Festival of Education 2017

Last week, Team CoachBright headed down to the annual Festival of Education and Festival of Skills this year hosted at Wellington College.

The festival provides a welcome opportunity for education practitioners to improve and reflect on their craft.

Here are some overviews of the fantastic sessions we attended:


Glenn Whitman, Are you a Neuroteacher... Yet? (@gwhitmancttl)

  • During the session, he spoke about the journey St Andrew’s has been on in improving professional development in Mind, Brain and Education science.

  • This journey has enabled St Andrew’s to translate research from the likes of Rob Coe, Carol Dweck, Daniel Willingham and many more into clear everyday classroom practice.

  • He cited learning about brain plasticity, growth mindset, emotion and cognition as vital because it only helps you develop as a practitioner.

  • He spoke of the need to avoid labels when describing pupils. ‘Intelligent’, ‘distracted’, ‘lazy’, ‘bored’ all have connotations and implications for the learner.

  • To find out more, here is a link to the Centre for Transformative Teaching and Learning.


Amjad Ali and Allana Gay, Diversity Panel (@BAMEed)

  • #BAMEed exists to ensure visible diversity in education. They create networks for support, challenge and advice.

  • Allana and Amjad beautifully kickstarted the session by sitting in two seats out of four at opposite ends to highlight the lack of representation on panels from ethnic minorities.

  • They explained the current workforce context: there is a 18% gender pay gap and the unemployment rate for BAME graduates is 5.9% compared to 2.3% from their white counterparts.

  • In a school context: only 8.5% of Secondary School Headteachers and 6.2% of Primary School Headteachers come from non White British contexts.

  • While there is clearly a glass ceiling they also highlighted a glass cliff in with BAME educators having to take on leadership roles in more risky and underperforming schools to ‘prove themselves’.

  • To support #BAMEed, learn more at https://bameednetwork.com


Amjad Ali, Engaging and Inspiring Teachers (@ASTsupportAAli)

  • Amjad is a teacher and founder of BAMEed
  • He spoke about how intelligence, reflection and confidence are all key to being a great teacher

  • He challenged the idea of “engaging”, which he says has become confused with “entertainment”: how “engagement” can simply be a teacher standing at the front, talking passionately about ideas that you could not get from a textbook.

  • He reflected on his own favourite teacher and what made that teacher great, concluding that it was because he made each and every child feel personally cared about and valued.

  • See more in his Ted Talk here!

  • Check out his amazing free online resource: trythisteaching.com


Seyi Akiwowo, Equipping students with soft skills through participatory and experiential learning (@seyiakiwowo)

  • Seyi drew on her experiences running group workshops with young people in communities across the world and shared with us some great activities designed to facilitate soft skill and character strength acquisition.  
  • Participating ourselves in two simple activities, we could see the benefits of such group tasks and the valuable learnings that came out afterwards.  Seyi shared some questions and prompts she uses to make the self-reflection rich and insightful for the teenagers that she works with.

  • She demonstrated that experiential learning can be an effective means of teaching and we can’t wait to incorporate some of the activities into our workshops going forward.

  • Find out more about character strengths and soft skills here!

Robin Chu, Preparing disadvantaged students to be independent and resilient learners (@RobinChu1)

  • Our Founder and CEO Robin presented our coaching toolbox.

  • He highlighted research from Warwick University Professor Claire Crawford around university drop out rates. Those from the highest socio-economic quintile group are 5.5 percentage points more likely to complete their degree than those from the lowest socio-economic quintile group even with similar grades.

  • Crawford posed the question of ‘Do young people from richer backgrounds have better non-cognitive skills e.g. resilience, motivation and independent study skills?

  • During the session, we honed, as practitioners, one of our most important roles was to show high levels of emotional intelligence - showing we care, can listen and appreciate our pupils.

  • Practical tips included noticing the stage of listening we are and the effects that has on our pupils:

    • Interrupting, Hijacking, Advising (non coach styles of listening)

    • Attentive and Active Listening (coaching styles)

  • The crowd went through an impromptu coaching session with their partners using the GROW model and practised active listening.

  • For slides to the presentation click here or if you are interested in an academic coaching programme for your pupils or coach training for your teachers drop us an email on robin@coachbright.org.

Peg Dawson, Executive Functions: the Science

  • Peg Dawson shared findings from her body of research on executive functions (EF); what these are and when they develop in childhood. 
  • EF's refer to the skills that we all need to plan, organise and execute actions, which are controlled by an area of the brain called the frontal lobe.  

  • Most interesting for us was the discrepancy between when these abilities mature in the brain, and when we expect children or teenagers to possess them.

  • One EF discussed was ‘goal-directed persistence’, meaning the capacity to have a goal, follow through to the completion of the goal and not be put off or distracted by competing interests. Brain scans show how this skill is not fully developed until early 20s, sometimes later!

  • Peg shifts the explanation for underachievement from failing within the child to a skill deficit.

  • To find out more, take a look at ‘Smart But Scattered’.

Victoria Bagnall, Executive functions in the Classroom (@Conninmind)

  • This session applied Dawson's work to the classroom and discussed how targeting specific executive function deficits in children and adolescents can extremely beneficial.

  • Victoria demonstrated how executive skills (for instance planning/prioritisation, organisation, and working memory), are embedded in mark schemes and assessment criteria, but these skills are rarely formally taught in schools. Discussed the idea of the ‘hidden curriculum’.

  • Connections in Mind aim to inform parents and train teachers to spot children who are struggling with these skills and spend time working on them.

  • Find out more about how they are doing this here: http://www.connectionsinmind.co.uk/

Sugata Mitra, The Future of Learning (@Sugatam)

  • Sugata Mitra is a Theoretical Physicist and Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Languages Sciences at Newcastle University.

  • He began by introducing his famous Hole in the Wall experiment, which began when he installed a computer in a wall for children to access for free in a slum in Delhi, India. His findings were revolutionary: that “Groups of Children, using the Internet, can learn anything, by themselves”.

  • He describes the phenomenon he saw at the Hole in the Wall as a “Self Organised Learning Environment” or “SOLE”. He has since been replicating the Hole in the Wall across the world, including in classrooms in the UK, finding again that primary-aged children are able to find answers to questions well above their age, by using the internet in groups.

  • He observed that one of the reasons that this is possible is that the Internet does not know the user’s age, so it does not cap or modify the information it gives.

  • He finished with an observation about exams, which he described as “the opposite of a SOLE”. He quoted a Year 11 boy who asked, “why are exams the one day of my life when I can’t use my smartphone?”

In his brilliant TedxNewcastle talk, he explores the question of whether exams are really preparing children for the modern workplace further: take a look here!