Seizing Success conference – day 3

Just catching a moment to upload a post before leaving Birmingham to head to London where I’m about to start three week’s leave, travelling around the UK.

A couple of presentations from this morning that are worth a mention…

David Bell, Department of Education Permanent Secretary in England, provided an extremely insightful presentation into how the bureaucracy of the Department prepared itself for the election process, scoping the different post-election scenarios, and describing what happens when the one you least suspect is the one that happens 🙂 Apparently officers from the Department spent time in New Zealand talking with officials to help them understand what life might be like in a coalition government. I found his talk very informative, and, like so many of the speakers we’ve heard at this conference, he spoke with a level of confidence and a depth of knowledge, and communicated effectively the complex ideas stemming from an awareness and understanding of the key systemic issues  that I find lacking in so much of the New Zealand experience. For more on what he shared see the conference blog.

Vicky Phillips gave an interesting presentation on the work of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, describing some of the initiatives that the foundation has invested over $4 billion in over the past 7 years. All of the initiatives are large-scale attempts to bring about system-level change in school districts and states in the US which is where their educational focus of the foundation lies. Phillips describes the main work of the Foundation concentrates on ways to train, inspire, and empower good leaders for the benefit of students.

While I have some personal reservations about the way in which the aims of this work are couched in terms of a ‘consumer-driven’ view of what success is, I did appreciate some of the conceptual thinking behind the interventions that are being made – particularly her emphasis on “either-or” and not “&” – ie, although we live in a digital world our thinking needn’t be binary. This thinking was captured for me in the matrix she presented to explain how the Foundation is investing in programmes across the spectrum of activity in both traditional and non-tradition areas, providing supports for both teachers and learners as in the diagram below.

Read more about her talk on the conference blog. A PDF of her slides is available here.

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