You’d think I’d relax after the NASSEA International New Arrivals Conference and get a full weekend off – no, no, I attended the LATE (London Association for the Teaching of English) conference at the Goldsmith College in London.
This was run jointly with NWP – National Writing Project – which promotes the idea that teachers who teach English writing actually teach themselves. I do participate in their meetings as much as I can and the conference involved us writing creatively.
The main speaker at the conference was Patricia Metham, who is the National Lead for English and Literacy (HMI) and delivered a very powerful – and funny – presentation on The Ups and Downs of Writing – an Ofsted Perspective. She pointed to the evidence of the gap between boys and girls achievement – particularly in writing, lower standards overall in writing and worse performance among FSM students. She also pointed to, among other things, to what may make some teachers nervous: limited subject knowledge, low confidence in themselves as writers, fear of the unplanned and teaching to the test. On the other hand, she finds that Ofsted’s surveys have shown that teachers and pupils working together works. Now – I can actually attest to that from my own personal experience. Following my initial engagement with NWP last year, I spent a few lessons with my own EAL pupils writing together with them – this works: never before had I seen them writing quite like that! They were engaged and writing creatively and writing at length – and writing for a purpose.
Ms Metham reminded us that we have the responsibility to promote the learning of all pupils at our schools. This would obviously include learners such as my EAL learners. However, too often EAL becomes peripheral – something I oppose on a pretty much daily basis: it takes time to establish a culture at a school…
After the creative writing workshops referred to above, in the afternoon, we had another – extremely engaging! – speaker: Joelle Taylor. She did performance poetry first and then followed it up by talking about her work with young people, engaging them in performance poetry, through her work with the Poetry Society (http://slam.poetrysociety.org.uk/). She was so engaging, lively and honest, talking about scouting for talent in London schools, always striving to involve considered-to-be-disengaged students together with those usually considered “talented” in groups preparing to perform poetry. I can easily imagine how she can motivate, amaze and involve young people – her verve, candour and love of poetry must convince so many in her school workshops!