Earlier this month, more than 120 teachers, Ogden Outreach Officers and education experts gathered at Coombe Abbey, Coventry for the annual Ogden partnership conference. The two-day event provided opportunities for networking and for sharing ideas, as well as time for reflection and celebration.
For the first time, the conference brought together our primary and secondary partnership co-ordinators and our outreach officers, enhancing the opportunities for networking, sharing and supporting the teaching of physics across the system. Specific challenges and issues were addressed in separate sessions for the primary and secondary teachers, but feedback has shown that the combined event was of real benefit to all the delegates.
Clare Harvey commented: “it was great to welcome so many people from across our network to this annual conference and to see thoughts and ideas being shared (and gathered) so enthusiastically. We used the occasion to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the Trust and it was a lovely opportunity to reflect on what has been achieved so far and what we can still do to really make a difference in the teaching and learning of physics.”
"I thought it was wonderful, really informative and inspirational."
Anna Perry, Ledbury Primary School
Starting the conference
In the opening session, Professor Anu Ojha, Director of the National Space Academy, enthralled the delegates with his presentation on The Secret Rulers of the World – the Apollo Moon landings, conspiracy theories and critical thinking skills in a ‘post-truth’ world. Today we are swimming in an ocean of information and mis-information; the critical thinking skills that are learnt through studying science are increasingly important in navigating the social and political landscape. Anu noted that the 9/11 conspiracy theories in circulation today can be a useful tool in engaging students in the A-level and GCSE physics syllabus; using the science to refute the theories. “We are living at a critical point in our social history,” concluded Anu. “It is only possible to process these times, with critical thinking skills.”
Inspired and enthused by Anu’s presentation and by the genuine space artefacts he shared with the audience, the partnership co-ordinators spent the rest of the afternoon in regional meetings, sharing best practice and new ideas.
"The two day conference was one of the most engaging and enriching experiences in my 9 years as a teacher. The CPD was relevant and left you feeling enthusiastic about the future of your partnership. Primary and secondary working together is definitely the way forward!"
David Gregory, Newsham Primary
There was a great representation from the Ogden partnerships across England and the consensus from the regional sessions was that they provided a great forum for like-minded, enthusiastic people to share inspiration, ideas and support. The regional focus allowed people to provide local enrichment ideas and recommendations for tried and tested partnership events – including who to speak to locally for advice. Delegates were able to share hints and tips for activities and new opportunities, as well as ideas for supporting every school in having an active role in a partnership.
“There was strong representation across both primary and secondary partnerships in the East Anglian meeting,” said regional rep Graham Wigley, “and everyone enjoyed meeting Alice Dunford, our new Ogden outreach officer from the Open University. There was much debate and swapping of ideas and information in our session, which proved so stimulating that all agreed we should hold a Regional Conference in November so we can build even stronger ties across partnerships in East Anglia.”
"I left the meeting really buzzing as it was obvious how much enthusiasm there was in the room to enrich physics teaching and learning in our region."
Sally Fulford Regional Rep, South West
The first day concluded with a dinner to celebrate 20 years of The Ogden Trust. Guests heard from Sir Peter Ogden, founder and former Chair, as he spoke of his motivation in setting up the Trust – levelling the playing field through education – and how the objectives and mission have evolved to provide more support for teachers and schools, especially those in areas of deprivation. Current chair, Cameron Ogden, reiterated three current themes that are driving the Trust: innovation in teaching; collaboration with other education organisations and philanthropists; and teaching the under privileged. Cameron spoke of “busy and ambitious times ahead” as he thanked everyone across the Ogden network who are working so hard to make physics matter.
Building science capital
The second day of the conference was opened by Professor Louise Archer, UCL, as she spoke about the Science Capital Teaching Approach and how we need to include and diversify engagement with science. Building on insights from the ten year ASPIRES study, and four years of co-development work with teachers as part of the Enterprising Science project, the science capital teaching approach was launched in 2017.
Underpinning this approach are small adjustments to teaching that better connect science with the everyday lives and experiences of the students, helping them to believe they can be scientists and showing the diversity of what it can mean to be a scientist. “It is a social justice approach,” explained Louise. “Instead of helping people to get over the wall that may be restricting their scientific engagement, we want to remove the wall.”
With support from The Ogden Trust and the Primary Science Teaching Trust, the idea of science capital is now being considered within primary education. Louise will be leading the new research and development collaboration between University College London and King’s College London which begins in September. The project, ‘Primary Science Capital: a whole school teaching approach’ aims to meet the already strong and rapidly growing demand among practitioners for the secondary-developed Science Capital Teaching Approach (SCTA) to be further developed within and for the primary sector. “Primary education is the perfect arena to challenge science stereotypes and encourage curiosity, building science capital from a younger age will help to embed this approach through education which can only have a positive impact on science participation,” concluded Louise.
Improving secondary science
A session on ‘improving secondary science’ looked at the Education Endowment report of the same name, and considered some of the seven recommendations made in the report, which the panel suggested was a valuable resource to all secondary science teachers. Peter Fairhurst, Best Evidence Science Teaching, University of York, explained how the report reassuringly mirrored the work he was doing to develop resources to support secondary science teaching in the classroom. BEST was revisited in its own session, when Peter and the delegates explored a new collection of free research evidence-informed resources for effective teaching of difficult ideas, embedded formative assessment and adaptive lesson planning. These resources are being developed by the University of York Science Education Group and the Salters' Institute and are freely available from www.BestEvidenceScienceTeaching.org.
Henry Hammond, Science Director at Alexandra Park School and a consultant for The Ogden Trust, looked at the linear curriculum and some of the big ideas in physics. “In a post-modular exam world, many young teachers will never have experienced linear exams themselves,” explained Henry. “It is our job as more experienced staff to help them think about building a narrative to journey though the curriculum, tying topics together and giving a holistic understanding of physics.” Henry also showcased some of the Ogden resources and gave delegates some valuable CPD. Delegates found the session was “great for tying the big ideas together” and provided “a refreshingly different way to think/link key ideas”.
The main primary session looked at how a school can become science-focused. “Although the subject is core, it is not assessed and can often be side-lined,” explained Amanda Poole as she introduced the session in which a panel of primary science leads shared their experience. The panel stressed: the importance of selling science to your senior leadership team and school governors; introducing events, activities and science displays; and making sure that science in school is practical and linked to real-life. The Primary Science Quality Mark (PSQM) and the Space Education Quality Mark (SEQM) were recommended as valuable frameworks in which to explore and develop your primary science provision and science leadership.
Leading on from the importance of practical hands-on science, there were further sessions on Phizzi Pods and Phiz Labs. In the Phizzi Pods session, Ogden regional rep Jenny Watson, demonstrated how a science toolkit filled with everyday items can be used for pupil-led investigations in the classroom.“Phizzi Pods were inspired by the ASE conference,” explained Jenny. “I have filled my Phizzi Pod with the equipment needed for some of my favourite hands-on physics investigations for KS2 and KS1 children. It is just great for having things at my fingertips for answering children's science questions and letting them explore.”
The partnership co-ordinators from schools with a Phiz Lab came together to share practice and ideas. A new Phiz Lab portfolio has been introduced by the Phiz Lab lead, Laura Marshall: “all our Phiz Labs are bring given a fabulous folio book to complete – they are now being encouraged to fill this book with photos, stories and quotes that show how the lab is being used. It is great way to promote science and increase science capital,” concluded Laura.
The value of evaluation
A session on evaluation was held for both the primary and secondary teachers, and provided a chance to talk all things evaluation, and learn more about what the Trust and other funders might be interested in. The sessions were led by Charlotte Thorley who has been working with Trust on evaluation methods. “We shared experience of practical evaluation in the classroom and introduced the evaluation toolkit that has been developed for the Trust,” explained Charlotte. “Most importantly, we discussed how to keep data collection easy and to a minimum, as well as the importance of trusting teacher experience.”
Effective evaluation of a partnership or project is an important consideration: demonstrating successful outcomes is a crucial part of any funding application; developing sustainable partnerships beyond the Ogden funding may well involve applications to alternative funding sources.
Building and maintaining partnerships throughout and beyond the Ogden funding was the focus for main afternoon session; the teachers were grouped according to the year of their partnerships so that appropriate strategies, tactics and ideas could be shared.
James de Winter, Ogden lead for Initial teacher education & early career teacher development, closed the conference with a look at some of the research on how we can best support teachers to reflect on and develop their own practice. In highlighting how feeling related and being part of a community can help teachers flourish, he identified something that sits at the heart of the success of the Ogden Trust’s partnership programme and the conference itself.
“Thank you very much indeed for a really stimulating and fantastically well organised conference. I found it incredibly useful to meet other school partnership co-ordinators, both primary and secondary, as well as yourselves, outreach officers, etc. The workshops and talks were full of information for me to take back to schools.”
Jenny Smith, Brixton Learning Collaborative
All photos: Dan Cottle Photography, www.dancottlephoto.com