SSAT Summer Series 2021 - Why change is needed, now

Introducing the SSAT Summer Series 2021 – an online series of live events which will bring together school leaders and inspirational speakers, sparking conversations and discussions on why change is needed in our schools.

The SSAT Summer Series 2021 will provide a welcome opportunity for school leaders to come together and consider the theme, ‘Why change is needed now’. You will hear from influential leaders, and together, will identify practical strategies to begin shaping the way forward. These strategies and ideas will be further explored and expanded on at this year’s SSAT National Conference in December.

There are three sessions in the series – all live, and all virtual; they start at 15.00 and run for approximately 3 hours. Each session is designed around a theme and will challenge your thinking, inspire lasting action and equip you with innovative ideas and resources to further strengthen your work with your staff and learners.

SSAT Summer Series 2021 sessions

What now for learners? – 29 April
What now for assessment? – 26 May
What now for leaders? – 24 June

Read more about the sessions

Bringing rich insight and experience from their different leadership roles, you will hear from inspiring speakers who will provide the stimulus, research, and evidence needed to reflect on the issues, challenges, and areas of practice in our schools and system where change needs to happen. You will have opportunities to explore key questions, look to the future with hope, and determine the actions that will best support and strengthen your work with your children, staff and community in the long term.

SSAT Secondary Network members receive one Summer Series Pass for the headteacher/principal to attend all three sessions. Additional places can also be booked and discounted passes are available for other SSAT members. Learn more.

Why change is needed now

Why change is needed was the title of SSAT’s Chief Executive, Sue Williamson’s, 2013 introductory pamphlet in the Redesigning Schooling series (SSAT member? Download your copy). The pamphlet sought to provide stimulus for discussion, debate and innovation in the profession. Rather than tell teachers and leaders what they should do and how they should do it, the pamphlet aimed to hold up a mirror allowing educators everywhere to explore the reasons for change and address the big questions facing our systems.

In the time that has passed, we have not been strangers to change and transformation across the school system. Some would reasonably argue that too much of this change has been imposed. Some would rightly highlight positive transformational achievements initiated because of strong, healthy collaborations that bear the hallmarks of the school-led system in which we want to operate.

Seven years after the pamphlet was written, we find ourselves at a significant juncture, focusing on why change is needed now, and what change will best benefit our children.

Those working in and with schools in all phases, in all contexts, have always been fully aware of the issues and challenges that daily impact the children and the adults in all our school communities. These issues and challenges also affect the future of our young people. The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on the important part schools play in the heart of their communities and why the staff working in our schools are heroes of the frontline and should be recognised for the invaluable difference they make to the lives of all children. The pandemic has also exposed some of the reasons why change is needed now, and is giving more meaning and momentum to actions.


What now for learners?

15.00, Thursday 29 April

This first event in the summer series places our children at the heart of our thinking, discussion, and commitment to action, as we come together to focus on and explore answers to the question:

“What must be in place to close the learning and achievement gap compounded by disadvantage and the pandemic?”

Inputs from our three influential speakers will enable us to surface and collectively address issues that affect the learning and development of our children. The insights of our speakers will challenge us and fuel our efforts to bring about change and innovation that is lasting, fair and in the best interest of learners across our schools and systems.

An interactive event, participants are encouraged to bring questions, practice, and ideas to share.

Confirmed speakers include:

What now for assessment?

15.00, Wednesday 26 May

Effective ways of assessing children at every stage of their learning has always been much debated. Cancellation of SATS and public exams, and discussion around trusting the judgement of teachers and leaders with submission of centre assessed grades have resulted in wide discussion about what rigorous, meaningful assessment should look like in the future. In this event we hear from leading researchers and thought leaders on assessment and from headteachers in the network and consider questions such as:

  • Why do we place such importance on examinations and assessments?
  • To what extent can we ensure assessment is fair and free from bias?
  • What must be in place to ensure assessment is an integral part of effective planning of the curriculum and teaching and learning?
  • What alternatives should we explore?

We encourage participants to join the event and the discussion and share their views on the future of assessment.

Confirmed speakers include:

  • Professor Jo-Anne Baird, Director of Department of Education, Oxford University
  • Tim Oates CBE, Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment
  • Rob Carter, Headteacher, St Paul’s Catholic College
  • Paul Silvester, Headteacher, Newman School

What now for leaders?

15.00, Thursday 24 June

The final event in the series centres on principled leadership and accountability. In this session we examine what must be in place for leaders, as they continue to overcome challenge and drive forward strategy, innovation, and improvement, while staying true to and centred on their moral purpose.

The event features thought provoking and uplifting inputs from successful school and system leaders. Participants will leave the session with fresh ideas, and the additional strength, hope and motivation needed for the work ahead with their stakeholders and communities.

This event, like others in the series, reminds all involved that no matter where our journeys take us next, we are part of a strong, innovative network that we can continue to learn from and draw on for support.

Confirmed speakers include:

Speaker information

Janice Allen

Janice Allen

Headteacher, Falinge Park High School

Janice began teaching in 1998 where her role as a NQT was to introduce drama to the curriculum. Between 2008-2015, Janice worked as a deputy headteacher in Salford and Manchester, before moving into headship in Rochdale in 2015. Over the past two years, Janice’s school has strengthened its community partnerships, working with several grassroots organisations. Janice is a LLE and sits on a variety of education, safeguarding boards and panels.


Professor Jo-Anne Baird

Professor Jo-Anne Baird

Director of Department of Education, Oxford University

As the Director of the Department of Education at the University of Oxford, Jo-Anne was also the former Standing Adviser to the House of Commons Education Select Committee. She is a member of Ofqual’s Standing Advisory Group, and from 2013-2015 was the President of the Association for Educational Assessment – Europe. Throughout her career, Jo-Anne has focused her research interests around the educational assessment sphere.


Rob Carter

Rob Carter

Headteacher, St Paul’s Catholic College

Headteacher at St Paul’s Catholic College and Chair of the Leading Edge Steering Group, Rob has led St Paul’s to develop as a successful and high-performing school. Consistently in the top 10% at GCSE and KS5, St Paul’s has also developed the Sussex Maths Hub. As a headteacher, Rob is passionate about school improvement, collaboration and improving education opportunities in all schools.


Danielle Lewis-Egonu

Danielle Lewis-Egonu

Executive Headteacher at The Galaxy Trust

Having served the education sector for many years across Kent and London, Danielle has a great passion in making a real difference to the lives of all children. Believing that all children and young people deserve the best education, she is committed to high expectations and consistency for teaching and learning across the trust, developing the confidence, self-esteem, and resilience of all children.


Evelyn Forde MBE

Evelyn Forde MBE

Headteacher, Copthall School and TES Headteacher of the year 2020

Having left school in the 1980’s disillusioned with an uncaring system, Evelyn returned to education in her 20s and after joining the teaching profession, worked to champion diversity and inclusion to overcome prejudice on her own journey to headship. Now headteacher at Copthall School, Evelyn is also a member of the Council of Association of School and College Leaders, working towards improving the proportion of school leaders from BAME backgrounds.


Professor Becky Francis

Professor Becky Francis

CEO of the Education Endowment Foundation

Previously Director of the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), Professor Becky Francis has sought to maximise the impact of academic research by working closely with teachers and policymakers; spearheading high-profile research programmes assessing the impact of major reforms in the English school system on educational inequalities.


Professor Steve Munby

Professor Steve Munby

Consultant and speaker

As a consultant and speaker on leadership and system reform, Steve has spent his whole career in education. Starting as a secondary school teacher in Birmingham, Steve later became Director of Education for Knowsley Local Education Authority in Merseyside. Throughout his career Steve has served the education sector both nationally and internationally, committing to equity; excellence; wellbeing and social justice.


Tim Oates CBE

Tim Oates CBE

Director of Assessment Research and Development, Cambridge Assessment

Focusing on national and international research on assessment and measurement, Tim Oates CBE, published his book in 2010 entitled ‘Could do better’. Laying down the principles for review of the national curriculum in England, Tim has chaired the Expert Panel for Review of the National Curriculum in England. He chairs various curriculum groups for the DfE and has widely published his views on assessment and curriculum.


Stephen Tierney

Stephen Tierney

Author and Chair of Headteacher Roundtable

Until December 2019, Stephen was CEO of the Blessed Edward Bamber Catholic Multi Academy Trust, a trust in Blackpool including Christ the King and St. Cuthbert’s Catholic Acadamies (primary schools) and St. Mary’s Catholic Academy – an 11-18 school. Currently he engages with schools and school leaders as a speaker, author and tutor on the National College of Education Senior Leaders Masters Programmes, and is the chair of the Headteachers’ Roundtable Group.



SSAT Secondary Network members

SSAT Secondary Network members receive one Summer Series Pass for the headteacher/principal to attend all three sessions. Additional places are available to purchase at £85 for an individual session or £199 for a Summer Series Pass, which provides access to all three sessions.

All other SSAT members:

Individual session: £85
Summer Series Pass: £199


Individual session: £115
Summer Series Pass: £249

Not an SSAT member? Learn more about membership

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