Seizing Success Conference – Day two

seizing-success-tree(Sorry for any grammatical errors but this is written on a phone)
Well, despite a bad experience with Skype and no spare pair of trousers, I enjoyed my first day of the national college conference so I awoke with a spring in my step and ready for day two.
First up a speech by Pam Warhurst about her propaganda gardens as part of her edible incredible scheme. This was fantastic and inspiring and a testament to how far a simple idea can go, if you let it and if you take other people along the way. There were some great ideas here: if you eat: you’re in, sometimes action is more effective without a three year action plan, give people a real opportunity and they will contribute back a future investment worth ten times more, and people don’t,  it turns out, vandalise food. Talking to another head about starting this food for the community idea in our own schools we found ourselves thinking too far ahead. We had to stop and think about Pam’s key message: start small and let it grow and evolve naturally. I can’t wait to see how my own school propaganda garden starts and ends.
Then it was Charlie Taylor, the new chief executive of the national college, who took to the floor to put across his vision for the national college. To say he delivered a clear and concise mesage would be like saying Skype is a reliable replacement for a state of the art satellite link. He began with an anecdote about an inadequate lesson he did as a young teacher, very funny and we’ve all been there. But then he decided to follow this up with a fairly inadequate speech, now this was either nerves or a post modern attempt to allow us to relive the bad lesson experience from his past, looking back I’m still not sure. He mentioned education being school led, then he said something about sharing good practice, then something about governors, then something about ignoring government. All of this whilst drinking more water than I would have thought was humanly possible. (Seriously, don’t get into a drinking competition with Charlie because you will lose.) Maybe Gove had said to him beforehand “Look, I’m on after you and it may be a tough crowd, so do me a favour and make sure I look good’. I can’t be sure. He seems like a nice guy but if you want to find out what he was trying to get at, I suggest you read the blog put out by the national college afterwards.
A chill came over the room and twitter went into a frenzy as people began saying Gove was in the room and indeed he was, not to give a speech but to take part in a q&a session. A mix of agreed in advance questions and ones straight from the floor. As a politician, Gove is always worth the price of admission. To start with he said that he was accountable to all us head teachers; there was a healthy laugh that spread around the room and at that point he actually winked at us, either to say ‘I know, I don’t believe half the stuff I say either but it keeps me amused’ or to say ‘bring it on bitches’. He delivered a professional politician’s performance: talked a lot but didnt really say anything, responded to questions without ever really answering them and managing at times to come across as a ‘listener’. He only offended the room once or twice: ‘think of the children’ got a fairly angry groan and saying that he ‘doesn’t like to look to the past’ got a big laugh and even he seemed to acknowledge that this was pretty funny.
From the pair of them, the gist seems to be that ‘school led’ improvement translates into…you do it on your own without any authority support. If you do really well you should develop by taking on/over other schools, if you don’t do well, then, well, you’ll be supported/taken over by other schools. Gove wants to listen to us but he seems to lack any emotional intelligence. Yesterday Sir Terry Leahy talked about how leaders should trust their employees;  I cant think of another time  where those in education have felt so untrusted by the people in power: those who are meant to be our leading lights.
Anyway, he didn’t shout at us and it was all in fairly good spirits and humour so I didn’t feel too dejected, plus I knew Mick Waters was on at 2.30pm.
And I’m pleased to say he didn’t disappoint. He was so good. Interesting, bang on the money about the wealth of educational potential that is being wasted by a stifling curriculum. He showed us fabulous examples of how children achieved incredible things and how schools are responsible for helping children achieve their potential and learn about the wider aspects of the world. Highlights included using the news to teach the full curriculum;  Mick saying that if he had his time again he would pretend he couldn’t write; and a video clip of him trying to convince a primary pupil that they are called SATS because you do them sitting down: ‘otherwise they’d be called stands wouldn’t they?’ He also provided a far better analysis of Gove’s speech than I have. He got a huge round of applause and I promptly went and bought his book.
Now, I’m off to buy some trousers.

3 thoughts on “Seizing Success Conference – Day two

  1. Jill Berry June 13, 2013 / 8:49 pm

    Really enjoyed reading this as I was at the Conference too and can tune into what you’re saying. I asked MG the question about ‘winning hearts and minds’ which he didn’t answer! Hope you enjoy tomorrow – and the trousers hold up.

  2. jfb57 June 14, 2013 / 8:08 am

    Now you’ve really made me envious! Wish I was still a HT just so I could attend. Love Mick Waters & he never disappoints. glad you saw Gove as a politician with not answering anything. Disappointing about Charlie. He’s been good when I’ve seen him before. Glad you got the wardrobe sorted. Can’t wait to hear about the garden!

  3. headteacher2014 June 15, 2013 / 3:18 pm

    I too was disappointed with Charlie’s speech. Was this a prime example of the college of school leadership leading? Hmmm sadly not. I deeply hope that the college does not just become a mouth piece for government policy – however I suspect my hopes are a bit late. Never mind, as long as they keep the debate open and continue to invovle such inspiration as Mick!
    If Gove were truly to engage then a few days listening to the common sense coming from a wide range of speakers would go a long way!
    It is time for Gove to enter the debate publicly with some of those who talk such sense.

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