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Countdown to the SSAT National Conference 2019

Discover what you can expect at this year’s SSAT National Conference where we’ll be continuing our fight to put social justice at the heart of the education system.


Arriving at the ICC in Birmingham, join us for breakfast and the first opportunity to network with hundreds of other principals, headteachers, CEOs and senior leaders from across England and internationally. SSAT staff will be on hand to help you sign in to the conference app, where you can plan your own route through the conference and connect with other delegates.

Sue Williamson, SSAT’s chief executive will welcome you to the conference and explain fully what we mean by deep social justice, and how we’re using the ‘four deeps’ framework to help schools put this at the heart of their mission. Professor Lee Elliot Major, formerly of the Sutton Trust and now the University of Exeter, will explore in greater depth what research tells us schools can do to promote social mobility; but also, crucially, what they can’t do.

One thing we do know is that school leaders and teachers need to protect their own mental health and wellbeing if we are going to have an impact on students’ lives. Five years ago, to the day, teacher and edu-Twitterer Martyn Reah set up #teacher5aday – today he’ll ask you to make a wellbeing pledge to yourself, but also to take it beyond your own social media world and into the real staffroom.

We know that amazing things to promote social justice are already happening in your schools, and Sue will curate some of the fantastic work we’ve seen over the last year – from exceptional heads across the country, working in different contexts and settings. Be inspired and energised by what school leaders can do, as we move into the first workshop selections.

Choose from a variety of practical workshops, exploring topics such as oracy, ‘the missing link’ to social justice; how schools can protect themselves from external influences; and dynamic learner voice. Workshops offer a range of views on how to achieve social justice; from one school who says one size curriculum does not fit all, to another school who’ll argue context is not key when it comes to social justice.

Finish your morning with a hearty, warm Mediterranean-style lunch, and see what offers and savings you can make through our numerous exhibition partners, including our charity marquee, new for 2019.

Following a moving performance from a young poet, dancer and choreographer, Dr Efrat Furst from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem will give a main stage exploration of what constitutes the essential cognitive principles of learning – or rather, what actually happens in our brains as we learn. Efrat’s session will throw up potential implications for both how we plan learning intent over time, and the pedagogical decisions teachers make on a moment-by-moment basis.

We then invite you to join in with a panel discussion exploring what the essential experiences in the curriculum are. If curriculum time is limited, which it is, how can we make the best decisions about what subjects to offer, what content to include, and how early to specialise? What extra-curricular offers have the best research-based impact? What is the lived daily experience of young people in your school, and how does it affect their overall outcomes? Panellists include advocates of a knowledge-rich curriculum, a skills-based curriculum and a personalised approach to curriculum delivery. Put your questions to the panel through the conference app.

After a quick break to recharge your batteries (literally and metaphorically), make your second workshop selection of the conference, with workshops exploring how to develop cultural and social capital, uncovering the hidden ‘truths’ of learning, an evidence-based project learning approach and a robust approach to literacy for all.

The final session will bring together renowned school leaders from across the country in a debate chaired by former education minister David Laws to ask how we can, as a profession, put social justice at the heart of what we’re trying to do. The final word of the day will go to our social justice patron, David Lammy, back by popular demand following his main stage interview last year.

Finish day one by joining us for an extended conference drinks reception, with street food style canapés from across the globe, and a chance to reflect on the day with colleagues and meet the various main stage speakers before heading out into the cold, December Birmingham air; we’ll see you tomorrow morning.


Good morning! We hope you slept well; join us again for breakfast and some peaceful carols for the start of the Advent season. Hopefully, you’re feeling fired up and inspired to make change after the first day, but how do you actually go about doing that?

Luckily, day two will be opened by change-maker guru Carmel McConnell, founder of Magic Breakfast and author of many books on individual action, including Change activism: making things happen. Carmel has decades of experience in social change, and was awarded both the MBE and a place on the Women’s Hour Power List for her efforts; she will challenge you to think about what you want to do to promote social justice, but also the practical ways to enact it.

You now have two workshop selections to make, back-to-back; no pressure. The vast range of topics include developing your own distinctive approach to teaching, building on the latest evidence, going beyond British values to values that are lived, not just laminated (to use a phrase from headteacher Gerry Robinson at a recent Leading Edge conference), CIAG, terminal exam technique and LGBT+ inclusion.

Banish those early December chills by exploring the exhibition in more detail with a hearty bowl of curry; we are in the Balti Triangle after all!

As you tuck into that curry, decide on your final workshop choice. What’s your priority? Character ed? Understanding the current system? How lesson study as a CPD choice can transform a school? The use of AI to personalise learning? How a mastery approach can be personalised? Or how you can tweak your pedagogy and assessment to contribute to equality?

If personalisation looks like a recurring theme here, it is! We think it’s key to a socially just system. The next main stage session title builds on this, “You look fine to me. Nina Jackson argues that we can’t take every young person’s wellbeing for granted, and that it’s easy – especially in 2019 – for students to disguise mental health problems. Nina will explore what to look for, and offer practical strategies to support both students and staff’s mental health.

You’ll now hear from Professor Sir Tim Brighouse who, amongst his many achievements, led the highly successful London Challenge ten years ago. The London Challenge is widely held as the driving change, as well as other factors, that turned the capital’s schools from some of the lowest-performing in the country – to the highest nationally. What can we do as a system to achieve equity for all areas of England?

In the last fifteen minutes we’re together, we’ll say goodbye as we probably won’t see you until the next decade now! But let’s leave the ICC with a promise to one another to do things differently. The world, and our country are deeply unequal. Education can’t ever provide all the solutions, but it has the potential to drive social justice. As we move into the ‘roaring’ twenties, we will be heard, we still stand up for what’s right, and at SSAT we’ll fight on your behalf – with you, and for you. Hear us roar!

As you leave us, we’ll wish you a safe journey home, a happy Christmas break, and a promise to keep on fighting for deep social justice.

See the full programme and book your pass

Don’t forget, SSAT Secondary Network members receive a free two-day pass to the conference and an invitation to bring the school’s Business Manager for a dedicated programme on Wednesday. Book now

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