On Saturday 28 February some of us at A New Direction had the opportunity to take part in this year’s London Festival of Education which took place at the Institute of Education.
I was excited to attend the event as it was my first time at the Festival and I had so many expectations.
As soon as I arrived, I was amazed and also a little overwhelmed with the line-up for the day and with all the conferences, debates, workshops and activities happening in one single building. It was hard to choose what to attend, everything seemed interesting and useful but at the end of the day I had to make a choice.
My day started with the Education ‘Question Time’ debate which was mainly focused on how the major political parties will shape education and it was led by Natalie Bennett from the Green party, Sam Gyimah from the Conservative party and Tristram Hunt from the Labour party. Teachers had the chance to express their views and thoughts about education in London and ask questions to the different political parties.
Promoting well-being in schools
The second session I attended about children & young people and their well-being at school. The session was led by Catherine Roche, CEO of Place2Be – a health charity that provides services to primary and secondary students – and psychologist & activist Sue Roffey.
Both panellists highlighted how important is to think and talk about children and young people’s well-being in schools, how vital the role of schools and staff is in understanding this issue, as well as head teachers integrating this into the school approach.
‘We all want children to flourish and thrive and one of the most important things we can teach them in life is to ask for help’.
‘Teachers do make a difference in children's life. Kids need to feel they belong and matter, excluding them will impact their inclusion in society’, said Catherine.
I found the session very interesting and got me thinking
about how important young people’s wellbeing is in order to achieve and develop
their aspirations and goals in life.
Irons in the fire
After the well-being session I couldn’t miss the chance to go to the screening of Irons in the fire as I have heard good comments and reviews about it.
The TV documentary is a call for more creative opportunities for London's 'at-risk' youth to transform their lives. It celebrates 5 young people, and the 5 organisations who have helped them discover a passion that will shape their lives. And it’s a great way to celebrate innovation in London’s youth.
The screening was followed by a debate led by young people that work with Bigga Fish. The discussion focused more on promoting youth mentoring in London, its achievements and creative opportunities for young people in a city as diverse and creative as London.
It was great to hear and think about some of the views from the teachers in the audience. They put a lot of emphasis on how organisations should give young people more opportunities to develop and put into practice work skills and get some experience in the real world.
Keeping creativity alive in the curriculum
One of the most interesting sessions I attended on that day was the one about creativity and the curriculum. There was so much food for thought, the line-up of panellists was very interesting and the debate sparked so many interesting conversations.
The aim of the discussion was to share views and thoughts about the value of creativity for children’s learning and development in and outside the classroom.
Teresa Cremin from The Open University presented a few key recommendations on creativity and learning particularly about how creativity can be seen as a collaborative activity that can be develop and practice with someone else. It was also interesting to hear how vital is to develop, exercise and practice our own creativity.
“If we all practice the habit of creativity we can become a
more creative nation”, Teresa highlighted.
James Biddulph, headteacher of the University of Cambridge Primary School (which is a free new school opening in September) emphasised that schools in the country need to develop creativity in the classroom as well as develop creative practitioners.
‘We need to give kids and teachers a space to release that inner creative voice’, he said.
I was also struck by something that Clare Sandling (writer and activist) mentioned towards the end of the session about the importance of creativity in everyone’s life;
‘Creativity helps us with all the experiences we are going through. It gives children and young people the resilience that they can use when they go on with the rest of their lives’.
This made me think how important is to give kids the chance to free up their own creativity, to give them the spaces and opportunities for that, not only in the schools but in everyday life.
Learnings from London – the issues still affecting schools in London and beyond
The last session I went to, gave me a lot of food for thought and made me think more widely about London and the issues that are affecting schools and education.
Fergal Roche CEO of The Key - an organisation that provides leadership and management support to schools - led the conversation and highlighted very succinctly some of the issues education is facing currently, from which I think the most interesting from AND’s work are:
Ofsted ratings are not reflecting what a school looks like today
There are a lot of concerns from teachers that inspections and ratings are not accurately reflect what is going on in schools.
The New policies and the new curriculum are causing concerns
There is not much confidence from schools leaders that any particular political party has politicians that addresses the issues in the sector and actually improve them.
At the end of the day, I was very pleased to have taken part in the event, which for me was more than a day full of creative expressions, creative activities and discussions but a genuine interest and concern in making things better and creating a better future for children and young people. I definitely look forward to next year’s Festival!