London is one of the most vibrant, diverse and innovative cities in the world -for education as it is for so many other things. With 42 universities, 400 secondary schools and 3,000 primaries, where the students and pupils speak some 150 languages, London’s educational voice is distinctive and important. How better to celebrate and explore London’s education than in a festival?.
The first London Festival of Education will take place here at the IOE on Saturday, 17 November. It is a fantastic line up. It will bring together practitioners, policy makers, parents, politicians and pedagogues, not to mention students and children. There will be big name speakers ranging from popular authors Anthony Horowitz and Michael Rosen to Kids Company founder Camila Batmanghelidjh to the world-leading education guru John Hattie to get the neurons firing. And there will also be fun: workshops on teaching as performance by the National Theatre, a rebel teacher workshop, dance and a hula hoop troupe, not to mention the Make a Model Michael Gove stand (the real thing will lead the opening session; I wonder if he’ll take the opportunity to make a model of himself).
At no other education event this year will you be able to enjoy so rich or varied a range of speakers, debates, experiences and ideas. You can move from listening to world-leading thinkers to looking at stunning films by secondary pupils, from debating the drivers of quality teaching to joining the ukulele sessions, from a behaviour management clinic to exploring the Raspberry Pi.
For the IOE, this festival is a new way of doing what we have always tried to do: engaging the public with exciting ideas. One of the central themes of the day is: What does an educated person look like? According to Wikipedia, the last person who knew everything was Thomas Young (1773-1823), although this is contested by some. Described as an “English polymath”, he made notable scientific contributions and made headway with deciphering the Rosetta Stone. Since then, there has been too much knowledge in the world for any one person to contain, so each individual, and society as a whole, has to make choices.
As we await the new primary curriculum, expected to be fact-packed, Michael Gove will talk about his views on the educated person in conversation with journalist David Aaronovich. We won’t leave it there, though. The conversation will be extended to everyone in the audience, as panellists Tim Brighouse – former London schools commissioner, Munira Mirza, deputy London mayor for education, Vic Goddard, from Educating Essex and Camila Batmanghelidjh add their ideas to the pot. Anthony Seldon will lead a final session exploring what qualities the best teachers share – if anything. We’ve sessions on the GCSE debate, on the role and focus of OFSTED, on the quality of higher education – in all over 70 speakers, spilling out from a main stage into debate spaces, master classes and innovation spaces. The IOE has been leading education for over a century – but we have never done anything like this before.
At the end of the day, we hope every festival-goer will feel more educated, more stimulated and glad they came. Working with our lead partner, the TES, we hope to make this entertaining and stimulating festival an annual – and unmissable — fixture in the education year.