The quality on offer at this years Schools & Academies Show Birmingham was higher than ever, with 120 speakers across 11 stages, taking part in over 70 sessions. All the biggest issues facing the education sector were addressed, such as funding and finance, SEND and social mobility.
Geoff Barton and Andy Mellor gave their take on how schools can deal with funding pressures, alongside EPI’s Jon Andrews. Meanwhile, on the Main Stage, the DfE’s Deputy Director for funding, Tom Goldman, was quizzed by the rest of the panel and the 300-strong audience on the new National Funding Formula and the future of school financing.
Individual finance advice was on offer too, with Hayley Dunn from ASCL leading her session on building financial resilience and effective strategic financial planning.
Elsewhere in the Business, Benchmarking and Financial Management Theatre there were sessions covering smart procurement and enhancing a MATs central team, as well as packed workshop on the new Curriculum Led Integrated Financial Planning Tool. This was developed jointly by ISBL and the DfE and presented by ISBL’s CEO Stephen Morales.
It wasn’t just financial-oriented sessions that were standing room only. The SEND Theatre saw some of the biggest audience outside of the Main Stage, with Nasen, the DfE and case studies attracting particularly large crowds. Similar to the story across all theatres, people came to hear the latest in central government policy, association guidance and the best of best practice.
As ever, the MAT Summit was well-stocked with talent, showcasing some of the best MAT CEOs in the country, and the CEO of the CST herself, Leora Cruddas. Jenny Bexon-Smith, former RSC led a particularly informative session on expanding your MAT, in addition to her duties on the Main Stage.
School improvement is always at the top of your agenda, and so it was with ours, with a whole Summit catering to it, with speakers such as Sonia Blandford, the DfE, and case studies covering technical innovation in the classroom and community outreach.
For those who were there later in the day, there was also the opportunity to hear from OECD’s Andreas Schleicher, the man behind the PISA tables. In an impassioned debate (certainly on the part of Yong Zhao), Andreas defended the role of PISA to highlight inequality and fostering dialogue between nations.
Top flight speakers were in residence at all theatres, but none more so than at the Main Stage. Some of the people driving change in the education sector were to be found here, including none other than Minister for the School System, Lord Agnew. Whether you or not you take up his challenge to have zero waste at your school (as several headteachers present did), he makes a compelling case for aspiration and efficiency in the sector. We can only wait and see whether those heads earn those promised bottles of champagne.
Of course, the truly best part of The Schools & Academies Show Birmingham were the thousands of delegates who attended, so thank you!
Joshua Williams is Content Executive for The Schools & Academies Show