I remember an occasion early in my teaching career when I went to try to see my headteacher at the end of a school day. His secretary (there were no PAs in those days) told me that he was ‘on a course’ after school every Wednesday. As a young teacher, I was impressed that senior professionals were still committed to their own learning. It was some time before I discovered he was playing golf.
We used to separate professional development and enjoyment. One of the great things about the London Festival of Education is that it puts them back together. This year’s LFE – here at the IOE on 28 February – is another vibrant, buzzing treasure house of debate to stimulate you, workshops to enhance your practice, entertainment to engage you: great speakers, great sessions, fabulous festival food for the stomach and the mind. No other event this year will offer as much in so concentrated a space.
LFE 2015 is an opportunity to debate education as we approach a momentous election, so we have leading politicians from all the parties to try to persuade you of their vision for the future of schools and children’s learning. There is also hard-edged discussion of the issues which lie just behind the noise of political headlines – what should be done about struggling academies? Whose job is it to fix social mobility? What should be next for schools in London and further afield? What’s the balance between accountability and trust? Should schools build knowledge or develop skills? And we’ll set all this in an international context by placing one of the world’s leading education policy academics, Stephen Ball, in conversation with one of the world’s leading education policymakers, Pasi Sahlberg.
LFE is grounded in London: in London’s challenges, London’s successes and London’s teachers. So we have masterclasses from great London heads, we debate the challenge – and excitement – of the diversity in London’s schools, and we consider the future for one of the world’s great urban school systems. We look at learning in its broadest sense – from early years, through schools, to the transition to work and higher education, and we have drawn together an unrivalled line-up of professionals and practitioners, learners and thinkers for argument, development and debate.
And LFE is about making a practical difference – thinking about the place of creativity in the classroom and how to get it, about how to use the opportunities of assessment change to drive success for learners, about how to get the best, top grades for young people in schools. It will explore how to handle challenging behaviour and how to help young people navigate adolescence, and will focus on well-being and multi-lingualism.
What makes LFE distinctive – or so we think – is the way it will set the voices of politicians and professionals against the voices of youth – their expectations, their dreams, and their futures. So we will be screening ‘Irons in the Fire’ – the award-winning film narrated by Idris Elba and hearing responses from young Londoners. We’ll hear about young people’s experiences of youth mentoring. We’ll hear from the BRIT Award shortlisted George the Poet and we’ll ask whether rap has a place in improving learning. LFE’s ‘hack fest’ will showcase the talents of young computer programmers.
LFE is like no other education event – vibrant, noisy – a bit unpredictable, with the unexpected around every corner. Someone wrote after LFE2012 that the festival had ‘redefined public engagement’. In 2015, we want LFE to do the same – there’s no better place to be on Saturday February 28th – be there for education’s most distinctive festival for urban education. But no golf.