Welcome from Lou Mycroft
Hello and welcome to our third annual TeachDifferent conference, this year with the (not unexpected) hashtag #td15. Please tweet away!
This has been a tough year. It began with a sense of traditionalist fightback – even the language of education seemed to regress. At an autumn conference we heard what we do referred to as ‘The Skills SYSTEM’, and, outraged, took to social media to protest (whether because of our shouting or not, it didn’t catch on). Skills System shouts ‘sausage factory’ and that’s not what we do here – emphatically, it’s not what we do. And you wouldn’t be coming today if you didn’t feel the same.
That adult education cannot continue as it is, is clear to us all. The General Election has only underlined what we’ve known for a long time now, that education policy is decided by people – on left or right – who see FE as being for “other people’s children.” I don’t hear the policy voices from community education, from rehab, from family learning, from radical ESOL, from learning support. Let me make this clear. They have come for everyone who was on our side. No-one is going to speak up for us.
In some senses, this makes it all easier. We have to speak up for ourselves. That means, first of all, figuring out what it is that we have to say. We have to tweet, write, research…otherwise our voices – our work – will remain hidden. To use a metaphor from this year that you’ll hear more about later – we need to boldly dance, not run away like the Cinderella service others like to think that we are.
This year’s conference, sponsored by the Equalities Challenge Unit via our Identities Project, showcases the best of our year. What we hope to do is inspire and strengthen you to be bold and to be yourselves, to do what is right even if that flies in the face of accepted practice. We’ve taken all that’s been good and bad about our year and channelled it into learning and into workshops with you. The day is full of things to get involve in – like the Educators of Social Purpose project, soon to be a website – or find out about, like Steve’s deaf awareness session, part of a webinar series, or the work we’ve been doing around dialogue and reflexion, which is having profound impact on how the University of Huddersfield sees these things. We’re presenting the findings from our FAB Project research for the first time, and exploring how the Thinking Environment, familiar to many of you of course, can be used to strengthen personal resilience. We are of course running our famous Thinking Walks and of course there’s the Star of the Show – our Identities Project, running through this whole day like Blackpool through a stick of rock. Get stuck in, engage your heart and have a think about what Identity means to you.