I was the director of the Sunday Times Wellington College Festival of Education for six years. In that time it grew from something medium-sized to something very big indeed. There were many reasons for this: it became increasingly well-known, we brought in a professional event management team, and Wellington, under the headship of the charismatic and determined Sir Anthony Seldon, remained totally committed to supporting it. It also remained true to one of its original ideas: namely, that it would be serious and fun. I made no apologies for including various Secretaries of State and Katie Price (talking about raising a child with learning difficulties) on the same list of speakers. And if Tinie Tempah wanted to talk to young people about why education is so important we were happy to provide him with a platform. I’m delighted to see it continues to go from strength to strength, this time with a new media partner.
But anyone who has been involved in running a big event that takes place (mostly) outdoors in this country knows that making it a success often depends as much on luck as judgment. As the Festival approached I used to watch the sky as fearfully as Chicken-Licken.
The last Festival I was involved in had Carol Dweck and Ken Robinson headlining (with Guy Claxton, left, mercifully wearing a lanyard), as well as several hundred other speakers. By then I knew that I was moving on because I’d accepted a new job at Bryanston School, and it seemed like a good time to stop doing events and actually begin attending things like researchED without worrying about whether everyone had a complimentary pencil in their complimentary bag, and were wearing lanyards (that said, if I go to any event nowadays and I see someone not wearing a lanyard I get a little bit panicky and wonder if I should tell the organisers). I must admit that the prospect of not running an event again filled me a degree of liberation I have not felt since I put down my pen on my last A level History paper.
So why am I doing it all over again? Part of the reason is that I realised how much I missed bringing teachers together to debate and discuss issues that really matter to them and their students. And there is a particular sense of reward about organising something in our divided school system that attempts to build bridges across sectors. I also like listening to interesting people talking about stuff they know a lot about.
And so on June 7th Bryanston will host its first Education Summit. The theme, or rather strapline, is ‘delivering world class education in turbulent times’. It was an idea that I had decided upon before Donald Trump had been elected President, but it now seems particularly appropriate. This event will bring some inspirational speakers together with school leaders and teachers from independent and state schools to discuss what might lie ahead. It will be more intimate than the Education Festival, but smaller scale has innate advantages.
I’m delighted that Dylan Wiliam is going to be giving a keynote speech on the day, and that other speakers confirmed include, AC Grayling, David Didau and Martin Robinson (pictured), as well as Tom Bennett and Lucy Crehan. Many more will join. Just like the Education Festival it will be an event run by teachers for teachers and held in a school. And there will be lanyards, of course, lots and lots of lanyards.