Reflections on the 2022 Festival of Education

By Emma Bartlett, External Affairs Officer

Tuesday 26 July 2022

Emma Bartlett, External Affairs Officer at NFER

The 12th annual Festival of Education was held at the amazing Wellington College in Berkshire on the 7th and 8th July. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this was the first time a number of NFER colleagues had attended the event in-person, including myself.

It’s safe to say that, for us debut attendees, it was much bigger than we expected! Hundreds of sessions took place over the two days, with many opportunities to network with other education organisations, as well as school teachers and leaders.  

To kick off one of the festival’s first sessions, NFER’s Head of Classroom Practice and Workforce, Dr Ben Styles, joined NAHT’s panel to discuss whether the evidence behind tutoring justifies the focus that has been placed on it by government, and whether tutoring for all does indeed have a future beyond Covid-19 recovery. The session was well attended by tutors from across the education system, with many teachers in attendance too. The panellists discussed how schools and tutors should work together for the students to best benefit from the National Tutoring Programme. Ben made the important point that “we need an evidence-based set of guidance on tutoring. There are so many different approaches. We need to do more of what we know works.”

The first of three NFER-hosted sessions on the Friday was held by Tara Paxman, Research Manager, and Psychometrician Karim Badr, who discussed research findings of the impact on school closures on Key Stage 1 attainment, a project funded by the Education Endowment Foundation. The session attracted a large number of teachers and school leaders, who were particularly interested in the deep-dive analysis that Tara and Karim were able to provide on children’s attainment in years 1 and 2, as well as the tools available from NFER to support with measuring attainment.

Our second session saw a packed room join NFER's Dr Lisa Morrison-Coulthard, Amanda Taylor, Jude Hillary, and ASCL’s Director of Policy, Julie McCulloch. The session explored findings from NFER’s first working paper from our Skills Imperative project, funded by the Nuffield Foundation. The programme of research provides new evidence-based insights about the types of essential skills needed for the world of work in the year 2035, and what role the education system can play. The discussion among attendees focussed on the types of skills that may be needed, the role of further education institutions in upskilling, and how the school curriculum could play a role in ensuring the right skills are developed amongst young people.

NFER’s final session of the festival was held in the Teach First tent, where NFER’s School Workforce Lead, Jack Worth, chaired discussions on what actions school leaders and other practitioners can take to promote greater equality in the teaching profession. Jack highlighted the key insights from our recent research on racial equality in teaching, and was joined by headteacher Nabila Jiwa and assistant headteacher Djamila Boothman. The audience was particularly impressed by the innovative methods and practices that both school leaders have implemented in their schools to promote greater equality in their teaching workforce, and also amongst their governing boards.

We would like to say a huge thank you to all of our speakers and panellists for speaking at our sessions, and to everyone that attended to watch our presentations. We all had an incredible two days at the Festival of Education and we cannot wait for next year!

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