‘Who would give up their Saturday to talk about education?’ This was the question put to Chris Husbands by his wife, prior to the inaugural London Festival of Education, held at the Institute of Education (iOE) this weekend. The answer it seems was ‘Many…over 1500’, as witnessed by the long queues at the registration desks and the numbers in the main auditorium.
Michael Shaw, Deputy Editor at the TES, provided the welcome, while also inadvertently starting the game of ‘spot the educational cliché’. Michael then introduced Amber, a Year 10 student from Camden who spoke eloquently and passionately about linking past hopes and experiences to future ones.
Discussing what an educated person looks like, Michael Gove, in conversation with David Aaronovitch, was given an easier ride than anticipated. However, he did manage to provoke the audience with some glib comments, most notably, “You can’t have teaching without assessment because otherwise it’s just play.”
The only downside to the incredibly diverse programme was the dilemma it created; which session should be attended? Luckily, the world of Twitter and #LFE2012 ensured regular, often humorous, updates as to what was happening in the other sessions.
Personal highlights included the inimitable Tim Brighouse, who according to Tony Parkin, proved to be the perfect antidote to Gove.
Quoting Temple, Tim asked:
Are we going to treat children as they are, or how they might be?
Word after word of wisdom followed, including the statement:
Young people should be taught to think for them selves and act for others.
Understandably, there was great anticipation surrounding the presence of John Hattie, who was able to add a global dimension. However, it was Pasi Sahlberg who really gave educators hope as he shared lessons from Finland, rather than Singapore, whose virtues had been extolled by Gove. Pasi told the audience:
Learning has to be goal-oriented, contextual and cumulative.
He also gained a round of applause for recommending we keep the politicians out of the process of education reform.
While Lord Adonis plugged his latest book on the main stage, I attended the Rebel teachers’ workshop. during which the audience were reassured and entertained by Kenny Frederick, Mike Kent and the extremely witty Martin Latham. It was a case of standing room only in the same room, as Sir Michael Wilshaw took to the microphone, ready to share the views of Ofsted. Wilshaw was on a charm-offensive and he was remarkably successful, generating applause rather than the scorn that people had anticipated. That said, there were murmurings over his London-centric view of the education system. Admittedly, it was billed as the London Festival of Education, but I think he could have recognized that there are outstanding schools in other parts of the UK who are equally able to share ideas, innovations and inspirations.
Elsewhere, Anthony Horowitz was urging the audience to “Forget what happens outside your [school] walls because the Government will continue to be idiots.” Anthony was discussing ways to stop killing the love of reading with Michael Rosen. Michael also featured in the final session, ‘What do the Best Teachers Share?’ Judging by Michael’s responses and those of his fellow panelists, the answer is not just passion, it is the space to talk…something we also need to give to our learners.
The event also provided plentiful opportunities to catch up with friends from various fields of learning, as well as make new acquaintances. Thank you once more to the fellow educators, presenters and event organisers. Looking forward already to next year for the second London Festival of Education.