The last two years in education, like every sector, has been tumultuous to say the least. As we begin to draw the curtains on the last acts of this academic year, we find ourselves reflecting on the pandemic’s impact on our schools and start to look forward to The future we want… We have been forced to truly question the ways in which we operate, what are the lessons we have learnt? Have we been brave and resilient in our choices? Have we innovated?

The lessons we have learnt are wide and varied; when duty calls, we are all in it together. Doing the rights things for the right reasons matters more than ever – and learning from those that have come before us is essential. One of the starkest lessons we have learnt, is that the whole ‘system’ just is not fair and those that are already vulnerable appear to have suffered the most.

Over the last year and half, here at CELT, we have been researching and developing our approaches to ‘closing the gap’ and defining the most effective ways we can support our most disadvantaged learners. We have looked at the guidance coming from NFER, The Chartered College, National Literacy Trust and the research from the EEF to ensure we are making confident decisions about our practice.

Earlier this month, three of our schools contributed to the inaugural conference held by the ICEE at Bolton University, showcasing the ways we had developed our schools with a focus on ‘excellence through equity’. The conference was focused around the ‘past, present and future of school improvement and system reform’ – with Professor David Hopkins keynote drawing on the following themes:

  • High Excellence, High Equity: Noting that internationally, the highest performing education systems and jurisdictions ensure that ALL learners attain highly – Korea, Finland, Canada… and the need for us to re-frame our approaches to focus on equity first.
  • Evidence-based research: Teachers are professional practitioners and as such require autonomy – using systematic self-reflection and classroom study to research and develop their skills.

These themes ran throughout the conference, with input from a broad range of international experts. Prof Alma Harris, Prof Anthony Mackay and Prof Graham Handscomb provided further insight and reflections in their presentations about the past and present challenges for education and school leaders.

It was clear from the contributors that the future landscape requires four key drivers to raise achievement and build capacity for the next stage of education reform:

  1. Personalised learning
  2. Professionalised teaching
  3. Building intelligent accountability
  4. Networking and collaboration

It is reassuring to see that these themes are reflected in work that is already underway here at CELT – from the ‘closing the gap’ strategy to the School Improvement and Quality Assurance platforms, and the continued work on literacy with the National Literacy Trust. All these initiatives clearly show that we are on the right track.  

The culmination of the event was the awarding of Laboratory School status to 20 schools, of which Brannel School was one. It was genuine honour to receive the award on behalf of the school and to represent the trust – along with Craig Hayes of Newquay Junior Academy, Gemma Harries from Newquay Tretherras and Elizabeth Fletcher of CELT – at such an inspiring event.

Marc Cooper – Deputy Headteacher at Brannel School and Trust Research & Development Lead at CELT