Speakers including the Poet Laureate, Simon Armitage, acclaimed children’s author, Michael Rosen, and a host of education pioneers provided fresh insight and inspiration for teachers and service providers from all areas of the education sector at the 2022 Bryanston Education Summit held earlier this month.
With a record number of delegates, the wide range of presentations at the event focussed on the challenges and opportunities for providing children with the transferable skills and qualities to achieve fulfilment in an ever-changing society and workplace.
In his opening address to Summit delegates, Richard Jones, Head of Bryanston, emphasised the importance of energising and enthusing young people so they are comfortable with change and well-equipped to take uncertainties in their stride. Richard says: “Faced with constant change and rapidly evolving technologies, teachers and parents have no way of knowing what jobs their children will have in the years ahead, so we need to look beyond outdated systems that focus so much on exam marks and traditional areas of technical competence.”
He continues: “Resilience, adaptability, inquisitiveness, imagination and an ability to think for one’s self are all qualities that will not only be front of mind for tomorrow’s employers but will also be fundamental for personal happiness and well-being. This poses quite a challenge for today’s teachers all over world. But, by embracing such targets and acknowledging the unknowns, we can fine tune the learning experience of our pupils so they are more able look to the future with confidence and have every opportunity to live happy and fulfilling lives.”
In a rousing presentation, Michael Rosen expressed surprise at becoming a social media sensation as a “nice Grandad” with his ‘hot potato’ meme. He highlighted the value of rhythm in the use of language and the importance of leaving scope for interpretation and imagination by not trying to say everything. The considered use of language, particularly in the wake of the pandemic, was followed up by several other speakers who referred to the unhelpful and counterproductive nature of terms such as ‘catch-up learning’ and ‘missed education’.
“Such terminology is not in synch with how learning happens,” said registered psychologist, Bradley Busch. “These terms promote anxiety and put pupils – and teachers – under even more pressure at the very time they are looking for reassurance, inclusion and community. Yes, these may be challenging times for children, their parents and their teachers, but it’s not all a case of running from behind or fire-fighting. Far from it. There is no doubt, however, that the fundamentals of teaching and teacher development beyond the academic world have never been more important for delivering deeper and more proactive support for pupils in areas such as mental health, self-awareness and child welfare.”
“Evidence shows that the term and concept of “learning loss” to be inaccurate,” added education expert Daisy Christodoulou. “A better description would be ‘learning decay’, but there are clear signs that children are bouncing back from the interruption to their education.”
Sally Wilson, Head of Blandford School, pointed to the value of peer-to-peer mentoring to help restore balance between extracurricular, academic and wellbeing activities as a result of the disruption to school life during the pandemic. She referenced the inspiring work of another speaker at the Summit, Natasha Eeles, the founder of the Bold Voices social enterprise that is helping to prepare and empower school communities to recognise and tackle gender inequality and gender-based violence. Similar themes for developing and maintaining a positive classroom culture and a progressive sense of community were further developed by many of the other speakers including Mark Finnis, Peter Radford, Alex Lewis, Christian Saenger, James Shone, Chloe Mills, Oliver Caviglioli and Kevin George.
Simon Armitage highlighted the value of poetry as a useful means for teaching literature and exploring the use of language, but he also said that having time to daydream is an essential requirement for creative thinking. Transformation and mentoring specialist, Alastair Creamer, went further and talked about the importance of curiosity and the value of reflection and personal interpretation. “Such qualities are as important for young people on their educational journey as they are for teachers who are overseeing the learning experience,” he said. “We all learn more from the tough times than the good times in our lives, so the need for reflection is vital if we are to embrace the inevitability of change and be prepared for a future where there are so many uncertainties.”
David Weston, an expert on leadership and teacher development, continued this line of thought and added that “teachers must be given the time to wrestle with new ideas and challenges if they are to provide pupils with a relevant, responsive and forward-looking learning experience.”
Other areas of the creative process were covered by poet and inclusion consultant, Louisa Adjoa Parker, and in an entertaining presentation by musician and mathematician, Ben Sparks. The popular TV commentator Afua Adom also pointed to the need for effective parent/teacher engagement as well as the importance of creativity in career choices and the benefits of diversity and self-expression in the workplace.
The Bryanston Education Summit 2022 featured presentations based on three core areas – Teaching and Learning, Creativity and Wellbeing. “We’re delighted with the positive feedback from delegates,” says Bryanston’s William Ings who oversaw the organisation of this year’s Summit. “Our aim was to create an event that would inspire, engage and motivate teachers and educationalists. The Summit provided a long overdue opportunity for everyone to be together in one place where they could listen to the views and thoughts of a diverse range of respected commentators and share ideas and experiences with peers.”