There was no Fog on the Tyne…

Hi, canny man, hoy a ha’penny oot,
Ye’ll see some fun thor is ne doot,
Where ivvor Aa gan ye’ll heor them shoot,
Hi, canny man, hoy a ha’penny oot.

Hi, Canny Man – Harry Nelson

On Saturday I was lucky enough to be part of #BrewEdToon which was continuation of the movement started by Ed Finch  and Daryn Egan-Simon.  With Paul Watson (of Total Teaching fame) in the driving seat it was always going to be a success.  I merely suggested some speakers and dealt with the tech on the day.

First though I will make an apology.  Yes there possibly was a disproportionate number of male speakers.  We did approach many people to speak who could not make it due to other commitments.  It is something that we were well aware of but hopefully a couple of people will be #10percentbraver and speak at future events.

Next I must thank those who came and made the event a success.  We had education covered at most stages (even a token middle school teacher – yes, we still have those in the North East).

Then the venue…  The last time I was in The Cluny it was a smoke-filled mosh pit.  Well the mosh pit was still there and all our presenters worked from a stage more used to holding rock bands.  However it worked well and it never felt like a barrier between the presenters and the audience.  Certainly a venue worth looking at for future events.

Paul kicked us off by introducing the format for the day.  It broadly followed #BrewEd principles except we were limited by time (had to clear out for the next rock stars to set up).

Martin Bailey kicked us off, first talking about the inaugural Edu Footy Aid (NE are the current holders of the trophy) and how this came about after a Twitter conversation.  This led nicely into Martin talking about how his school (@LanchesterEP) use social media as a part of their everyday pedagogy to share work and create an audience.  Martin gave great food for thought about using SM as the “live portal” to your school whilst the website contains the statutory stuff.  Looking at a media strategy in this way could reduce workload, at least for this member of staff!

Jon Bee was up next talking about maths.  His drive is that we treat the vocabulary of mathematics the same way as we do in English – if the children don’t understand the words and their meanings then they will never understand the concepts.  His ideas for planning to mastery resonated with many in the room; from where I was standing I could see frantic notes being taken along with photographs of slides.

No #BrewEd is complete without a quiz element and Paul had played a canny blinder here by including a round on children’s picture books.  I’m sure Simon Smith would have been a runaway winner had he been in the room – there were some easy ones and some definite more tricky ones.

Then came Peter Harding.  Peter spoke passionately about his own journey into teaching, from classroom tearaway in school to the excellent educator he has become.  With nods to Paul Dix and others his presentation was a real insight into how he sees his role as a teacher and the real “why” of his daily work.  The greatest compliment I could pay him was I’d like my child to be in his class.

Where we’d had comedy from Peter it was now time for something serious.  I first met Elly Chapple at #RR_North and I’d heard part of her story.  This time she’d brought a friend to introduce her, a friend who lives with Down’s Syndrome, who had a very special message for us all.  Through school, she’d just wanted access to the same opportunities as everyone else.  Elly went on to speak about her own personal challenges with the education system and how, in general, we were letting down children with SEND by not having high enough expectations of them.  It’s heartbreaking to hear a story of a child so completely let down by the system, whilst being buoyed by the work Elly does now to raise awareness and #FlipTheNarrative.  If you don’t follow Elly on Twitter then please do.  If you get chance to hear her speak then jump at it.  It was the only time in the afternoon that you could have heard a pin drop in the room.

The North East can always throw up something different for events like this and we were treated to a short presentation from Amy Brown who is off to teach in Africa this summer and was looking for both financial support and advice for her trip.  For more information about Amy and her trip then follow this link.

Back to #BrewEd traditions and it was time for the music quiz.  Fortunately we are blessed in the North East musically and it was down to the incredible Rachel Orr to give us a music round with a difference; 22 primary school assembly favourite tunes in a minute and a half.  With some cheating, cajoling etc I think there was some kind of winner…

The North East can be confusing at times, particularly from those who think they come from the North but have travelled further north to get here.  To add to this we had two Jon Bs on our bill.  This meant that I’d loaded the wrong presentation at the wrong time but we worked through it as Jonathan Booth gave us a whistlestop tour of the perils of KS2/3 transition.  Given that secondary schools in the NE are amongst the worst performers in the country at KS4 then this was indeed relevant and it was good to see secondary colleagues nodding sagely as Jonathan segued neatly through the minefield of transition as it currently happens.  In a part of the country that still has 3-tier education in places this was a very interesting philosophical talk on the state of schools in England and gave us some ideas on how we could fix it.  I’ve met Jonathan at previous events but this was the first time I’d heard him present.  I’m sure it won’t be the last.

Then Rachel took to the stage again in a way only she can.  She spoke with passion about how we get assessment wrong in Primary, from the debacle of SATs marking and the semi-colon of doom to better ways we can carry out assessment in our classrooms.  A quick game of True/False between the Jon Bs showed us how quickly our questioning technique in class can let us know who has really got a subject.  If you search for the #BrewEdToon hashtag on Twitter you can see Rachel in action – words cannot do her justice!

With a performance like that it was left to me to follow on.  I have very strong feelings about teachers as leaders and tried in vain to make my ranting less sweary than normal.  Fortunately my moral compass (Beth Bennett) was sitting at the back of the room as a human swear counter.  Hope I didn’t offend anyone as I compared the leadership principles I had learned in the Royal Air Force to how I believe we should be trying to lead in our own contexts.

Finally we heard from Sam Keys.  Sam is one of the nicest people you could ever meet and as a DHT and SENDCo he talked about how he had #FlippedTheNarrative in his school to allow parents of SEND children a voice.  Too many times we hear of things being done to SEND children and their families rather than with them.  Hearing Sam speak about how things are happening now in his school sounded revolutionary to start with but was so, so much common sense.

And thus it was time to end.  Hywel Roberts has been instrumental in making the “Rucksack of Shite” a part of #BrewEd folklore.  This being the North East though we had to do things differently, so up stepped Paul once more with his “Canny Bag o’ Shite”.  A fine selection of prizes poured out of the bag for life (we are so classy up here!) and nobody left disappointed.

Hopefully everyone enjoyed their day out in the Newcastle sunshine.  One final thank you to Seven Stories who kindly gave all of our delegates free entry to their wonderful building.

All of the presentations can be viewed here – thank you to all our contributors who helped make the day a success.

We promise to do it all again some day…







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