Information about the event is here:
This day was about a rejection of the neoliberal orthodoxy in education. It was about reclaiming education for the people. Not only was it about an alternative vision, but it was about how that might be done. There were a number of practical examples where communities and groups had resisted academisation or other non-sensical neoliberal policy and held out and forced change.
I was an alien at this conference since the focus was on Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. Howard Stevenson had encouraged me to come after some interaction between us on twitter. So I travelled from Cambridge to the University of Nottingham, to see what I could learn and what I might do in Cambridge.
Though I am not a complete alien in these parts, since I was born and grew up in East Retford in north Nottinghamshire, I did my A-levels at North Notts College of Further Education in Worksop and I did my PhD at the University of Nottingham. I was pleased to talk to people who had a similar East Midlands accent to mine.
What did I learn? I went along with the idea that teachers need to become more active and that they should be using the power of solidarity to defend against the increasing privatisation of schools. Schools should be run by teachers for their communities. You will see this in my previous blog posts.
The most important message for me is that teachers and communities need to go beyond resistance. They need more than protest and campaigning, they need a plan, they need an alternative too. This was the message offered by Howard and the conference keynote Hilary Wainwright.
I found out about the fantastic work of the NUT in resisting academisation in Leceister City and from this campaign implementing an amazing reading programme in the city. I also heard about the effective and colourful protest which returned some funding to ESOL in FE. Though sadly I was made so much more aware of the threat to FE, and was sadder for this because of the second-chance I had in FE. There is no doubt I would not be where I am now without FE.
In all then, to successfully reclaim education, requires effective, creative, collaborative campaigning and protesting by multiple stakeholders: teachers, parents, students, unions… These collaborations can be complex but also creative. Along with this, as well as challenging existing orthodoxy, we need a plan, a vision for what education, schools, colleges and universities might look like and how they will work to serve people and their communities.
This is a time of opportunity and I hope I can contribute to something in Cambridge and support an emergent national organisation.
Many many thanks to Howard Stevenson and whoever else helped to put this conference together. I hope we can hold something similar in Cambridge.