Today’s blog is by Anne Weinhold, Senior Brand Manager at the Autumn Publishing Group, a sister company to Hot Key and part of Bonnier Publishing. She likes debating education, the greater schemes of things and eats about 8 apples a week.
Earlier this month, I joined hundreds of educators at London’s Institute of Education for its first Festival of Education. I went there because I hoped to speak to practitioners to better understand their needs and gaps for resources and materials. The day was filled with workshops and seminars, peppered with interesting culinary encounters with Austrian street food specialist Fleischmob and a jelly bean candy store.
A definite highlight of the day was an investigative discussion with Michael Gove, who started off the festival in a rather confident tone, elaborating on the recent successes of the government’s introduction of academies, free schools and new exam structures.
I spent the day sitting in on a teacher training seminar organised by the Real Ideas Organisation (RIO), followed by a talk about using digital technology in the classroom. The latter was an eye-opener. While the speakers in the room, amongst them Mozilla Foundation’s very eloquent Doug Belshaw, were advocating the use of digital devices and software as part of the learning experience, some practitioners still seem to have difficulty deciding on and using the best new technologies in their classrooms.
For me, the day felt a bit like eavesdropping on an industry that I would normally only be closely involved with as a parent, a student or a partner. Sitting in the midst of a group of teachers, who were picking apart speakers and presentations, made me realise just how many guidelines, tools, new products and ideas as well as governmental pointers are out there to be grappled with. And I began to wonder how the public pressure to succeed as an institution and climbing the recently published OFSTED league tables would influence those who have gone into teaching because of their passion for educating children and young people.
A somewhat quieter counterpoint to the otherwise challenging discussions was a talk about “slow education”, led by one of its UK key proponents Mike Grenier. Next to “slow food” and “slow travel”, “slow education” aims to go at a slower pace within mainstream education. The team at Matthew Moss High School opened their presentation with a rather controversial statement by the Prime Minister of Singapore. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong recently urged pushy parents to “back off,” and asked them to let their children have a childhood. Moss High School takes this philosophy seriously, and has put this idea into practice via peer-to-peer pupil led teaching sessions and student-teacher collaboration in establishing learning goals and creating lesson plans.
The second, and closing highlight of the day was a talk with bouncing-up-and-down Michael Rosen, author of such glorious collections as “Centrally Heated Knickers”, being calmly responded to by Anthony Horowitz, creator of the Alex Rider series. The talk was entitled “How can we stop killing the love of reading?” and the discussion was much in the same tone as its title, ending with Mr Rosen stepping off the stage after having most vigorously proposed completely scrapping the new phonics reading test, and after naming and shaming those who set it up in the first place.
The festival itself, I would say, was a great success for me as a listener and participant. What I understood after the day was that it’s not so much about the gaps, necessarily, but about us as a publisher making our products relevant and useful for teachers almost instantly. But you can only do that with an insider’s view, I think, and with a large pool of people from across the country giving different perspectives from their schools. I hope one day we can have a Bonnier Publishing school day or a road show, visiting schools and actually getting to know the processes and challenges there if our aim is to gain credibility and an audience in the educational market.