Just had a couple of wonderful days in Glasgow at SLF2008. We have evolved the festival into a showcase for Scottish education over the last 9 years and I think we now have a model that works pretty well with continuous improvement built in by design. This year the focus was very much on Curriculum for Excellence and innovative classroom practice.
The highlights for me this year included:
- The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hislop, responding to questions from the floor of the conference for over 30 minutes. Welcome to living in a democracy and politicians being open to challenge, support and able to hear new ideas that have not been filtered through the civil service or an organisation like LTS. I though she gave a confident and self-assured performance and responded in a very open and supportive way. The video of her keynote is on the SLF2008 website.
- I really enjoyed Charles Leadbetter’s keynote and liked his message that learning is fundamentally about relationships which are strengthened when young people: feel that someone cares for them; they get recognition for who they are and what they have achieved; they get opportunities for meaningful participation; and of course they feel motivated to learn. Charles also reminded us that those most likely to benefit from innovation in education are those least well served by the status quo. Educational reform is at its heart a campaign for social justice.
- TeachMeet08 was wonderful. Over 120 teachers presenting for 2 or 7 minutes on something they have done in a classroom and without promoting products or using powerpoint – it is just so refreshing. I think this SLF fringe event will over time become closer to the core of the festival. This year we had 170 practitioner led seminars. Next year we could add 1,000 mini seminars on the TeachMeet model. This was Ewan McIntosh‘s last TeachMeet in the role of facilitator and he got a very warm send off from the assembled masses.
- Ellen Moir from the University of California, Santa Cruz, was inspirational and again gave me hope for the US education system. Another little glimmer of light peeping through the dark curtain of No Child Left Thinking.
- The exhibition of over 250 suppliers of resources, products, services, cpd into education continues to amaze me. The rich diversity of what was on offer from public, private and voluntary organisations is quite stunning. It is good to see the exhibition, which is organised by Emap Education, starting to reflect the breadth and depth of educational resources and placing ICT into a more realistic context as one among many excellent additions to the repoitoire of the teacher.
- Professor Richard Teese gave a very thoughtful and timely keynote on the risks of curriculum reform. One of his key points was the role of universities in maintaining the status quo – through the qualifications system they ‘substitute the production of success for the prediction of success’, i.e. they use public examinations for young people to provide access for those who are most likely to succeed anyway, often despite the efforts of the university.
- It was great to see how far we have come with Glow over the last year. There is a real buzz at the event about some of the early classroom practice. We have always said that the success of Glow will be down to how teachers and learners choose to use it. We have provided a more secure and stable national online environment, some tools and little support but it’s the creativity of those who use it that will in the end prove its worth.
- Finally, it’s the opportunity to network, collaborate and share that is always a crucial aspect of the festival. We have around 7,000 delegates drawn from all 32 local authorities and I love having the opportunity to meet new people, find out what is happening in the world of learning and of course to bump into my many friends and colleagues from more than two decades in education.
It would be great to hear about your highlights from the festival and anything we should be doing to make it even better. Comment is free!