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Bryanston's Education Summit 2023: Not drowning but waving

In our latest blog post, Education Summit Director Stephen Davies explores the benefits of taking a day away from the classroom and booking a seat at our Education Summit, and discusses how attending can lead to happier and more inspired teaching...

A friend and a colleague told me once that despite his heavy teaching commitments, he found it was essential to always be working as well on a project that was outside the classroom. “I have to be doing something else as well,” he said, “something exciting, that makes the heart lift and pump a little faster”. Scary, but spot on.

Being a teacher is enough, isn’t it, without piling on ‘more weight’ (as a character in Miller’s 'The Crucible' says). But it can be cyclical, safe.  I thought I’d have a go at teaching for a year or two, and here I am, over 20 years later, still thinking about the same things. Is what I am doing engaging the students? Are they learning anything? Am I making them hate Shakespeare? Next year, I’ll do it better...

We have to resist this, from time to time, and we have to look up from our markbooks. We have to encourage our students to do the same. That is why spectacular one-off moments of creativity and excitement, never to be repeated, never to be recaptured, are so important. They are like fireworks launching from the known, to the unknown.

Poet Laureate Simon Armitage at 2022's Education Summit

So, taking my friend’s advice, I volunteered to be one of the team helping to deliver last year’s Education Summit. At the height of the Summer term, when exam classes were at peak boiling point, generating stacks of marking and (finally) asking the right questions and wanting more help, I was also booking the Poet Laureate to speak, helping to steer a double-decker Wellbeing Bus into improbable corners of the School, and standing at the back of rooms admiring the energy and expertise of a whole range of presenters. Sticking with me - and sustaining me - are images of Simon Armitage trading limericks, Daisy Christodolou skilfully exploring memory, and students running full pelt towards the book tent in order just to catch a glimpse of Michael Rosen. I was astonished by Alex Lewis. I also had great conversations with Ben Sparkes on numbers and Oliver Caviglioli on organising ideas. And there is more. Lots and lots more.

Book signing from Michael Rosen at 2022's Education Summit

I would argue (of course) that these experiences – most of which have nothing to do with the subject or specification that I teach – have made me a better teacher and a happier teacher. Far from distracting me from my usual responsibilities, it energised and inspired me. I was more effective and more efficient because I had to be. And it was nice, too, to share reactions and experience with colleagues – from my school, and from others. We are all in the same boat, more or less, and we need to get together more often than we do.

The Bryanston Education Summit was initiated by Dr David James in 2017 and resurrected, post-Covid, by Will Ings in 2022. Last year, for the first time, we invited students (our own, and those from The Blandford School) to attend lectures, treating them, more or less, like delegates. So, alongside their teachers, this was a shared experience – listening to experiences together and talking about it afterwards. The buzz was real.  Education is a ‘leading out’ – and sometimes, these days, you have to lead your pupils out from what education is doing to them.

Bryanston has a proud history of innovation and creativity. We do the other stuff as well, but somehow, the Bryanston Method, in place almost unchanged since 1928, and the setting in stunning Dorset countryside, leads to magic. That magic needs to be curated and continuously refreshed. So, as Director of this year’s Education Summit, I invite you as education professionals to step sideways for a moment and spend a day with us. We can promise spectacular stuff. Keynote speaker Daljit Nagra, Chair of the Royal Society of Literature, had his poem ‘We’re Lighting Up the Nation’ read out by James Nesbitt at the King’s Coronation Concert and he will bring some of that excitement to Bryanston to kick off our day, before an impressive range of speakers from fields connected with Education. You can select any talk from our three strands.  This year there is also a whole new dimension with the arrival of Lego Education and Creative Hut.  Delegates can try their hand at ‘Learning to Love your Mind’ by engaging with a range of practical Lego challenges – if that doesn’t sound fun, then what’s wrong with you...

There are still tickets available so I would urge you to come along. With so many challenges to face in all sectors of education, take a moment for yourself, and for your pupils. And I can recommend the lunch, too.