Robert Brooks

Leading Practitioner

Reflections on #LFE15


This blog post is about my reflections on #LFE15. The London Festival of Education was held yesterday at The Institute of Education (IOE). This post highlights key points I learnt from the event and some of the tweets I made or saw during the day.

Before the event

The SLT at my school very kindly got tickets for those of us that wanted to go to the #LFE15 (thanks Richard @rolfster for organising!). This is the second type of #teachmeet #TM event I have been to and it was an invaluable opportunity to listen and talk to national education experts.

Although this was a London Festival of Education event, educators from all across the country came:

le15 before

I then went on the tube and was sat nearby Tristram Hunt @tristramhuntmp and everyone appeared to be oblivious to the fact he was sharing the same tube as them!


On arrival, I registered and then went to the main hall for the introduction of the day.

We then saw some dancing performances by some secondary school students and were welcomed by Chris Husbands, Director of the IOE, @Director_IOE Chris quizzed us all on the content of the new National Curriculum for a short while before the first session started.

Question time

A question time-style event took place in the main hall with Tristram Hunt (Labour) @tristramhuntmp, Natalie Bennett (Green Party) @natalieben and Sam Gyimah (Conservative) @SamGyimah.

Natalie Bennett: Pledges to reduce teacher bureaucracy and warned schools to take care with involving employers as “school is not just preparation for working in local industry.” Natalie is a fan of outdoor education as “we need to give children contact with the natural world for their own wellbeing.” Natalie feels that schools should be offering “learning for life.” Finally, Natalie feels that there should be no tuition fees but Tristram challenged her on this point.

Sam Gyimah: Sam raised the point that the teacher’s ‘hippocratic oath‘ was generally unpopular among teachers. Sam also talked about how a workload survey was completed by many teachers to investigate the concerns into teacher workload further.

Tristram Hunt: Tristram promises stability if Labour come in and the reduction of university tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 per year. Tristram claims that he speaks to many teachers, Headteachers, researchers, universities etc; however he still wanted to implement the  ‘hippocratic oath,’ which was generally unpopular among teachers. Is he really ‘listening’ to us?

Tristram also stated:

My colleague, Alison Morgan, asked an important question:

All of the MPs claimed that they listened to teachers and a variety of sources.

How to be an outstanding teacher – TES Courses

This course was run by Mike Gershon whose resources have been downloaded over 2 million times on TES Resources.

He outlined how the term ‘outstanding’ constantly changes with the change in criteria from Ofsted but how there are seven habits that never seem to change to have ‘outstanding’ teaching.

My summary after hearing this interactive presentation, which involved us as the audience:

  1. Teaching should be based on reasoning, evidence and experience.
  2. AfL guarantees progress if implemented correctly. Make students aware of success criteria to achieve success in tasks. Mike got us to draw a house without giving us success criteria to show how difficult it is to achieve without knowing what is required. Our Assistant Director of Science also showed us this same activity in a CPD session a couple of years ago.
  3. Planning for progress needs to consider Bloom’s Taxonomy, challenge and implementing targets. Therefore students responding to marking is vital. In our school we use green pens to get students to respond to our marking feedback, which was something our Humanities Faculty introduced.
  4. Using differentiation effectively by: words and writing, activities, what the teacher does, what the student does, what the student uses and questioning. High ability pupils (HAPs) should be using concept mapping to link different concepts together, which is a higher order skill. A good point made by another delegate, Jo Flynn (Director of the Keele Science Learning Centre) @ to me was that if you know your students well, you are differentiating.
  5. Understanding your (the teacher’s) expertise by knowing your students/psychology to form good relationships and facilitating effective behaviour for learning. The teacher can also demonstrate their expertise through their subject knowledge and pedagogy.
  6. Leading your students by normalising mistakes to remove this fear that some students tend to have of making them. I remember the Principal at my school informing us at a CPD session that an exercise book with everything marked correct all of the time is not showing progress. All students need to make mistakes from time to time in order to learn.
  7. “The student does not always know best.” Students may moan about repetition but they need to be led and directed, even if it is unpopular to them!
  8. Literacy: words and mind, speaking and listening (use this effectively as students can do this from a very young age before they learn to write) and writing as a technology.
  9. Using confusion to cause learning by asking a question to deliberately confuse the students. This automatically causes them to think and engage with the learning.

I really enjoyed this session and it gave me a lot to think about as a teacher and TLR holder in my school. Thank you Mike Gershon!

The best teacher development, ever! – TES Courses

This session was led by Lord Jim Knight @jimpknight, Helen Fraser @HelenFraserGDST, David Weston @Informed_edu and David Didau @LearningSpy about how to improve teacher development.

An interesting fact to start off with:

Some points I think need to be considered here:

  • Maybe as teachers we are too busy to really focus on a purposeful professional development plan?
  • Maybe teachers need to be given more guidance on a professional development plan?
  • Perhaps some teachers think this is only about performance-related pay now?

At our school, we use BlueSky for our performance management and recording our CPD, professional development and targets. It is easy to use and you can upload evidence with ease.

David Weston made a good point about how teachers’ examination results should also consider other factors:

Jill Berry @jillberry102, an education consultant and former headteacher, made an important point to the panel that leaders need to have the skills to support teaching even if they’re not necessarily the best teachers themselves. “Leaders have to help teachers to be the best teachers they can be.”

Jill also shared with me an article that she wrote for the TES in January 2015 on: Leadership – Give staff a lift by asking for more. This article I found really useful because it talks about changing the language you are using with your teams to get them to think more positively about how to approach an issue. The article also talks about having high expectations and knowing your team’s strengths, whilst giving support too. It was great to meet Jill at the end of the session and she reminded me how complex it is to lead a team and get it right. Jill also kindly shared with me her 5 tips for middle leaders clip from her Oxford Teach Meet:

How to ask conference questions! – Michael Shaw, Journalist and Programme Director for TES Online Learning

At lunchtime, I saw this tweet from Michael Shaw that I thought was a good reminder on how to ask questions at a conference!

Art work at the IOE

During the day, some great Art work was being produced whilst we were at the conference!

Educating audiences: talking outside the box

This session was chaired by Sarah Simons @MrsSarahSimons (a further education lecturer and a columnist/broadcaster for the TES) with the following participants:

  • Vic Goddard @vicgoddard (Principal of Passmores Academy)
  • Jenny Smith @FrederickBremer (Headteacher at Frederick Bremer)
  • Arifa Nasim @arifa_aleem (A Level Student, Campaigner against FGM, Forced Marriage and Honour Based Violence)

I found this session inspirational since I work in a London school myself and it reminded me of the importance of the community that a school serves.

Vic Goddard: Vic spoke passionately about the importance of a community school. He stated that the furthest a student lives away from Passmores Academy is 0.92 miles! Vic talked about how it was important to break down the barrier between the school and the community and to get the community involved.

Beyond examination results, Vic talked about how he thrives on the idea that previous students in the community talk about their school days from their local community school and the impact it has had on their lives. Vic mentioned how, if he is asked what job he does, he replies ‘a teacher’ not a ‘headteacher,’ even though most people know who he is now from #educatingessex!

Vic talked about how he expects all of his teachers to care about the students they teach and he recalled how privileged he feels at Year 6 Open Evening in October when a parent tells him that they want to send their child to his school as this means that the parent is trusting him and that school ‘with their most precious gift.’

Vic also expressed how he felt our political system has too many decision-makers that don’t understand how a community works and how schools should not be blamed for everything and that society has to be accountable too.

Jenny Smith: Jenny gave a very honest account about her experience with the cameras and the media during #educatingtheeastend. Jenny felt she and the school were misrepresented at some points, particularly when the media reduced her down to her shoe collection, which she found ‘insulting.’ Jenny talked about how the programme has reminded her of the importance of her interaction with the students.

Jenny also stated that: 

Jenny recalled how far some students travel to school. Back in 2005 when she was a Deputy Headteacher in Hammersmith, she commuted an hour from Finsbury Park on the Piccadilly Line every day to work. Jenny said that she saw a Year 7 student travelling in the same direction one day and that she did not think about this again until the July 2005 bombings on the Piccadilly Line tubes. On this day, Jenny and many other commuters had to walk from Hammersmith to Finsbury Park. Jenny then thought again about this Year 7 student and what he would think of the issues happening in his community.

Arifa Nasim: Arifa gave a very powerful speech about how she was inspired to campaign against forced marriage. Arifa talked about how the school was able to give her leadership skills and was also asked an excellent question by the chair, Sarah Simons, about what advice/message Arifa could give to teachers.

Arifa asked us to see beyond the student in the classroom and think about what other issues could be affecting their lives. Arifa pointed out to us that she knows many teachers do this already.

Arifa was very supportive to the teaching profession, in that:

I was also pleased to hear how Arifa supports and advocates the Learning to Learn programme and ethos, something which was part of my previous TLR role at my school. Arifa explained the importance of students participating in the teaching and learning process as well as teachers.

I wish Arifa all the best with her campaigning, her A Levels and future career.

Tweets I found useful/interesting from other sessions

Key action points for me after attending today

  1. I will use Mike Gershon’s session on ‘how to be an outstanding teacher’ to review how KS3 Science is taught and learnt by our students.
  2. I will look at Jill Berry’s articles, videos and twitter feeds to help me improve my skills as a TLR holder.
  3. In my own lessons, I am going to ask some deliberate questions to cause confusion so that my students can develop their thinking skills and enhance their learning.
Final point

When I left the IOE, I felt enthused about the presentations I had listened to and the different strategies I can now use in school. As I was quite young during the 2005 bombings and did not live in London before I started teaching, I was unaware that the tube station next to the IOE, Russell Square, was one that was heavily involved in the bombings that Jenny Smith was talking about earlier. As I was taking the tube home, it made me think about what London had to cope with that day and the aftermath.

Overall, an excellent day at #LFE15 and hopefully there will be a #LFE16 to look forward to!


4 thoughts on “Reflections on #LFE15

  1. Pingback: London Festival of Education 2015: The Blogs | A Roller In The Ocean

  2. Thanks Gabriela! Glad you found it useful.

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