The annual partnership conference is one of the highlights of the partnership year; plans were well under way for partnership co-ordinators and education experts to gather for the two-day residential meeting when the coronavirus intervened.
So, we moved the conference online.
How inspiring it is to be surrounded by so much energy and enthusiasm for science. It can be difficult on a day-to-day basis to look up from the goal posts - I'm in Year 6 currently - so this has reminded me of my own enthusiasm and desire to push my subject to the fore.
More than 100 online delegates joined the meeting over the course of two days. They heard stimulating keynote presentations from Cat Scutt, Director of Education and Research at the Chartered College of Teaching, and from Suzie Imber, Associate Professor in Space Physics at the University of Leicester.
Cat talked about the importance of building an effective professional culture, underpinned by high quality teaching and subject specific CPD. She identified the ‘power of the collective’, collaboration and partnerships as valuable contributing factors – all of which resonate with our partnership programme. Engaging in conversation, reflection and learning are all important to effective teaching and creating a strong professional environment: “the best teachers learn from each other.”
In Suzie’s keynote presentation, she inspired our delegates with thoughts and theories on Mercury, gathered from the NASA Messenger mission, which saw the robotic spacecraft orbit the planet between 2011 and 2015. Although much was learned, many more questions were raised about the mysterious planet with the huge, dense metal core. The BepiColombo mission is now making the seven year journey to Mercury, gathering data and information throughout its travles – this will all become part of the research jigsaw as scientists try to understand more about the planet.
Space missions such as BepiColombo are many, many years in the making, involving any number of different careers – a live, long term mission such as this can be a great hook to get children thinking about the roles and opportunities that could be open to them in the future.
Careers are an important factor in inspiring pupils to take physics further and provide a real-life context to their studies; and they are an area that partnerships are encouraged to consider in their plans. Louise Liddle from the North East Local Enterprise Partnership joined the conference to share her work piloting the Gatsby Career Benchmarks across primary schools. With career aspirations often fixed by the age of 14, early inventions to inspire students about future STEM career possibilities are vital.
The careers session stuck with me most as it resonates with my own thinking/interest and highlighted the importance of raising children's - and parents' - aspirations and awareness of career opportunities in STEM related subjects as early as possible.
Katherine Sparkes, CEO of The Lightyear Foundation, joined the conference to talk about the work they are doing to break down barriers to get more disabled children into STEMM – “making things accessible makes it better for everyone.” Last year, with support from The Ogden Trust, they collaborated with inclusive dance organisation Flamingo Chicks to develop and deliver science-themed active learning workshops and lessons. During lockdown, these classes have gone online and achieved more than 100,000 views.
Inspiration definitely. I always feel re-energised and inspired after these conferences with the will to do more and improve my teaching. Delegate
The wow factor
Science magician Dr Matt Pritchard sparked wonder for the delegates as he demonstrated some captivating science tricks using everyday objects including match boxes and plastic bottles. Matt encouraged the audience to spot the “extraordinary in the ordinary” and to enjoy the cycle of “wow” and the mystery before rushing to the how.
Alessio Bernadelli, regional rep for the Trust and founding director of CollaboratED, shared ideas on how to use apps in the science classroom (and in the home learning environment). A mobile phone or tablet with the correct apps can provide a powerful science ‘laboratory’ with resources to measure, capture, evaluate and analyse data at the press of a button.
Supporting, sharing and evaluating
The conference provided a valuable opportunity for the Trust to share tips, tricks and requirements for partnership planning, management and reporting. This will be especially important in the coming year as schools navigate an education landscape that has shifted during the pandemic and will be trying to establish a ‘new normal’.
Dr Charlotte Thorley has been working on an evaluation framework for the Trust which we are now working to embed across the partnership reporting. Charlotte joined the meeting to explain the rationale and reasoning for evaluation and stressed the importance of keeping it simple.
The Trust has welcomed 33 new partnerships this year – officially starting in September - and the conference was an opportunity for them to ‘meet’ some of the Ogden team, their regional rep, and teachers at other schools across the partnership network. Sessions for new partnerships, legacy partnerships and regional break-out meetings, encouraged online networking and allowed teachers to share any specific questions, concerns or ideas in smaller groups.
“I walked away with a better understanding of the Trust’s aims and purposes, great ideas about how to start and manage the first steps. I am excited about the possibilities to have families involved and link with other schools. Looking forward to the CPD sessions and our first big event.”
“Lots of inspiration. The best bit is taking away real working ideas that have been tried and tested already. The links to the website just reiterate and reinforce what we need to do, so I don't feel stranded; I feel completely supported.”
During the conference delegates heard more about the Ogden Phizzi CPD programme, which is now well established across the primary partnerships and provides each school with resources worth in the region of £1,000 over the course of the four-year cycle. Our Teaching and Learning Lead, Jackie Flaherty also introduced plans for new partnerships to take part in pilot twilight CPD sessions for KS3 physics. A session on Ofsted deep dives into science featuring teachers who have been through the process, hopefully went some way to reassuring our audience that they can in fact be a positive experience: an opportunity for a professional conversation about science at your school.
“In the current challenging circumstances, we were delighted that we were able to make this conference a virtual gathering and that so many from across our network took the time to join us and to contribute,” says Wendy Cox, Head of School Partnerships. “We worked hard to bring you inspiring guest speakers and to give you practical advice, support and ideas. Your feedback tells us that we succeeded! Thank you!
“The power of partnerships and the power of the collective was mentioned in the first presentation of this conference and I think it was demonstrated throughout the two days. The online chat, the networking and the sharing was fantastic to see. I hope the conversations will continue now the connections have been made.”
“As the conference was on going it was easy to jot down bits relevant to my own setting and jobs that need doing, for example related to Ofsted, or passing on links to the inclusion manager, for example the Lightyear Foundation, or look at how we present the areas of science, for example increasing science capital through exploring jobs more widely. Small changes to hopefully make a big difference.”
"Fantastic effort from the team at The Ogden Trust. As always, the content is considered, evidence based and hugely relevant to teaching in primary and secondary now (which is so often not the case for a lot of CPD or working groups!). I never fail to learn something from a meeting, a visit to the website or a chat with a rep. Thank you for your passion and expertise!"