Nicola Hughes, Deputy Head at Cholsey Primary School, writes…
Back in January of this year, we agreed to host SSAT’s first event of the The Primary Network – Speed Learning Series. “It’s like speed dating for teachers,” we were told and “a fantastic way to share good practice.” Despite being in the middle of a year-long building project, we didn’t want to miss out on this opportunity so we set a date and crossed our fingers that the hall would be finished in time to hold the event. We agreed to hosting around 50 delegates, on the day there were closer to 100 teachers from Oxfordshire filing in through our newly acquired office and library block to fill the hall to capacity.
Essentially, Speed Learning is an opportunity to hear about educational developments and share good practice. The format for the two hour twilight is a 15 minute keynote speech, followed by fast paced learning ‘speed dating’ style, moving around a carousel of tables hosted by teachers and school leaders, listening to nano- presentations of 3 minutes and taking part in 6 minute discussions.
The event surpassed everybody’s expectations in terms of the buzz and excitement of sharing good practice, the numbers of colleagues in one room and the smooth running of the event by the SSAT team. It was an intense, but exciting and energising learning experience.
The speaker for our event was Russell Prue who set the tone for the evening by giving a speedy opening speech on how to improve learning using ICT; a huge number of fantastic tips were shared, along with a phone number to text and his website details for colleagues who wanted to know more.
Following this was the carousel of tables. Russell hosted a table on how to start a school radio station and challenged us on why we didn’t already have one and there were 9 other tables all hosted by colleagues sharing ‘top tips’ and practical ideas for use in school. These included Exemplary marking, Early Years, Leading Learners, Team approach to leadership and Open-ended rich tasks in maths. The event was, as advertised, extremely fast-paced but effective. Delegates chose their 6 preferred topics and visited each of those tables for the allotted 9 minutes before being moved on, with the help of a Countdown style timer.
For those of us hosting, it was exciting to be able to share something that you felt proud of and knew was working well in your school and to help colleagues think about how it might work for them in their schools. Colleagues were keen to take away handouts and email addresses so that they could contact the table hosts to find out more after the event.
It was an inspirational and valuable CPD session for all who attended. The buzz of colleagues learning from one another was palpable and the impact in terms of teachers improving their practice immediately has already been felt. In my school, teachers were using the marking methods they had learnt at Speed Learning later that week, making enquiries about how to set up a radio station and reconnecting with Twitter. I know of another school who dedicated their next staff meeting to deciding which actions from the event they would like to take forward; and yet another who have already undertaken a school visit to find out more about an initiative they would like to try.
As hosts our job was relatively simple; we provided the room with tables, refreshments, ICT, sorted out the parking and, in our case, agreed to host 3 of the tables. SSAT found the other table hosts, the keynote speaker, registered the delegates and ran the session very efficiently on the day.
I would thoroughly recommend hosting and taking part in the Speed Learning series. It is rare to get such good CPD for your staff in such a short space of time and to have the opportunity to hear about innovative practice from colleagues in other schools. Sharing practice in this way encourages collaboration and partnership between schools and we are grateful to SSAT for approaching us to host the event. We look forward to future events.