I must admit that one of the biggest draws for me to attend this year’s Mayor’s Education Conference was to see and hear Sadiq Khan ‘live’ and to get a flavour of what his mayoralty will bring to London.
I was not disappointed! His keynote speech was clear, down to earth and heart-warming as he described how much the opportunities afforded to him as a child growing up in London had meant to him and declared his intention to give every child in London the same opportunities that the city had given him.
I even heard my own voice, echoing round the chamber with feedback from the sound system, asking him in the question and answer session what his stance on language learning is and how much backup he intends to give the teaching of this subject from Early Years and upwards. His answer, whilst he admitted that money is limited, was enthusiastic and affirming – he relishes the rich multi-cultural and vibrant culture of London, and he knows well that languages play a huge part in the success of the commerce and business of the city. So Mr Khan is on our side but like everyone else, he acknowledges that we must be imaginative with our funding – I’m guessing no rainbow and no pots of gold any time soon…
However, although we are all well aware that there are challenges, there is much to celebrate about education in the nation’s capital as we heard in the various sessions throughout the day – London leads the way with 96% of schools being judged “good” or “outstanding” by OFSTED, and these comprising some of the best state schools in the UK. London has also developed some thriving networks which play a big part in supporting our teachers. Here at Network for Languages London we can endorse that – we have seen great benefit come from the networks of language teachers, both primary and secondary that were formed throughout the London Schools Excellence Fund Project and are continuing.
In one of the breakout sessions, we discussed the role of continuing professional development (CPD) in the retention of teachers, noting that if teachers are offered a chance to develop, to pursue a career path, to pursue excellence, they are much more likely to stay in the profession. The “Specialist Leader of Education” (SLE) role is being developed successfully – experienced teachers encouraged to apply for this status, which involves them being “borrowed” by schools who want help in their specific area of expertise and they are released from their class to do so.
Once again, I note that as a result of the LSEF project run by Network for Languages London, a number of our language teachers have been taken on as SLEs – something that they may not have felt ready to do without the CPD they received during the project.
Another point that came out of the conference was that London aspires to be the ‘go-to’ place for the latest innovations in pedagogy and practice. It is true that many teachers who have come to Westminster University to attend Network for Languages CPD courses and conferences say that interaction with the university gives them a sense of academic rigour in what is on offer, but that it also provides a ‘hub’ which acts as a seed bed for ideas, offering just such a chance for innovation, evolution and change. And I felt, listening to the conference, that the need for interaction with good CPD providers, such as Network for Languages London, is greater than ever before, especially if we can meet the need for this professional ‘give and take’ which refreshes, educates, inspires – both teacher and trainer – and keeps us committed to the valuable but demanding job that teaching is.
These are a few thoughts thinking back on a rich day spent with 450 head teachers and lead educationalists from across London. The lively atmosphere was characterised by a dance interlude in the middle of the day, led by Darcey Bussell, who outlined her dance programme for schools DDMIX (Diverse Dance Mix) and her vision for all children and young people to have the chance to move through dance. And of course she then had to get some of programme presenters and teachers on to the stage to demonstrate, to everyone’s enjoyment!
To find out more about the conference go to:
…..and you can also follow this link to the Mayor’s Education Report 2017.