Edfest – Day 2 reflections

Womened – Hannah Wilson, Keziah Featherstone, Vivienne Porritt, Jules Daulby

I am a feminist. Not a burn your bra type feminist but I believe in the strength of women and that this is under-utilised in leadership teams in education. I absolutely would like to see more women in leadership positions and do believe that, in the main, it is confidence that prevents women from applying for such leadership positions. Confidence was the main focus for this session.

Many of us suffer from Imposter System where we believe everyone knows more than we do. There are definitely times when I believe this is true. Going round the festival today, I was in awe of how much knowledge the speakers had, making me feel completely inadequate. However, the message from Womened is simple – that for every element of weakness we have there is a strength and instead of focusing on our weaknesses, we need to focus on embracing those strengths and sing them out loud from the rooftops declaring ‘I am an expert in….’ with confidence. Here goes:

I know that my weakness lies in people management from the point of view of holding them to account (not next year as I am feeling braver) but I know I am an expert in teaching, I am a great strategic thinker and I can transform departments.

Furthermore, the premise of Women ed is one of collaboration and shared experiences. It is in fact true that the more we share, the more we grow. I am a big believer in sharing. I aim to share everything. I have great confidence with this because if I help just one other person then it is worth sharing. If people don’t like what I share they don’t have to use it. That’s freedom of choice J

Womened brought up the idea of values which resonated with Jill’s sessions so was a theme running across the festival. As I have said previously, I am going to spend some time before summer really thinking about my core values and how that drives me moving forward.

A really enjoyable session.

Next steps:

Align my core values with the vision for my new role.

Model the leadership at the heart of my core values.

Seek out the excellent women we have in our academy and foster a greater level of confidence within us so that more women feel empowered.


Embracing the Academic – Summer Turner

I love Summer Turner. She is incredibly knowledgeable and another example of a great woman in leadership. Again, she is an inspiration to me and the work she has done on curriculum design is fantastic. I cannot wait to read her book.

Summer started by getting us to re-focus on the purpose of education and suggest that there are four key purposes of education:

  • The intrinsic value of academic knowledge
  • Character
  • Social justice
  • Preparing for the world of work.

She then went on to share this beautiful quote about the purpose of education which often gets hidden by the preparation for examinations:


What is missing is education to be human beings. Education to make the most of our human powers. Education for our responsibilities as members of a democratic society. Education for freedom.

Robert M Hutchins – ‘A general introduction to the Great Books and a Liberal Education.’


How easily is this simply forgotton – especially where the world of accountability has taken over?

Summer argues that knowledge is at the core of what education is for. Developing knowledge and when it comes to curriculum planning that this should be the first stepping stone to an excellent curriculum. Summer shared with us her thought processes when creating her English curriculum, beginning with a consideration of what she felt her students needed to know. This included:

  • Grammar
  • Narrative
  • Chronology / context
  • Audience
  • Genre
  • Form and structure
  • Rhetoric
  • Imagery

Using these key headings, Summer determined her content focusing on great literature to support the teaching of these core principles.

This was incredibly interesting and Summer really is an engaging speaker. I have been following the knowledge agenda for some time and have really felt the value in creating a knowledge based curriculum and this has been put into place for our new curriculums next year which I must blog about at some point!

I think Summer eloquently summed up my thinking when she said ‘For too long we have been focused on the HOW and not the WHAT.’

What have we done so far:

We have re-drafted our KS3 curriculums with a focus on knowledge and more rigorous text choice.

We have explicitly referenced knowledge in our medium term planning to ensure staff front load this in our planning.

We have recently ran our first department subject knowledge sessions: one on Macbeth and one on poetry to include Beowulf. These were fantastic and I learnt so much from everyone else in my team.

Next steps:

Develop my own subject knowledge further! I am an unusual teacher in that my degree is in Linguistics so I always feel out of depth with regard to the Literature side of things, especially theory and criticisms. I have recently taken myself off A level because I don’t think (now the language A level has gone) that my subject knowledge is up to scratch. There is a great sense of freedom for me in not being Head of English next year in that when you become a leader, you have to act for your people and sometimes you lose a sense of yourself and developing your own practice gets forgotten. I cannot wait to have a year of really focused subject knowledge development.

Metacognition – Phil Beadle


I fell in love with Phil Beadle when he created the videos on how to teach some of the Poems from Different Cultures. Then when he joined the Independent Thinking Company, my love grew. There was no hesitation on my part in signing up for this session.   He is quite simply a GENIUS. He is so unbelievably clever, I am always in awe and always leave his sessions feeling completely inspired. I am currently still processing his session and will blog about it soon but it was deeply fascinating.


Parental Engagement – Dr Kathryn Weston

Another really informative and useful session. Parental engagement is an area I definitely want to focus on.

How about this for a starting fact? The effect of parental engagement over a pupil’s school career is the same as adding 2-3 years to their education (Hattie). In addition, parental influence is learning is 30% greater than school. Wow! So the question for me is am I as a practitioner and a leader investing enough time in ensuring our parents are engaged? And the answer is no so I am not being effective currently.

Parents’ levels of confidence is absolutely integral to their engagement with a school. One vital aspect of this is how we communicate with parents. Kathryn shared with us a letter she had received about curriculum content for her child and I will admit to cringing as I thought about whether we had sent something similar home to parents. Using subject specific terminology, like ‘inference’, ‘anaphora’, ‘structural irony’ when describing curriculum content is not particularly helpful to parents and in fact can be quite alienating. I love the idea of sending information home about curriculum content and last year suggested doing this after seeing some excellent newsletters from fellow Tweeters. I will definitely look to do this for my classes next year but, after this session, will think very carefully about the language I use. This is also true for homework. If we are sending homework home, we need to ensure that it is accessible to parents too. I was thinking, for example, as Kathryn was talking about our grammar programme which I am working on and how I could construct homeworks that would empower parents to be able to sit with their children and complete it with confidence. In addition, when we are talking about things like ‘revision’ and ‘memory’ are we supporting our parents in understanding what effective revision strategies are or how we can improve our memory.

Two of the most effective parental engagement strategies I have used this year are the positive phone call home. It is quite obvious when you ring a parent that they often expect the worse so it can be a really nice way to end your week by making positive phone calls home.   I find it also helps to build relationships and softens the moment when you do need to ring home to address something slightly more negative.

The second most effective parental engagement strategy I have used this year is the parental feedback form introduced by @FKRitson. It is phenomenal and I am going to use it every term next year. It is a simple form which gets stuck into the students’ exercise book. The expectation is that the student shares their exercise book with their parents and the parents write comments about the content, the effort and the presentation. I had some fantastic feedback from parents and I really, really enjoyed reading them. One of the best things I did this year.

Next steps:

Initial contacts for the start of the next academic year. I want to send out information about curriculum content to the parents of the students I teach at the start of the year. I will be much more mindful now of the language that I use.

I will draft the homeworks for our grammar programme with parents in mind so that homework can be done together with confidence.

I will continue to use the parent feedback sheets.

I will set ‘Our Sunday discussion’ topics.

I will ring at least one set of parents from each of my classes at the end of every week.


  • Introvert Leaders – Iesha Small


What a session! This was incredible. Simply because when Iesha was describing an Introvert Leader, I began to understand myself more. I am an introvert leader. In fact, I nearly cried. I’m not one for labels but in listening to Iesha I began to understand myself a little better.

Iesha defined the five qualities that she believes make up an introverted leader:

  1. Listening, communication and empathy.Iesha noted that introverts don’t reveal too much of themselves personally. This is so true for me. At work I am incredibly, incredibly private and function on a professional level with most.

2. Introverts tends to be good listeners and can empathise. I do spend a lot of time listening to people and I do think that people feel as though they can come and talk to me. I am really empathetic. I care about how others are feeling, sometimes way too much for my own sanity.

A quiet passion.‘Hot passion is all about the heart. The head is not even asked to participate…Cold passion is calm, considerate and focused in the long-term future. Heart and brain are aligned. Decisions take time, looked at from all angles. Cold passion is much more effective at getting results.’

This is interesting. I have a cold passion for education in that it is long term and when I am making decisions I do take a long time because I am considering all the options and trying to make a rational decision separate from the emotions I am feeling. I am a Leo, however, and sometimes emotions get in the way

3. Caution / considered nature.

This is definitely me. I am a thinker. I think about everything. I would like to call myself strategic. Iesha says introverts can be indecisive. This made me laugh because one of my 2ic’s critiques of me is that I change my mind. I do. But I change my mind because my focus is on identifying what is best for the students and sometimes I need longer to consider this than I am allowed, leaving me to make decisions that I am not fully confident about. In addition, I will change my mind when I feel we are going down the wrong road for obvious reasons. So indecisive, yes. Introverts watch and listen. I go to SLT meetings every week in a shadowing kind of role. I barely say a word but I am watching and I am listening and I am weighing everything up, evaluating, learning and only when I feel really passionate about something will you hear my voice. It’s different in my dept meetings because my voice is a voice of strength. I have total confidence in myself at the Subject Leader level and within English and therefore, I feel, I am less cautious.   BUT every day, I am watching, listening, evaluating and thinking and I do all of this before making any decisions.

This ties into Iesha’s fourth point

4. Observation / notive

Introverts don’t like being in the spotlight. God I hate it. I am completely phobic about public speaking – I cry and I am sick. If I have to speak in briefing, I am running over the short notice in my head 200 times over to ensure I don’t look like an idiot and my hands start to get all sweaty. Next week I am presenting in Leeds as a way to start to overcome this. I will let you know how it goes! Introverts also walk around noticing things. As per point 3. I watch and observe EVERYTHING.

5. Independence and sufficiency

By this point I was starting to freak out. I am massively independent and self-sufficient. Iesha stated that introverts need their time alone and their space and this is soooooo true. I live by myself so have this but there are times during the work day when I will simply need to go and have a walk somewhere to get away from the chaos of work. Sometimes, at lunchtime, I like to sit on the balcony when no one else is there. At first my department wanted to come and keep me company but then they realised I am content because I need the space to be alone with my thoughts. In addition, Iesha said that whilst introverts are independent they don’t wish to upset people and this has been very true for me. Now I am getting better at depersonalising situations and understanding that sometimes people will be upset with you and there is very little you can do.

Absolutely fascinating session empowering me to embrace my introverted self J

Next steps:

I am keen to connect with other introverted leaders.

I definitely want to read more about this.


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