A bumper audience assembled last week for Herts for Learning’s annual Primary Headteacher’s conference at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, which focused this year on the theme of equity and equality.

Managing Director at Herts for Learning (HfL) Andrew de Csilléry and Education Services Director (Primary) Tracy Warner gave the motivating opening address on Thursday. Andrew talked about commitment around environmental impact and reminded everyone of HfL’s purpose:

“We believe that every young person, through access to a great education, should be able to realise their potential, regardless of where they live or their circumstances.”

Tracy Warner, took inspiration from Wacky Races, asserting

“There’s more than one Penelope Pitstop” …“Just how far back are some pupils starting? And how can we best support them?”

Professor Becky Allen of Teacher Tapp, the largest teacher survey in the UK, then inspired the audience with helpful insights to pupil premium and the attainment gap in her session, ‘Closing the gap in the classroom’. Her thought provoking questions included:

“At what point during my lesson will the child with the most restrictive working memory struggle to follow?” and ‘What does Key Stage 2 (or next year) ‘ready’ mean, and what do we do with students who are not?”

Next, in his presentation ‘Imperfect Leadership’, Dr Steve Munby MBE explained why ‘imperfect leadership’ is so important. He commented:

“If we want sustainable, well-led schools, if we want long term and effective education systems, if we want to attract the next generation into leadership, then we should ditch all the striving towards perfection, focus on doing what is right for the students, genuinely ask for help from others and celebrate the fact that we are imperfect leaders.”

In the breaks, delegates had the chance to network and to visit the wide array of stands in the exhibitor marketplace.

In the afternoon, Sharon Gray OBE from Wholehearted Learning spoke on disadvantaged areas, leadership and the importance of growing a safe place and a secure base, enabling the children to dare to take the risk of learning: “Courageous leaders develop effective cultures”.

On Friday, Robin Launder of Behaviour Buddy intrigued the audience with his personal story of being in prison for 17 years (as a prison officer)! Robin explained how as a prison officer, his role was to teach other officers how to be effective at behaviour management and he continued to do this in his subsequent roles as a secondary school teacher and School Improvement Partner (SIP). He talked about ‘sticky learning’; giving delegates lots of tips to take away on how to commit learning to long-term memory.

Drawing on his incredibly moving personal story of resistance against apartheid, Chris Lubbe gave an inspiring message of determination and resilience in the final keynote session of the conference. A former bodyguard to Nelson Mandela, Chris emphasised:

“The key outcome is to encourage students to make positive choices which in turn will make a positive impact in our world.”

Reflecting on the conference, Katharine Ellwood, Headteacher at Greenway Primary and Nursery School, enthused:

“The Primary Headteacher’s conference is a great experience for networking, and supports you in ensuring you have taken time out from school, giving yourself permission to take time out, to take time to reflect on yourself as a leader, and come about with some really useful nuggets of information.”

Look out for the date for HfL’s 2020 Primary Headteacher’s Conference which will be announced shortly.