November is Conference Season…

IMG_0109Writing at this time last year about the first Hertford Youth Conference, it is a thrill, a delight, to be writing again about another Youth Conference.  This one took place on November 7th at King Edward School Birmingham.  24 Schools from across the Midlands and beyond, came together to share their experiences of positive, proactive Community Action and hear from from inspirational speakers.

IMG_0111The conference was organised under the flag of the Independent Schools Council’s (ISC) Community Action Working Group, lead by Vikki Askew from James Allen’s Girls School, and hosted at the KES Performing Arts Centre through the coordinating expertise of Tom Arbuthnott (Director of Outreach at KES).  The ISC Working Group seeks to promote and expand community activity and service education in schools.  Through such endeavours young people develop the empathy, resilience and communication that will make them more productive, valuable and fulfilled members of society in their future.

Inspiration at the conference came from hearing from those who have something real to say.  For example, John Bird, founder of The Big Issue, speaking in the morning, brought authenticity and a raw reality.  An uncompromising view on the economics of poverty – delivered with great humour and comic timing – made everyone sit up and take notice.  We certainly knew we were in for a different kind day.

IMG_0113As I wrote at this time last year, from time to time something happens, in planning an event, that is greater and more successful than anticipated.  Once again, staging a StudentMeet (like a TeachMeet but for…well you get the picture) provided that platform for those who indeed had something concrete and positive to reflect upon.  That remarkable synergy that occurs when young people can speak about their passions and their commitments occurred again this year with 10 schools taking to the stage to speak either for 2 or 7 minutes.  The topics ranged from Partnerships with other schools domestically or overseas and fundraising events to environmental activism and in-school service days.  Each one of the speakers – nervous and in a variety of states of preparedness – spoke from the heart to an audience of their peers.  It means more when the rhetoric disappears and you hear the reality of the developing ethical and moral sensibilities of young people at school.

IMG_0112And even more, the whole StudentMeet session – over an hour – was hosted with humour and confidence by two 6th formers.  Lokesh and Usman embraced the challenge that I threw at them to compère the StudentMeet, never having done so before – or even being familiar with the format.  I am incredibly impressed with the ease and confidence that they took on the task; an approach that inspired confidence in those nervously waiting their turn to be chosen. The mechanics are simple, the format entertaining and the outcomes are disproportionately exceptional.  Feedback from those present indicates just how valuable they found the StudentMeet.

Holding a Youth Conference is about empowering those for whom the event is held; enabling them to speak directly to each other therefore provides the greatest possible benefit.  So, if the past 12 months suggests anything, perhaps we are now looking for the next Youth Conference and StudentMeet in November 2016.

Purpose or Priority?


What are 21st century skills?  There is increasing interest in the educational news media about how we are preparing our young people to take their place beyond formal education in a rapidly changing and increasingly complex world.  Environmental, social and economic factors (the triple bottom line) will impact upon them in ways that have hitherto been unknown and for which we, their parents and teachers, have not been prepared through our own life experiences.
Call them 21st century skills, real world skills, intelligent behaviours, or preparation for the workplace, it doesn’t really matter.  Names are not important.  What is important are the characteristics and ability to think – about others, themselves and the challenges they will face – that will lead to success in life and a more equitable and fair future.  The fulcrum around which this debate pivots is the notion of virtues, values and character; what they are and how to develop them within the context of school.
IAPS, as a member of the Sustainable Schools Alliance, is hosting a conference in partnership with Values-Based Education (VbE).  VbE is a charity that works in the UK and overseas to encourage schools to adopt the positive human values that lead to transformational impact on the quality of education.  The conference is an opportunity to meet and hear from Dr Neil Hawkes, founder of VbE and the International Vales Education Trust (IVET), describe how schools can create secure learning environments that enhance academic attainment and develop the social and relationship skills that last a lifetime.  Furthermore, the conference will explore how the adoption and promotion of core values in a school enhances Education for Social Responsibility and underpins Education for Sustainability.  All are welcome and we hope you can join us.
“Adopting Values to Support Education for Social Responsibility in Schools” a conference with Dr Neil Hawkes, International Values Education Trust, is being held on November 5th in Regents Park and is open to all.  Further details can be found here:

How you started out…

Our learning journey began with questions. This is how we shape our understanding of the world around us and how we assess our influence over it. It is only natural therefore that greater success and understanding can come for ourselves, our colleagues and our teams with an inquisitive approach.

STEM & Sustainability…just thinking 

We live in a rapidly changing world and as educators, scientists, engineers, mathematicians, we need to prepare young people with the knowledge, skills and values to adapt and thrive in their futures.  

Central to all of this is a sustainable future for all.  Climate change, loss of biodiversity and the human population create problems for which we must find solutions.  Therefore effective Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) must include the sciences, technology, engineering and maths and an awareness of how they contribute towards the solutions for our most pressing ecological needs.  STEM education lies at the heart of ESD alongside the values-led commitment to a more sustainable future.
Therefore it is with primary age groups that this journey must begin.  By engaging children at this most formative stage in exciting and challenging activity, the seeds of possibility will be sown and children, regardless of background, can be motivated to engage in STEM subjects as they move through primary to senior school.  In particular, the most effective engagement occurs when children from a range of backgrounds can be brought together with one common theme.  In this way barriers are broken down, shared values are developed and problems solved together through collaboration.  Doubly important, therefore, is this coming together of a diverse range of children to understand each other socially along with the opportunity to understand more clearly how they can effect real change through STEM experiences.  Then there is a greater chance that these early childhood experiences will influence their decision making as young adults considering careers and further study and on into their futures.