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Brainstorming education at a conference with a difference

It was billed as an education conference that would break the usual mould. And, set in Glasgow pub Oran Mor, it did just that last week.

#EduPic11, the brainchild of educational IT guru Laurie O'Donnell and former education director-come-consultant David Cameron, was created as a freewheeling, open discussion on what the Scottish education system would look like at its best.

The event's title reflected its social networking character, as its organisers sought to make it easier for people to contribute their thoughts on "Painting a Picture of Scottish Education in 2011" via Twitter and other networking sites.

With no keynote speakers and an emphasis on round-table brainstorming, its 60 participants from across the schools and college sectors were asked to finish the day with a commitment to changing one thing in their own practice that would break down barriers to improvement in the education system. They were also asked to identify how the system itself needed to change.

"There is a fundamental lack of trust," said one headteacher. "Whether that is between the political parties or between the learner and the teacher, it exists at all levels in our classroom."

"How can people be creative if there is not an atmosphere of trust?" asked Mr Cameron.

This whole issue was closely connected to the accountability of teachers, assessment and inspections, he argued. Because there was a lack of trust both from the Government and between teacher and learner, teaching too often became about ticking boxes, coaching children to pass exams or preparing for inspections.

One primary head wanted more options for children who were not suited to following the traditional routes of higher or further education; they should be taught more transferable skills.

"Unless your child is aspiring to go to university, you are somehow a failure," said another headteacher.

BREAKING BARRIERS

"One change to my practice", following #EduPic11

- Continue the conversation with at least one new person that I have met today.

- Question the "holy cows" of the education system eg: long summer holidays, the structure of the school day, the age of entry and exit, timetable structures and so on .

- Inspire and encourage more of my colleagues to take advantage of the learning opportunities afforded by social media and participate more heavily myself.

julia.belgutay@tess.co.uk.

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