For the second year running, the Bryanston Education Summit welcomes parents and educators to discuss ‘How can schools move up to the next level of attainment?’
By Dr. David James
A year ago Bryanston School held its first Education Summit. Its theme was ‘delivering a world-class education in turbulent times’. The following day the UK had a general election which seemed to only underline how prescient that theme was. Turbulent times indeed. Things haven’t really settled down since then: Brexit has dominated, the Cold War seems to be returning, and everywhere you look it seems old certainties are changing.
We are living in interesting times. But in times of upheaval it is easy to forget that those things that keep society on track continue to run, day in day out. Trains run, letters are delivered, meetings are held. In the case of schools it appears to be ‘business as usual’: since last year those of us who teach have seen the ongoing change in curriculum (at GCSE and A-Level), plus we have a new Secretary of State, which seems to be an annual tradition for education. But all schools have an inbuilt set of targets which define their progress: they have to get better, and they have to continuously push themselves to see better examination results, better Value Added scores, better-behaved pupils, better teaching. The norm, then, is change and aspiration. All schools, be they comprehensives or academies, independent or maintained, are trying to move up to the next level.
Which is why our theme for the summit this year is just that: how can schools move up to the next level of attainment? I have helped organise educational events for ten years, and I soon learned that although teachers tend to work alone, and schools often exist in their own ‘silos’ (very often because of limited funds, rather than stated policy) if, given the chance, they are allowed to connect with others they welcome it. Talking, exchanging ideas and resources, listening to key figures who are shaping policies, all such activities are the reasons why we hold this event.
This year’s summit will provoke debate. Amanda Spielman, the Chief Inspector of Schools, will outline the way forward for Ofsted, and we will hear from leading voices such as Katharine Birbalsingh who is redefining teaching and learning at Michaela School; Daisy Christodoulou, one of the most influential figures in schools today, will talk about how teachers should change how they assess pupils’ work. And we’ll also hear from Andy Buck and Mary Myatt on the importance of leadership, whilst Ian Fordham, Director of Education at Microsoft (who are supporting the event), will tell the audience how technology will continue to shape learning in the future.
There will be many more contributors joining us for the day. And those who attend to listen to them will come for their own reasons, but all will want to listen and learn. In my experience the best teachers, like the most ambitious students they teach, share that common quality: they are curious about the world around them, and they want to know more. We hope that, by organising our annual Summit, school leaders from a huge range of schools are able, in a small way, to make sense of complex issues. We also hope that the event brings in parents who are increasingly involved in their children’s education: we need their voices, their ideas, to contribute to the debate surrounding schools and universities, and they undoubtedly need to know as much as possible about the trends that are sweeping through classrooms now, changing how teachers teach, and pupils learn. In this knowledge economy our understanding of ideas is the new currency, and education, perhaps more than ever before, will shape the future of our society and the young people that shape it. We hope you can join us, too.