Looking back on the Festival of Education 2023

By Emma Bartlett, NFER External Affairs Officer

Tuesday 25 July 2023

Emma Bartlett, NFER External Affairs OfficerThe Festival of Education returned to Wellington College for the 13th time on the 6th and 7th July for two session-filled days and many opportunities to network with educationalists, school teachers and school leaders.

NFER Classroom staff at the Festival of Education 2023.We hosted an exhibition stand showcasing NFER Classroom resources and tools designed to assist and support teachers. We met leaders, governors, speakers and teachers from across the sector who were interested in our assessments and research.

NFER hosted three sessions and spoke at numerous others. Our Lead Economist, Jack Worth, kicked off with the session ‘Are we going to have enough teachers?’. He drew on research from NFER’s ‘Teacher Labour Market in England Annual Report 2023’ and discussed evidence-informed approaches schools can take to help retain teachers, set within the context of national issues affecting teacher supply.

Jack then spoke on a panel including Kennet School’s headteacher, Grace Rigg; Pioneer Educational Trust’s Co-CEO, Antonia Spinks; Portland Place Schools’ Headteach, David Bradbury and Tutor Trust’s Director of Tutoring Plus, Jo Meredith on a panel. The session was entitled ‘We need to go radical on flexible schooling’ and Jack spoke about how increased flexibility would likely improve teacher retention.

Towards the end of the day, Jack joined Cranbrook Education Campus’ Strategic Lead, Krisha Gandhi; Aspiring Heads’ CEO, Nadine Bernard; Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School’s Assistant Headteacher, Sanum Jawaid Khan; Flair Impact’s co-founder, Darrell Coker and Class 13’s founder, Curtis Worrell on a panel to discuss ‘Racial equity and representations in the teaching workforce: how do we get there?’. He drew on research from NFER’s report ‘Racial equality in the teacher workforce’.

The National Tutoring Programme (NTP): A route to closing the disadvantaged gap - session at the Festival of Education 2023.The second NFER-led session was entitled ‘The National Tutoring Programme (NTP): a route to closing the disadvantage gap?’. The session was chaired by Chair of the government’s Strategic Tutoring Advisory Group, Nick Brook, who was joined by NFER’s Head of Classroom Practice, Dr Ben Styles; and headteachers Richard Slade and Simrat Mavi. Ben drew on NFER’s recent research ‘Tutoring sustainability: Understanding the views of school leaders’ which found that senior leaders believe the NTP has shown promise, but also areas of concern. The panel discussed various views on the programme while Simrat and Richard gave their views on whether or not it worked for their schools. There was no debate on tutoring as a concept, but the implementation is where the issues may lie.

"A Skills Imperative - From here to 2035" - Session at the Festival of Education 2023Our third and final NFER-led session was chaired by NFER’S Dr Lisa Morrison-Coulthard on ‘A Skills Imperative - From here to 2035’. Lisa gave a presentation from NFER’s five-year research programme, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, ‘The Skills Imperative 2035: Essential skills for tomorrow’s workforce’. After her presentation, Lisa chaired a panel discussion with University of Birmingham’s Professor of Practice in Education Policy, Chris Millward; Association of Colleges’ Interim Director of Education Policy, Cath Sezen, and Wales High School’s Headteacher, Pepe Di’lasio. They discussed the skills needed for the future of work, considering the key challenges within the education system.

Finally, NFER’s Research Director, Jenna Julius, joined REAch2 Trust’s founder and former Chief Executive, Steve Lancashire; Confederation of School Trusts’ Deputy Chief Executive, Steve Rollett; Thinking Schools Academy Trust’s CEO, Stuart Gardner; Ofsted’s Senior Inspector, Helen Matthews and Northern Education Trust’s Executive Principle, James Howard on a panel discussion entitled ‘What does a strong trust look like?’. Jenna drew on research from NFER’s report ‘Transitioning to a multi-academy trust led system: what does the evidence tell us?’ and emphasised NFER’s recommendations that the Government ensures local authorities have commensurate powers and resources to match their responsibilities.

We would like to say a huge thank you to all our speakers and panellists for speaking at our sessions, and to everyone who attended our presentations. We all had an incredible two days and cannot wait to see what next year has in store!