one small group conferencing. As one child said, “you can’t talk to a page of marking.”
With another look at the curriculum, Interim Director of English Mastery, Nick Wallace’s workshop on “Curriculum 101: Best Bets in Designing, Discussing and Delivering your Dream Curriculum” considered the transition from Key Stage 3 to 4 and how a standardised curriculum can have a positive influence. Features included keeping it simple, start at the end (main outcomes), get disciplinary (subject specialism is important), implementation is all, beware of cognitive overload and empower everyone to discuss the curriculum.
With resilience all the more essential in this post-Covid-19 phase PSHE SLE and Senior Project Lead at Sidmouth College Lisa Whitworth’s workshop on Building Resilient Learners was a must. She referenced the "My Big Life" life skills resources developed by Five Areas based on cognitive behaviour therapy work to help break young people’s cycle of avoidance and develop resilience; ultimately increasing attendance and well-being. Lisa is currently leading a Year 7 programme next Spring or Summer working with Five Areas and the Universities of Exeter and Sussex.
Even its virtual conference format, discussion was evident in the chat boxes and it was great to see colleagues asking questions, sharing and reflecting together.
Director of TTSW Martin Smith ended the conference with grateful thanks to all the presenters for their keynotes and workshops – not least in adapting so swiftly and effectively to the virtual conference format. He thanked Mark Drew and Robin Scott at Exeter Consortium Teaching School Alliance for organising the conference (again in its virtual format), working with Alex Wren at video production company Bitpod and the wider TSSW Team for their support and encouragement. And finally, a thank you to sponsors Computeam for all their support, and who are currently working with the Department for Education on educational innovations, including a G-Cloud Platform, Google for Education and Microsoft Teams.
In the spirit of TSSW partnership and collaboration working with Teaching School Alliance partners, schools and networks, Martin commended everyone for participating in the conference: “being together in mind, if not in person."
Feedback from the sessions:
“Very interesting and informative, backing up my understanding of the latest research.”
“Very important points made in a manner which was very understandable.”
“Made me think and I found it very relevant to what we are doing with our curriculum.”
“Great simplified refresher for experienced staff. Humorous and engaging delivery. Really useful for new staff who are rarely equipped with these fundamentals from ITT.”