Climbing numbers with goodie bags at the ready

18th November 2005 at 00:00
The annual Specialist Schools and Academies Trust conference has rapidly become a major event in the education calendar and certainly one of the flashiest.

Nearly 2,000 heads will arrive at Birmingham's International Conference centre next week to collect complimentary goodie bags before filing in to hear a host of international speakers.

The event usually provides plentiful opportunities for self-congratulation and this year is unlikely to be an exception. The trust will celebrate the fact that academies have joined its empire and will be holding a workshop for principals and their multi-millionaire sponsors to discuss the challenges they face.

High-profile speakers at the event, which has the theme "personalising learning", will include Trevor Phillips, chairman of the Commission for Racial Equality, and Jacqui Smith, schools minister. David Hempleman-Adams, the explorer, will attend to tell stories of his daring adventures on the way to reaching the globe's four poles (magnetic and mapped) and climbing the highest mountains on seven continents.

As one of the goals of the specialist movement is to involve the business world more closely in education, the event has a lengthy roster of "partners" from private companies. These range from The TES to Rolls-Royce, Toshiba and Microsoft.

Delegates will receive a masterclass from John Wells, professor of management practice at Harvard business school. He is expected to explain how school leaders can use "Maslow's hierarchy of needs", a chart of the priorities faced by humans from such basic needs as oxygen and food to more abstract goals as self-fulfilment.

Headteachers who need a break from the speeches will be able to try out "mathematical origami" and attend a signing by Sir Cyril Taylor, the trust's chairman, who will be dedicating copies of his book, Excellence in Education.

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