‘The NFER Debates’, a series of four sessions at this year’s Festival of Education at Wellington College on 21 June, saw panels of distinguished guests come together to draw on key insights and evidence around four of the hot topics in education: school funding, education to employment, assessment and school workforce.
Chaired by NFER, all panel members did a short introduction to encourage debate from the audience, and there were definitely some thought-provoking conversations.
During the school funding debate, panel member Matthew Clements-Wheeler from Bordesley Green Girls’ School & Sixth Form commented : “Yes, a small difference in school budgets does make a difference”, and he drilled down to specific costs such as the cost of a new text book at £22.99, which he said “we instinctively know will make a difference in the life of a child”. He continued to speak about the cost per pupil of the school leadership team and expectations in handling disadvantaged children, drawing on an emotional story of how when a sixth form student with mental illness attempted to throw themselves off the top of a car park, it was the school leadership team and staff who supported and helped this young person by essentially ‘donating’ their time outside of school hours. He concluded with: “We are not accountable for the fact that research cannot narrate the impact of what we spend, but we are accountable for how we spend it”.
Teacher retention was a popular session for ‘The NFER Debates’. NFER workforce lead Jack Worth outlined NFER’s recent research and Teacher and Author, Emma Kell’s comments certainly grabbed everyone’s attention.
Vic Goddard, explained some of the things he does about retention at Passmore Academy as Headteacher, starting with asking the questions why do you work here and why would you leave? His approach he said is finding the best way to manage workload, being flexible and allowing teachers ‘space for life’, being supportive and saying thank you with Friday chocolates. He said, “It’s about culture”, and he finished by saying that in a recent Ofsted inspection one line that he particularly remembers refers to something that makes him think they are doing well - ‘staff morale is high’”
The sessions on assessment and teacher retention both had a great turnout and the experience and evidence that came across from all the panellists was insightful and well received, with audience participation highlighting the need for more time to debate.
If you missed the event, the presentation from the day can be downloaded below.