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Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will.

Tag: TLAB15

Thank You

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore opens #TLAB15

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore opens #TLAB15

I want to thank all the speakers, workshop leaders and delegates for making the Teaching, Learning & Assessment Conference, Berkhamsted (#TLAB15) a memorable one.

You can find a collection of the tweets from the day here.

Blogs posts on the day:

Sally Thorne:

Drew Thomson:

Jonathan Peel:

Nikki Able:

Emma Kell:

Amy Harvey:

Kevin Carson:

Kamil Trzebiatowski:

Helena Marsh:

Workshop materials:

Dave Stacey:

Tom Boulter:

David Fawcett:

Darren Mead:

Mark Steed:

Candida Gould & Crista Hazell presentation


An excellent team is taking over next year. Alastair Harrison and Laura Knight will be leading things from the Berkhamsted School end. They will be joined by the Astra Teaching Alliance  & Chesham Grammar School in planning future events. I was asked yesterday whether it is hard to ‘let go’. My answer then (and it is the same answer now) is that the conference was never meant to be linked to one person, school or sector and the teachers attending and leading workshops are proof of this.  I know my colleagues at Berkhamsted and beyond will take the day to new heights as the workshop leaders and speakers already do. They are the leaders we have been waiting for.

Professor Barbara Oakley closes #TLAB15

Professor Barbara Oakley closes #TLAB15

One of the most interesting conversations yesterday was around the need for such events in other areas of the country and beyond. It is just an idea at the moment but will now be floating around in ‘diffuse mode’ so feedback/comments are welcome!

One tweet stood out for me yesterday:

Great education and professional development is not the preserve of a particular education sector yet certain social forces and loud voices seem to suggest otherwise. I hope that when the conversation occurs again (as it will), there will be one concrete and successful example people can point to where all involved are seen as educators who care about the ‘work‘.

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#TLAB15 Welcome

The text below is taken from the #TLAB15 conference booklet. The Teaching, Learning & Assessment Conference, Berkhmasted takes place on the 21st March. 

Education is an ever-unfinished conversation yet we seem to forget this fundamental idea as data, inspection judgements, performance reviews and lesson grades crowd our vision. Although important, the supposed finality inherent in these measures often limit our ways of thinking. We don’t see that we are in fact dealing with other humans and their minds as well as reflecting on what we do with ours. This year’s conference, with the theme of ‘All in the Mind’, hopes to put the human element squarely on the agenda. It also seeks to touch upon the latest research from cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience – two exciting contributors to this ever-unfinished conversation.

The theme also pokes fun at the purveyors of limited political vision who suggest that independent and state educators sectors will only work together effectively when money (or the potential prospect of losing it) is on the table. I must thank the workshop leaders for giving up their time freely to share their work because they think it is important. Rebecca Brooks has continued her great work in managing the event and containing her sighs when I discuss conference badges.  I am especially grateful to Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore and Professor Barbara Oakley for taking the time to talk about their research. As I write this on International Women’s Day, it seems appropriate to point out that very few educational conferences have had two women scientists provide the opening and closing keynote sessions. As we reflect on the professional work we do in schools, we should also consider our professional work outside of the classroom.

The final sense of ‘All in the Mind’ is that this conference hopes to lay down a concrete challenge to all attendees. We have heard from a variety of organisations that one-off CPD is fairly ineffective because there is no chance to develop the learning. This view certainly has merit, yet I believe it ignores the possibility (and probability) of leadership.  John Kotter writes that leadership is not what we usually think it is in terms of position or supposed status:

Leadership is entirely different. It is associated with taking an organization into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster and successfully exploiting those opportunities. Leadership is about vision, about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change. Leadership is not about attributes, it’s about behaviour. And in an ever-faster-moving world, leadership is increasingly needed from more and more people, no matter where they are in a hierarchy. The notion that a few extraordinary people at the top can provide all the leadership needed today is ridiculous, and it’s a recipe for failure.

If you have not guessed it by now, you are the leaders we have been waiting for. By attending the conference, you have partly accepted the challenge of taking the ever-unfinished conversation about education back to your schools, meetings and training sessions. Since 2013, former attendees have told me how they have left the conference inspired to become teachers, senior leaders and better educators for the students they have in front of them on the Monday morning. Some of them are in the audience or leading workshops today. I can think of no better proof that you too can be part of the conversation and also lead it in your respective organisations and classrooms.

I wish you all a very enjoyable and stimulating conference.



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TLAB – All Sold

TLAB PhotoI am very pleased to announce that the original ticket allocation for the Teaching, Learning & Assessment Conference, Berkhamsted has now been sold!* There will be around 240 educators at the conference on the 21st March to discuss, share and consider ideas on the process of learning and teaching.

As it will be my last event as organiser, I am really looking forward to welcoming you to the conference and hopefully joining the discussions. See you on March 21st!

*We have released 10 more tickets that are on sale until Friday 6th but no more will be sold after that date (unless you would like to be placed on the waiting list). Please go to the booking page for more information.

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#TLAB15 – All in the Mind – Saturday 21st March 2015

CPD panel at #TLAB14

CPD panel at #TLAB14

Seeing the Teaching, Learning & Assessment Conference, Berkhamsted grow since 2013 has been a joy. Hundreds of teachers have been enthused, challenged and engaged by the day and I am pleased that we have a fantastic group of workshop leaders and keynote speakers for the 2015 on the 21st March. The theme for #TLAB15 is ‘All in the Mind’ and we are very fortunate to secure our two main speakers. Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is a Royal Society University Research Fellow, Professor in Cognitive Neuroscience at UCL and has been Leader of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Group at the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience since 2003. Her group’s research focuses on brain development in human adolescence.

 You can see her TED talk below:

 Our closing speaker is Professor Barbara Oakley. She is a Professor of Engineering at Oakland University in Rochester, Michigan and her research focuses on the complex relationship between neuroscience and social behaviour. Described as “revolutionary” by the Wall Street Journal, she is also a former U.S. Army captain and worked as a Russian translator on Soviet trawlers during the Cold War. She is the leader on the Coursera MOOC ‘Learning How To Learn’ and has recently published ‘A Mind for Numbers: How to Excel at Math and Science’.

 You can see her TEDx talk below:

 As usual, there will be a range of subject workshops led by teachers from across a variety of schools and locations. See the draft workshop list below:

The conference, as usual, is non-profit and the price is £50. This includes all refreshments and lunch.

If you would like to attend next March, tickets will be on sale at the end of October from the conference website. Make sure you purchase them as soon as possible – one school is bringing its entire staff!

This will be my last TLAB event. In true ‘Multipliers’ spirit, I will be handing the organisational reins over to three colleagues at Berkhamsted and some new partner schools (announcement to be made at the conference). TLAB was never meant to be exclusive affair and I already know the new team have some very exciting plans for 2016.  Rest assured, the conference will continue to be non-profit and provide a stimulating and collegiate atmosphere as usual.

I do hope you join us on March 21st for what promises to be an inspiring day.

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iBook and #TLAB15

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore at #TLAB14

Cognitive Neuroscientist and TED talker Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore at #TLAB14

After sharing the download link to the iBook produced by Berkhamsted students at the Teaching, Learning & Assessment Conference, Berkhamsted (#TLAB14), I am pleased to announce that it is now available directly from Apple on the iBook Store. The book does include exclusive video and pictures from the day so I thoroughly recommend it!

I also thought that it was worth sharing with you some of the workshop leaders at #TLAB15:


Mike Grenier (Eton College, Harrow)

Dr Steve Wilkinson (Ashlyns School, Berkhamsted)


Neal Atkin

Mumta Sharma (City of London Academy Islington, London)

Mikey Smyth (St Albans School, St Albans)


Elizabeth Carr (Presdales, Hertfordshire)

Neal Watkin (Sawston Village College, Cambridge)

Don Cumming and Dan Lyndon (Holmfirth High, West Yorkshire & Broomfield School, London)


Dawn Cox

Cristina Milos (Rome, Italy)


Staff from Dr Challoner’s Grammar School (Buckinghamshire)

Bruno Reddy (King Solomon Academy, London)


Tom Sherrington (Highbury Grove, London)

Mark Steed (Berkhamsted, Hertfordshire)

Whole School

Ken Brechin (Cramlington Learning Village, Northumberland)

Darren Mead (Cramlington Learning Village, Northumberland)

David Fawcett


Laura Knight (Berkhamsted School, Hertfordshire)

Crista Hazell (Bristol)

Candida Gould (Bristol)


Dan Edwards (Stephen Perse, Cambridge)

Mark Anderson (Sir Bernard Lovell School, Bristol)

Rachel Jones

Zoe Ross (Barefoot Computing)

Caroline Russell


Martin Said (XP School, Doncaster)

More workshops (and the keynote speakers) will be announced at the start of the new academic year but as you can see, we have an eclectic and exciting group of educators leading workshops at the conference. We aim to keep the price at £50 (which includes a fabulous lunch and snacks throughout the day). If you want to register your interest for #TLAB15, go to this page. If you want to find out the purpose/principles of the conference, click here.

I look forward to seeing you in March!


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Berkhamsted School CPD Review

Earlier in the year I posted about the CPD programme at the school. As we draw closer to the end of the academic year, I thought I would share some of the feedback and where we plan to go next. The current CPD programme can be found below:

As with any change, there were concerns that the curent programme would be a drain on staff time. The answer then, as it is now, is that it is our duty as a responsible employer to provide high-quality training to colleagues and we planned to do this by:

  • Providing training that was specific to our context and led by current and recently retired staff; of staff providing training (which
  • Working with Dragonfly Training to fill in the knowledge/confidence ‘gaps’;
  • Provide ‘executive coaching’ to all staff;
  • Draw different members of the school community to become workshop leaders at #TLAB14.

The sessions (with refreshments provided – an important point!) ran over the course of the year. After each twilight course, I sent out a feedback form via Survey Monkey asking colleagues to rate the sessions on a ‘useful scale’ and provide additional contextual information (the scale is below):

  • Very Useful;
  • Quite Useful;
  • Unsure;
  • Not Very.

Overall, there was an 83% approval for the CPD programme (combining the ‘Useful/Quite Useful” categories). 12% was rated as not useful and 5% were unsure. On the ‘Not Useful’ figures, most of these came from one session where the presenter had a different idea to what we wanted. As for the ‘Unsure’ figure, I saw no reason to be alarmed. One reason behind this approach is a rejection of the simple ’cause and (perceived) effect’ of CPD provision. This is neatly summed up in Steven Johnson’s book ‘Where Good Ideas Come From’ and the notion of ‘Slow Hunches’. In it, Johnson argues that there are many ‘hunches’ yet they come together through ‘liquid networks’ such as the web, cities and complete ideas. In this sense, if we as a school can help nourish this sense of ambiguity through mutual conservations/observations/further sessions, then it will work. The NTEN is interested in evaluating the impact of CPD and I look forward to see how they handle the idea of ‘slow hunches’ in their research. 

NTEN also forms part of our programme next year. The first inset day and the first two twilight sessions in the first half of the Autumn (Michaelmas) term are given over to Lesson Study. This planning time will allow staff to prepare lessons within departments together and then observe the learning that has occured as a result of the joint planning. The potential ‘friction’ for this is reduced because it fits within our already existing mutual observation programme and it is the only twilight session on offer during the first half of term.

As was the case this year, staff are expected to attend four internal sessions. The other two sessions will be within our ‘pathways’:

  • Head of Department (HoD);
  • Deputy Head of Department;
  • Head of House (HoH);
  • Deputy Head of House;
  • General.

The programme as a whole has also been adjusted to cover ‘NQT to Retiree’ including sessions on financial planning for retiring members of staff and more linked sessions so single CPD activities will be eliminated. We have also augmented the ‘pathways’ by including a number of externally provided and validated courses such as Prince2 Project Management, the Independent Schools Qualification in Academic Management (ISQAM) run by HMC/GSA and the IoE for HoDs and the Emerging Leaders’ Programme run by Ashridge Business School as part of the Astra Learning Alliance for HoHs and aspiring leaders.

The one area where last year’s programme was deficient was the focus on subject knowledge. This will partly be addressed by the introduction of ‘masterclasses’ where academics will be invited to come and provide a short lecture/seminars for subject departments.  Having already asked for areas to cover I will be contacting HE providers over the next few weeks and asking them to suggest academics we can work with to introduce the latest research/new developments in their fields. For anyone planning CPD in their school, this is relatively easy to set up. University researchers now have to show ‘impact’ for the Research Excellence Framework (20% of the grading is based on this) and working with schools is an easy way to demonstrate this.

Of course, #TLAB15 will also form part of the CPD programme and so will the ‘CPD of the week’ emails and providing books for staff members to read.

With our new ‘grid’ appraisal process now in place and a new CPD booking/logging system to be released shortly, it should be a very interesting year for professional development at Berkhamsted.


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