On 14th May something very special if not unique took place in the world of British education.
More than 2000 teachers and school leaders participated in what may have been the largest virtual conference to have taken place in the UK. In Wales a parallel conference increased this number to around 3000. Another conference for hundreds of post 16 school and college leaders and teachers will follow a similar format shortly.
The purpose of the conference was to bring together a community of education professionals to share ideas and experiences about the kinds of topics that are exercising everyone. Topics like Year 6-7 transition, planning the curriculum in the context of school closures, assessment at KS4 and supporting NQTs. A number of motivational videos for schools to share with their students were shown together with summaries of excellent resources which have been shared with schools during recent weeks.
None of the speakers pretended to have all of the answers. In many ways the conferences raised the questions schools need to consider enabling those who know what is best for their communities to decide what might be of use. During the presentations a live chat collected these questions which were followed up in a live question and answer session. That chat also collected and shared a treasure trove of ideas and suggestions from participants. In the afternoon panel sessions with school leaders followed up the presentations.
Quite apart from this specific content this conference was about a community of professionals who care for each other’s wellbeing and are passionately committed to helping each other to do everything in their power to support the children and families in their communities. During the day we were reminded about some of the heart-rending circumstances in which some of those children are currently existing.
Before the pandemic this conference would have taken place in Central Hall Westminster. It would have been organised by the same small operational team at a fraction of the cost of most similar events. As today the educational content would have been led and organised by current and recently serving school teachers and leaders. Amazingly this same extraordinarily talented team brought about the transformation of that event into an online version. An impressive achievement by any measure.
There were further unusual characteristics to this event:
- No advertising took place other than via social networks and electronic messages to the members of this community.
- All of the presenters were broadcast or recorded remotely mainly from their homes.
- They were all teachers, school leaders or members of the organisation’s specialist team.
- There was no media coverage, nor was that sought.
- This was not a commercial event. It was funded entirely by membership subscriptions and a small amount of business sponsorship.
Although the event would have taken place a stone’s throw from the DFE offices officials have never wished to be involved. This was a genuine example of system leadership in a self-improving school led system. At a time when everyone could feel rather lonely this strong community provided much needed companionship, inspiration and support as well as knowledge and resources for schools to use.
Although the feedback has been extremely positive none of us involved with this would pretend to have got everything right nor would we pretend to have all of the answers. Participants have already submitted suggestions for improvements and future events which those of us on the strategy team will be considering carefully next week.
Schools are navigating through an immensely challenging time. As someone a step removed from the immediate job of running a school I have been in awe of their efforts and commitment and I have to say angry at those who fail to recognise what they have been doing. School leaders know what is right for their children and their families and will continue to do their utmost to help them.
I know I am far from alone in feeling privileged to be part of the PiXL Club . This week that organisation has signposted the way to a future of golden opportunities for us to seize when this terrible crisis is over.
For further information about the PiXL club see http://www.pixl.org.uk @pixlclub