Written by Emma House, Deputy CEO of the Publishers Association, on Wednesday 5th December 2018.
The day kicked off with discussions about the relationship between money and education standards – a contentious and often emotive issue that was stripped back to recent research and careful analysis by Professor Becky Allen, Director of the Centre for Education Improvement Science at the UCL Institute of Education. Professor Allen demonstrated how increased spending does not always correlate with improved assessment outcomes, whilst acknowledging the negative effect of austerity on the teaching cohort.
Teacher workload certainly framed the rest of the day’s discussions, with Kathryn Warrilow from the Department for Education underlining a commitment to reduce the burden currently placed on UK educators through the newly launched Curriculum Fund. Attendees were interested to hear how this fund will encourage shared resources between more experienced teachers and their newly qualified colleagues, getting a sense of the policy direction that the current Secretary of State is taking to improve retention levels in the profession. The PA and BESA are closely involved in this scheme and will continue to engage through the trial period that begins in January.
Keynote speaker David Laws, chairman of the Education Policy Institute and former Minister for Schools, took to the stage after lunch to share his insight on the attainment gap. Outlining some of the EPI’s most recent research, he was able to provide a candid commentary on where previous governments have had success in reaching the most disadvantaged children. He ended on a warning that the current system may well be losing the impetus to improve opportunities for those from the most underprivileged backgrounds.
Thought-provoking presentations were interspersed with active discussions between a series of expert panels, led by PA members. A discussion on school leadership and decision making in the school environment led by Jane Harley, with contributions from Sir Kevan Collins, Dr Trevor Male and Lucy Heller. Here we first heard about MATs, the value in working together, and a consensus that while money doesn’t bring wisdom, it is immensely helpful on a practical level. A later panel on procurement offered further advice from procurement consultancy experts Lorraine Ashover, Mike Newell and Rob Kissick, with Joanna Balley confirming her experiences at the Brooke Weston Trust that there is a need for user-friendly frameworks to enable schools to get directly in touch with suppliers of resources.
Finally, we heard from the front line itself. A group of leading Head Teachers from around the country outlined the importance of diversity and inclusivity in the workforce and in the resources on offer. They stressed the need for educational publishers to represent all ages, genders, ethnicities and socio-economic backgrounds in their offerings. The panellists were very helpful in providing practical feedback on how we as publishers can produce resources that best suit their needs, with flexibility and personalisation being absolutely paramount.
Lynn Knapp closed the day’s proceedings by sharing her experience as the Head Teacher of Windmill Primary school in Oxford. Having been designated as a school requiring improvements in 2007, by June 2015 it was judged to be Outstanding. Lynn outlined some of the steps she and her team have taken over the years to transform Windmill Primary, with plenty of reference to the lively pupils currently in her charge.
The Education Publishers Conference was delivered by the Publishers Association in partnership with the British Educational Suppliers Association and sponsored by Publishers' Licensing Services.