#Primary Rocks. My Take on the event. 

I had somehow managed to miss all the build up to #PrimaryRocksLive and was somewhat disappointed to find I couldn’t go. Never before has there been a primary based event and this was actually based up North! What could be better? However, it was sold out, such was the popularity of the event and I was very disappointed. Then as if by some magic trickery I had 2 tickets and Carolyn and I (@clyn40) were able to go. 

Come the day I was up at 6 am, there’s dedication for you, just like on a school day and off we went to join the Primary Rockers in Manchester. Well what a day it was! I can’t praise the organisers enough. It was all very friendly, very civilised, very laid back and oh so sleek and professional too. 

The day began with a question and answer session from Lucy Powell, shadow education secretary. She started off by swiftly answering that she knew 7 x 8 =56 as if to instil confidence in us that she would be a good ed sec. She then moved on to tell us that she isn’t against academies as such but she believes there are far too many educational changes at the moment. I agree with her for what my humble opinion is worth. She said that a Labour Government wouldn’t reverse the changes when they gain power but for now she will be fighting the academisation policy. 

Lucy went on to say that politicians should stop pretending they know our jobs. Leave it to the teachers was her rallying cry. Again, she’ll get no argument from me. She is passionate about Early Years. Invest in the EY and make that stage excellent right from the start. Common sense I think. Baseline assessment is also wrong in Lucy’s book. It is not a good incentive for teachers.  Primary teachers are doing a great job she declared. We would not reverse everything and start again under a Labour Government. Supporting teachers would be her priority as we do a good job. This was of course music to my ears. 

Lucy swerved the question of supporting a teachers’ strike due to academisation. She said that parents don’t get the issues, they often don’t understand. There are some good academies in her opinion but she will still oppose the bill. Questions from the delegates included Chris Chivers querying the security of education, the consistency and the lack of money. Lucy agreed that there is no evaluation of the policies, it’s all going at a great speed without pausing to take stock. In my opinion Lucy Powell said what we wanted to hear on a Saturday morning. It will be interesting if she becomes ed sec to see how she does. 

Next up was Hywel Roberts. I’m a huge fan of his. He knows his stuff and is just so amusing in his efforts to get his knowledge across. He had the whole hall laughing loudly throughout his presentation on ‘How do we get kids bothered?’ In his opinion it’s all about the prompts. He had a variety of pictures and prompts to show us which were entertaining but also had a serious message. I loved his presentation. 

The first workshop Carolyn and I went to was Jon Brunskill’s ‘What’s the point of primary’. A big question to get us thinking. The general consensus was that primary is the building blocks for everything else but there needs to be a fail safe. Jon is of the opinion that all children should learn to read and everything else is up to the teacher. This created a big discussion on the value of a broad and balanced curriculum. All very interesting and certainly made me think. 

We next went to see ‘Mantle of the Expert’ talk from Tim Taylor. I’ve wanted to see this for some years but never quite managed it. It didn’t disappoint. The finer points of the theory were explained and I can see how mainstream would be very excited to learn in this way. Carolyn, standing next to me would have earned a gold star in class for her contribution to this session. For my special children this would be too hard as they have little imagination, but for others, what an exciting way to learn! 

Next up was Conor Heaven. Don’t do it for SLT or Ofsted was the thrust of his argument. For me this was a perfect presentation. I have been saying this for a number of years in my own posts. Be brave and only do things that have impact for the children. Conor’s presentation was excellent and thought provoking. ‘Be a maverick’ he says. I agree! At times during his presentation we could hear the beautiful singing of Rachel Orr in the next room. What more could you ask for on a Saturday morning?! 

A free lunch of sandwiches, crisps and fruit followed plus an ice cream from a visiting van. We were certainly being treated well yesterday. Throughout the day there was free tea and coffee and biscuits to help yourself to. I liked this I must admit. I’m a sucker for a cup of tea and it was a bonus to have one when I wanted. 

The afternoon started with Nancy Gedge talking about Teaching Assistants. Nancy made me think. I’ve always been of the opinion that TAs like the extra responsibility given to them if they are asked to cover for teachers or are asked to help with planning. Nancy says this isn’t always the case. Many of them don’t want this and it’s exploitation. I genuinely hadn’t thought of that. I’ll make it my mission to be more thoughtful with my TAs in the future. I’ll gauge their opinion before I ask them to take on half of my role. This was a good and thought provoking session. Nancy advocates swapping places with your TA to see how it goes. The low ability children will learn so much more with their teacher. Good point, well made. 

The panel debate was next on the agenda. This was a group consisting of @shinpad1 @jon_bruskill @ HeyMissSmith @imagineinquiry and @FarrowMr. The thrust of the debate was ‘Is there a place in the curriculum for creativity’. The debate was lively and amusing and we were able to watch the live tweets on the big screen. Other topics included ‘Whats the solution to the work load crisis?’ Some witty answers included ‘less work’. An interesting question concerned what would the panel change in primary education? This brought a flurry of responses. Jon Brunskill answered that he would introduce SATs in every year to remove the pressure for children in case they had a bad year in year 6.  This wasn’t received too well as our children are already tested more than any other. Shinpad1 would introduce 2 hours more non contact for teachers per week. This of course is easier said than done but is a lovely idea in principle. HeyMissSmith would change the whole of primary education and made no further comment. There was a flurry of comments from the floor about SLT needing to change many things. 

All in all yesterday was a great day for learning. It was also a good day for meeting people I tweet and putting faces to names. It was lovely to catch up with my good friend Tim Taylor and to meet again with HeyMissSmith, Rachel Orr and Chris Chivers, theprimaryhead and chat with the OldPrimaryHead1 about special needs. I also met Mike Highton, Nichola Mott, Lynne McCann, Emma Turver, Nancy Gedge and many more. Sadly I hadn’t the strength to stay for the key note from Stephen Lockyer and I offer my apologies to him. I’m truly sorry to have missed his talk. Next time Stephen. 

There was a very slight theme running throughout the day and that was SLT bashing. Well, even though I’m SLT myself I wasn’t in the least bit bothered by this. If you are one of those SLT who ask for weekly plans to scrutinise, or insist on triple marking then you need to be having a word with yourself. Ask yourself why? What’s the impact for the children? If no impact for the children, don’t do it. So, in some cases a bit of SLT bashing is needed. This did not spoil my day at all. 

My day was finished off with a long, cold drink in the pub with Carolyn, Lynn and Emma while we waited for our train. A perfect end to a perfect day. Bring on next year’s #PrimaryRocksLive. 

Many thanks to the PrimaryRocks team. You did it! 

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