Jon continues to enjoy the sunshine of Florida so has asked me to write this week’s blog. Although you didn’t have Jon’s good weather, I hope you managed to get some rest last week in preparation for this very busy phase of the school year.

Just before half term, I was pleased to attend Camden Learning’s annual Governors’ Conference. Owen Rees and Rhian Swain organised an excellent morning which began with a provocative presentation from Professor Becky Allen telling governors that the narrow focus on pupil premium has been misguided and has diverted the education system from considering things that might work better. Becky has written extensively on this and for those of you who don’t know her work, have a look at www.rebeccaallen.co.uk and in particular, her blogs. Given the focus of her talk, Becky was understandably stronger on critique than solutions though she did reinforce the importance of a forensic focus on what’s happening in the classroom and on what she describes in one of her blogs as ‘actionable classroom practice’. At the heart of this must be the quality of teaching and its impact on learners. It’s important that the focus on curriculum generated by the changes in the Ofsted framework doesn’t divert us from continuing to look hard at this and to keep thinking about the approaches that are most effective or indeed, promise to be most effective.

Becky’s session was complemented by four excellent workshops. Three of these were led by governors and staff from schools: Acland Burghley, Argyle Primary and Swiss Cottage School. The fourth was led by Mark Phillips, Senior HMI Ofsted, who was very positive about the quality of Camden governors. The conference was hosted by staff and governors from Maria Fidelis who did a great job in making us all feel welcome and in feeding us very well indeed. My thanks to all involved in the organisation of the conference. It was a Saturday morning very well spent.

One of the things Becky’s talk did was to remind me of the stimulating value not only of provocation but also of good speakers more generally. We should establish a programme of interesting speakers for the new school year to make us think harder about what we are doing. This would also be a good opportunity to showcase Camden Learning and to make more of the innovative partnership we are building together.

Just after the conference, I attended a meeting of an Education Commission set up by Layla Moran, the Liberal Democrat education spokesperson. The Commission was launched at ACSL’s conference in March. The Commission itself is politically independent and its members hold a range of views (including those from ASCL, the NEU and the CBI). Its goal is to reshape the education debate and the Commission is expected to:

  • create an exciting vision for education which transcends party political lines
  • offer a radical but credible vision of how education should work in the future
  • identify practical steps to get from here to there.

The commission would benefit hugely from interaction with those closely involved in schools and it would be great for commissioners to hear Camden voices as they develop thinking and proposals on key areas over the next year. I’ll come back to you with suggestions about ways in which we might do this in the autumn term.

Christine Gilbert

Chair, Camden Learning

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