The premier union for teachers in England and Wales.

National Education Conference 2016

National Education Conference 2016 – Stoke Rochford Hall – 2-3rd July 2016

Beyond the Exam Factory

This was the second time that I have attended the NEC conference and once again I found it to be extremely informative and worthwhile.  This year’s theme was the exam factories culture with specific emphasis on primary education and although both Linda and I work in secondary schools, it was enlightening to hear in more depth the issues faced in primary education.

Dr Tania de St Croix from King’s College London presented an interesting discussion on the emotional content of teaching.  How she said do teachers feel when the nurturing side of teaching; commitment, care and passion is perceived to be secondary to results and league tables?   Discussing the wider concept of ‘emotional labour’ within the public sector looking at youth work, university teaching and healthcare, she suggested that support for teachers who were under increasing emotional strain, is not present and that there is a lack of counselling services for teachers.

As a Design and Technology teacher who has seen the number of students choosing D&T drop dramatically at St Martin’s School, I attended the Creativity Across and Beyond the Curriculum workshop run by Paul Daintry from Lammas School.   Based in the economically deprived area of Leyton, Paul said as a school, Lammas has seen a huge 35% drop in students studying drama for GCSE since 2003 which he said was in keeping with the results of the Warwick Commission Report published last year which stated that ‘creativity, culture and the arts is being systematically removed from the education system’.  This he said was at odds to the requirements of the workplace where creative skills have never been more in demand.  Paul told us that Lammas positively encourages the development of creativity as a strategic learning tool across the curriculum by using creative subjects wherever possible e.g. the school has been very successful teaching PSHE in Drama lessons.  Further ideas were explored for making teaching more creative.

Sunday began with a session entitled Headteachers in the policy storm – beyond just surviving.  A panel of Headteachers; Colin Harris from Warren Park Primary School, Havant; Duncan Bathgate from Bealings School in Ipswich and Jason Clark from Baden Powell Primary School in Cardiff gave as an enlightening and often entertaining overview of how each of their schools were surviving the wave of assessment and accountability measures being placed upon them.

Colin Harris – a very refreshing and entertaining head spoke with passion about putting staff and children first before policy.  He writes for the Times Ed and has survived being a head through humour! Sadly for his students he retired this summer.

Jason Clark – has worked in the same school for his entire career rising from a KS2 teacher to Head.  Working in an inner-city school with high levels of deprivation, he spoke about looking for silver linings such as the school farm and valuing his staff.

Duncan Bathgate – presented an interesting overview of his school where the children have no lessons, literacy hour or levels.  Weekly agendas he said were decided by teachers and students with emphasis of placing the child at the centre of learning.  The crux of a good school he said was valuing its staff!  Worth a look at the school’s website:

The conference concluded with an informative talk by Eddie Playfair the principal of Newham Sixth Form College on ‘Assessment in the post-16 qualification market.  Eddie discussed the big change to culture that would take place as a result of the introduction of linear assessed A Levels.  He suggested that qualifications are seen as commodities which carry a market value with a clear hierarchy of subjects, qualification types and grades.  A very good summing up of this subject can be read here:

As in my previous visit to the conference I found the speakers extremely interesting and informative.  I came home buzzing with ideas having had a thoroughly enjoyable weekend.

Report by Sally Rainbird

National Education Conference 2016 at Stoke Rochford Hall 2-3rd July 2016

Beyond the Exam Factory

Kevin Courtenay – Acting General Secretary’s opening address focused on the need to support the upcoming industrial action 5th July with 92% voting for a strike and the urgency in getting the right messages out to parents about increasing class sizes   He reported that NUT membership has increased by 5000 in the recent weeks since strike action was announced. He said that the NUT and ATL were working together much more.

He warned about the possibility of losing the public service ethos for education with multi academy trusts moving SEND students from 1 school to another and their reluctance to take on failing schools due to the importance of results.

He warned about increasing class sizes and subjects being removed in secondary schools to pay for an increase in NI contributions of 5%. He said that the NUT were concerned about tests being inflicted by politicians which were bad tests for bad reasons and that twice as many August born children fail the phonics test than those born in September.

Gemma Moss, Professor of Education at University of Bristol spoke passionately about the politics of assessment in the context of devolved accountability.  She gave us some interesting findings from her research: that there is no evidence for the need for SPaG, that there were presently 124 consultations going on with the DFE.  Her concern is “data is not the child” and how government use data to make policy without ANY social interaction with the child.  The QCA vetoed the government’s changes, she told us that the National Literacy Strategy had failed 80% reaching level 4 at the end of KS2.  The Phonics test was not originally tested on children, they only tested it on teachers who would administer the test.  The people that produced the phonics test went on to sell it.  The idea of quoting averages in tests is wrong, the average is only the mid-point of a data set and children below this average are considered not to have performed well enough.  Gemma voiced her concerns over the fast and thin policy-making in education.

Jennie Jones a year 2 teacher at Beatrix Potter Primary School in Wandsworth talked about the reception baseline assessments and the school readiness check by the DFE.  Apparently 6 and 7 year olds have to read 90 words per minute but the delegates tried to achieve this and we all failed!  She described the 3 pieces of evidence that is needed for every standard and the moderation that takes place for “working within”, she complained about the onerous record keeping and the aggressive assessment process for year 2 and year 6.  Despite all this she describes how teaching colleagues and children are striving to ensure teaching and learning is still fun and fulfilling.  Jennie blogs about the experience of teaching Year 2 at

Three primary head teachers from schools with inner-city deprivation, social exclusion and a diverse population spoke about how they manage assessment with the emphasis on valuing staff and children more highly.  They spoke about how they weather the policy storm of assessment and accountability measures.

The conference speakers were extremely interesting and the workshop options worthwhile and fringe meeting at 6pm on keeping creativity on the curriculum for the benefit of children’s mental health was thought-provoking.

Report by Linda Loy


Next meeting: Monday December 10, 7pm All welcome