Northern Powerhouse #NRocks Education to the Foundation Stones

Having attended yesterday’s Northern Rocks conference I just wanted to blog a few thoughts.

Firstly, I went to the conference with high expectations and without any doubt those expectations were massively exceeded. The buzz throughout the day was infectious, and generated a vibe that lasted well beyond the day. Although I’ve met only a handful of people who attended in person before, I felt amongst friends and colleagues that I knew implicitly. I heard someone mention throughout the day we were the ‘teaching rebels’,  a group of like minded, but challenging professionals that are taking education forward as a group while it’s kicking and screaming.

On entry to the University, we were handed a set of teaching union propaganda, reminding us all, as if was necessary that teaching seems to be in crisis. The propaganda warned of looming austerity cuts; highlighted battle lines being drawn between Leadership Teams, Ofsted, frontline staff and the Government. But was it necessary? I walked through the revolving door and met the people who are passionate about driving through the fog of cuts, targets, accountability and downright denigration of a great profession to make the lives of young people better.

The first session set the scene, a balanced debate, launched by a passionate speech from Kevin Courtney @Cyclingkev the Deputy General Secretary of the NUT. It highlighted again the challenges every school face in modern Britain. The responses from various ‘think tanks’ and academics gave counter balance to the argument, but I had heard it all before. I agree that teaching, the recruitment and retention of staff and austerity are big problems that have to be solved. But how?

The answer is patently clear to me, it’s by days like yesterday. The workshop sessions offered breaths of fresh air into my teaching lungs.

@Cijane02 and @Psychologymarc gave an academically focussed pitch into the world of Growth Mindset. I enjoyed it throughly, because it reminded me of that I am (like almost all teachers) University educated. And using the foundation stones of academic research is essential in a suite of techniques to improve classroom practice.

@Hywel_Roberts was a tour-de-force, he enlightened me, delved deep into my own inner passion about why I teach? Like most teachers, I love working with children, they inspire me as I should inspire them. It was that edge of a seat moment that you so rarely get in a CPD session, it made me tingle and laugh out loud. The #JawsforLearning parody was just sublime.

Hywel’s guarded message about not wanting to work with people who suck the life out of us, reminded me of those who do that in my life, sometimes daily. The message was clear, challenge them, work with them but importantly don’t let them win. Teaching our young people is too important; so we can’t let the zombies win.

@ICTevangelist gave that calmness under pressure that is required when convincing people that embedded use of technology will help in the classroom. The way he developed and engaged the audience so quickly and gave everyone a tangible ‘take away’ idea was just brilliant. I follow Mark avidly on twitter and he was even more engaging in real life.

@MaryMyatt was just a serene voice of knowledge that helped everyone secure their own understanding of the role of Ofsted, but most importantly what they are looking for during an inspection. Her message was clear, plan good lessons, that engage young people and they will progress over time. Your marking and feedback should assist this progress not hinder it.

She rebuked and clarified some of the scare stories that have been peddled over the years, and certainly made me leave the session thinking that Mary Myatt’s view of what Ofsted should be gives hope for the future. Even if as I type this, I have yet to see first hand evidence of that across the entire Ofsted spectrum.

The final session of a fierce debate between the @maryboustedATL and and @harfordsean from Ofsted gave some additional food for thought, but for me felt like it drained some life out of a positive day, fortunately, the entertainment from various twitterati re-generated the positivity within me.

And that is my final point, I tweeted this after the event:

Andy Calvert

@MrACalvert

After #NRocks I’m just reflecting on the massive impact Twitter has had on education. Would a day like today ever have happened without it?

And for me that is it, Twitter has changed the educational landscape, it has opened doors, conversations and developed a team of staff from all parts of the country, that will never let our education system crumble, no matter what.

Thanks to all the organisers and I look forward to #NRocks2016

Andy @MrACalvert