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Podcast | Season 3 | Episode 9: A Day at the Schools & Academies Show London

Season 3 | Episode 9: A Day at the Schools & Academies Show London 2023 

In this special episode of the Schools & Academies Show Podcast, we give you a roundup of all the news to come from the Schools and Academies Show London 2023.  We’ll be covering all the sessions to make it into the press and hearing from an array of our expert speakers.

This month we are joined by Baroness Barran MBE, Minister for the School System and Student Finance, Karl Pupé, author of The Action Hero Teacher, Daniel Sobal, Author and Founder & CEO of Inclusion Expert, Ben Gudgeon, Headmaster of the Yehudi Menuhin School, Dr Trevor Male, Associate Professor in the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership, Dave Howard, Creative Learning Producer with Stan's Café Theatre Company, Stuart Worden, Principal at The BRIT School, Annie Hudson, Chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel and Gill Cowley, Chair of Governors of Our Lady Queen of Peace Primary School.

The headlines to come out of the Schools & Academies Show London 2023:

If you were unable to join us on the day, don’t worry as you’ll be able to get a taste of the show by tuning in. We hope you enjoy! 

Useful Links:

We return to the NEC, Birmingham on 22nd November for another content-packed day of learning and networking. Register your interest to hear exclusive event updates and announcements!

Join the conversation and let us know your thoughts by tweeting us @SAA_Show and connect with us on our LinkedIn.  

Listen to the full episode below.


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Sam Powell: So before we begin today's episode, I just want to take a moment to apologize and say that due to some circumstances outside of our control, as well as much of today's episodes content coming from live interviews on the show floor, the audio quality is going to be a bit lower than our normal standard. We hope that you're still able to enjoy the episode regardless, and we assure you that normal audio quality we'll be back next month.

Sam Powell:
Hi, everyone, and welcome back to a very special episode of the Schools & Academies Show Podcast, we've just got back from the podcast namesake Schools and Academies Show London.

Alex Wallace:
It was another fantastic show, even if we do say so ourselves. And just like the Birmingham Show last year, we're here to give you a breakdown of some of the best bits from the show floor.

Sam Powell:
Today will be a break from our typical format. Instead, we'll bring you some of the highlights from the show floor and the headlines that came about as a result.

Alex Wallace
: If you're a fan of our guests, don't worry, you just won't be stuck listening to me and Sam. We will be bringing you some of the insight from a fantastic array of speakers from across the agenda. So let's not keep you waiting any longer.

Sam Powell:
With the Schools & Academies Show being the country's leading educational policy event, it always leads to a stacked agenda and a packed show floor with a big buzz in the air of the ExCeL Centre. And how could there not be, with the quality of speakers and exhibitors who descended upon the show this year?

Alex Wallace:
On our main stage we had keynotes from Chris Russell from Ofsted and the Minister for the School System & Student Finance, Baroness Barran. Along with interviews with regional directors, Andrew Warren and Hannah Woodhouse, as well as Sam Friedman from the Institute of Government, and a certain gold medallist and national treasure so to say and our new best friend after having coffee with him, Mo Farah.

Sam Powell:
Of course, SAAS is so much more than just the Main Stage and with over 160 other speakers across the day, it'd be impossible for us to fit everything into one podcast. So keep your eyes on the Schools & Academies Show website and blog, for full audio recordings from the day, trust me, you don't want to miss them.

Alex Wallace:
There's everything you can imagine on the show floor. From previous podcast guest Sir Andrew Carter leading discussions on the changing nature of schools, showcases displaying wellbeing solutions and innovative practice, to Matt Hancock talking about the importance of dyslexia screening with Nicola Rees from the TEAM Education Trust.

Sam Powell
: The show kicked off with a bang with an opening keynote address from Baroness Barran and it was standing room only in the Main Stage, as people flooded in to hear her speak on a recently published quality trust descriptors for the first time publicly, among other things.

Alex Wallace:
Her speech was reported in both Schools Week and the Tes. The two publications took two different angles on the story. The Tes focused on her quote, “there are no plans to introduce Ofsted inspections of Multi Academy Trusts because many MATs are so young and not fully mature.”

Baroness Barran
: As it stands, the central functions of MATs are not inspected and Baroness Barran stated that this would cause what she called a “huge burden” should MAT-level Ofsted inspections be introduced. During the Q&A, she took at the end of the session, when asked about MAT level inspections, the Baroness stated that the department had been thinking about two things.

Alex Wallace:
One focus was about the maturity of the sector with the Baroness saying “we felt we needed to put in more support and more capacity building because so many of the trusts are so young and not yet fully mature, so we were not sure if it was really a helpful thing to do at this point.”

Sam Powell:
Schools Week took a different angle on the story, focusing on the statements the Baroness made around trust needing “more support and capacity building over Ofsted inspections.” This was summed up by the Baroness's quote, “we weren't sure it was really a helpful thing to do at this point.”

Alex Wallace:
Baroness Barran also spoke on the matter of school conversions, and the need for this to be as transparent as possible. The government recently published their descriptors of quality trusts, and this will be used to inform commissioning decisions. We'll include a link to those in the description. Looking further ahead, Baroness Barran also went on to inform the delegates of further changes around school capital and the responsibilities of those bodies around that.

Sam Powell:
But that's enough blathering on from us. Let's have a listen about the session from the lady herself. Here is what Baroness Barran had to say to me about her speech when I caught up with her straight afterwards. Before we jump into it, we just like to say again, a massive thank you to the Baroness and her team, for both giving up her time to come and speak at the Schools and Academies Show and to chat with us personally. Let's hear what she have to say. And we're off to the races here at the Schools & Academies Show. I'm currently joined by the fantastic Baroness Barran who kicked us off today with her open in Keynote. Baroness, thank you so much for joining me immediately after your speech, would you like to give the listeners at home just a little snippet of what you spoke on today and let them know what they missed out on by staying home.

Baroness Barran:
Sure. So it's been a real pleasure to be here. I started my remarks just by acknowledging what an incredibly tough environment it is, for schools at the moment with inflation at levels we didn't expect, with industrial action, with real challenges on recruitment. And obviously, incredibly importantly, on attendance. I did pause for a moment to celebrate yesterday's news that we'd reached fourth in the international reading league table, The Pearls Survey, which is absolutely fantastic, the highest country in the West. So huge thanks to all primary school teachers, in particular. Beyond that, my focus really was to explain where we're concentrating in the department, which is on policy, on support for school trusts and schools and their leaders. And just on the urgency of making sure that we get things right for children as quickly as possible because they only have one education.

Sam Powell:
Next up was one of our other keynotes from today, coming from Chris Russell, the National Director of Education at Ofsted. Ofsted have been in the press time and time again over the past few months. And they’re a well known name across the sector. And our regular leaders will know that we've been keeping up to date on the pressure surrounding the inspector. So it'll be no surprise to you that the Main Stage was filled to the walls to hear what he had to say.

Alex Wallace:
One of the key messages to come from the speech, was that contrary to rumours circulating online, part time inspectors are not quitting the watchdog, despite widespread calls for them to do so.

Sam Powell:
Chris wanted delegates to know that the organization are not tenured, in his own words, regarding the recent press and pressure and the inspectorate are not just ignoring all the coverage they have been receiving scores. Schools Week also had a write up about this session and the attention to the comments Chris made around work undertaken so that schools will have a clearer picture of what inspection will look like as we move towards 2025. And when these happen, we will of course keep you up to date on any developments.

Alex Wallace:
Chris also spoke about how the pandemic had created an uncertainty around inspection timing. The Tes picked up on this, stating “with outstanding rated schools on tenterhooks with no idea about when they will be visited next.”

Sam Powell:
During his q&a, Chris was asked if Ofsted would follow the model of the CofE SIAMS inspection, by publishing the year in which schools were to be inspected. He questioned if this would quote, “reduce inspection stress, or was it going to heighten it?”

Alex Wallace:
But that's just a small taste of what was covered during the day. During the show, I managed to find some time to grab some words with our expert speakers. First up, we'll speak with Daniel Sobel, the founder of Inclusion Network. I'm Ben Gudgeon, Headmaster of the Yehudi Menuhin School. And good morning from the Schools & Academies Show London. I'm very fortunate to be joined by Daniel Sobel, Founder of the Inclusion Network. Daniel, can you tell us about yourself and what you do within the sector?

Daniel Sobel:
I wonder what is it I've done? You know, I've set up Inclusion Expert, we've worked with about 10,000 schools supporting inclusion in different ways in England and the UK mainly. And so I also set up the international forum of inclusion practitioners, with 120 countries. We support inclusion, we've partnered with the EU, UNESCO, and various other things got lots of going, we've got a lot going.

Alex Wallace:
And what have you been speaking on today?

Daniel Sobel:
There was a panel discussion about the role of the SENCO. And what happened was the other panellists were saying really positive things about the sector and how things are evolving. And I was I basically chose, on purpose, a controversial position. So I tried to say something controversial for every question.

Alex Wallace
: And what was your controversial take today? One takeaway of your controversy.

Daniel Sobel:
I said I wouldn't recommend being a SENCO to anyone. I said no, for example, that there's a massive amount of paperwork involved in SEN, there's just too much paperwork. And it's ridiculous. It's not necessary. But it's a role, which is sort of set up for conflict. And so there's conflict between the SENCO and parents and leadership in the school and, and local authority, and so on. So it's an unfair role in many ways. So I was sort of coming from that position and talking about how things need to evolve to a sort of kinder, more emotionally intelligent space.

Alex Wallace:
What is the solution to that than having to go around that? What's the journey to a kinder, more intelligent space?

Daniel Sobel:
I think that's at the heart of it is that SEN has become like a problematized thing whereby we labelise children as being what they can't do. It's all about what they can't do, right? We capture what they can't do, and then as a result, what we must do. It's a never-ending filling of an empty buckets, which is all about, they can't do this so therefore we must do that. And I think that system has been proven to be broken, it doesn't work. And the reason is, because they'll never be an end to that request for more and more and more, parents want more schools want more teachers want more local authorities are constantly trying to say less. So my suggestion is that we rethink SEN as a sort of broader vision of what SEN could be. So we think about how do we promote independence? Right, and promoting independence? Isn't each year reviewing doing an annual review and asking, what more could we do, we ask what less can we now do? And that each year, we should be evolving our understanding of a child to become more and more independent. So it's a different view, its a different take. Of course, people listening to this may say, well, we'll do that anyway. And actually, the evidence suggests that we don't, and the as does the endless overspend on budgets, across the country and each local authority with higher needs.

Alex Wallace:
And you're not just speaking in the SEND Theatre, you're also speaking in our School Improvement Theatre later on, with Ben Gudgeon, Headmaster, Yehudi Menuhin School. And Ben, what will you be speaking with Daniel on later?

Ben Gudgeon:
We’re going to be speaking about the role of the arts in school improvement and fostering healthy school atmospheres in general populations.

Alex Wallace:
Excellent. And what you're expecting and what would you imagine to come out of that session? Any ideas?

Ben Gudgeon: Well, I'm hopeful that there will be some people in the audience who are not already arts people, although I suspect that we're unlikely to be inundated with Maths professionals, but really, what we want to do is to communicate to people who are not in the arts, how valuable the art is, and not just as a support to other more important subjects and the perspectives but in their own right, and how they are valuable from a career perspective, as well as the emotional perspective, as well as a self-identity perspective.

Alex Wallace:
I suppose in a world where curriculums are increasingly broad and, attainment and assessment is so rigorous, the arts gets pushed to the side, in some cases, I imagine.

Ben Gudgeon:
I think so. And perhaps slightly more worrying than that, the people who are really pushing for the arts, often they're doing so because they are considered to be beneficial to other subjects, instead of in their own right. So that's one of the things I'm hoping to champion that actually arts aren't just there so that you're better at English and Maths arts are there because it makes you a better person,a more fulfilled person.

Alex Wallace
: Excellent. Thank you both. Thank you ever so much for your time, I've really appreciated it. And I look forward to your session later on.

Sam Powell:
We get speakers from all walks of life for the show. And it's essential that we have all different voices represented. The academic perspectives of course, always welcome. Dr. Trevor, Male, Associate Professor in the UCL Centre for Educational Leadership was one such speaker, and was discussing the changing nature of schools and trusts in our opening panel on the Trust and Trustees data is what he had to say.

Alex Wallace:
Hello and I'm fortunate enough to be joined by Dr. Trevor Male from University College London who's been speaking in one of our Theatres today. And, Trevor, can you please tell our listeners what you were speaking on? And in which theatre?

Dr Trevor Male:
I was in the Trust and Trustees Theatre. And the topic was, are trust the way forward for schools following pandemic? So we were investigating what was and wasn't a good trust, how they were working, what the purpose of them was. One big point, I thought was we've got one of the biggest education experiments in the country's history of education. And we've actually got no research of any sort of importance going into it. And we're struggling around to find out what 1100 different organizations as multi Academy trusts are doing in our education system.

Alex Wallace
: Do you think the sector would benefit from some research on that then?

Dr Trevor Male:
I think very much so. We don't know, we've only got DFE, telling us what a good Trust looks like. We have no evidence in the ground to suggest that these are the features that you should be dealing with. And, you know, so it's time we actually had some more insight into what people were doing, rather than what the DfE would like people to do.

Alex Wallace:
I was gonna say, do you think the sector needs to take some ownership of this and sort of have a bit of direction saying this is what we believe is important and what is good or not, we're a bit of challenge maybe to the DFE.

Dr Trevor Male:
I think so because the biggest organizations in a position to do that is actually do some work already, which is the Confederation of School Trusts. And they are doing some interesting stuff. But it seems that there's still a driven purpose, or an ambition, which has nothing to do with what's going on on the ground. It's more, what we'd like to be done, what certain members of government would like to see happening. So we've now got a situation where just over half the students in the country are in academies, mostly in Multi Academy Trusts. And we should be moving forward to say, well, what are we doing about the other half? And what's this doing for our education system? And if trusts really are the answer, then let's find out some more about good practice which we'll embed right across the system. Absolutely.

Alex Wallace:
Absolutely. That was really thoughtful for me. So thank you ever so much. I'll take that on board. And thank you time today. It's always a pleasure to chat with Karl Pupé. And I was really lucky to find some time during the day with him to have a quick chat. Karl has a wealth of knowledge and his insights are really useful to hear. Here's Carl talking about his session in the SEND Theatre. I've just bumped into friend of the podcast and friend of the show Karl Pupé, who's been speaking in our SEND Theatre. Karl, what we've been talking about.

Karl Pupé:
So the subject was ‘not all SENCOs wear capes’, and we're just talking about the world of SEND to be honest, and looking at everything that's happening in society and how it's affecting the role, and what we can do to support our SENDCOs.

Alex Wallace:
And what were the big messages or keynotes to take away from that session?

Karl Pupé:
The keynotes is that SENCOs do an incredibly difficult job, that the intersection of everything, they're not really as appreciated as maybe other members of the school community, like curriculum, and so on, and so forth. So the big message I took away from it is that we've got to show more love to our SENDCOs, do better things for their career progression. And also just offer them a biscuit and a cup of tea because it's a tough gig.

Alex Wallace:
Is this your first time at the Schools & Academies Show? What would you say to people thinking about coming?

Karl Pupé:
Please come, please come. I mean, I've just been around the stalls, and they're absolutely brilliant. One of the things that I'm passionate about is AI technology, because I honestly believe that AI is going to change education, beyond recognition. And the fact that this conference is ahead of the curve, and I've been talking to people, it's brilliant, it covers everything, from safety, to governance, to curriculum to AI, so come down.

Alex Wallace:
I have a feeling that we'll be talking to Carl on other subjects in the future. So I'm sure you're gonna hear more from him in the future. Thank you so much, Carl.

Sam Powell:
Governors play a key role in education and governance is a really important topic within the sector. And we made sure to reflect that within our agenda. With a session dedicated to supporting governors adapting to working within education. Award winning Governor Gill Cowley, joined us the show for the first time to share her thoughts on the day.

Alex Wallace:
I'm now joined, or lucky enough to be joined by Gill Cowley, one of our speakers today. Gill, can you tell us what your role is within the sector and where you've been speaking?

Gill Cowley:
So I'm chair of governors of Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Primary School, which is a small Primary School in the north of England. And I've been speaking in the Trust & Trustees Theatre about governance and the role of governance from a governors point of view.

Alex Wallace:
What was some of the key takeaways from your session today?

Gill Cowley:
Well, I did it as a chat with Hannah Stolton, which was really interesting, because she is from a training perspective, and I'm coming from, although she's a governor, I'm from having the training delivered to me. So my key takeaways, a lot of people are thinking alike; trainings, important, inductions important. And governors can, it's a very rewarding role.

Alex Wallace:
Yeah. We see governance likely to change over the next few years, sort of what direction do you see the role of governance taking?

Gill Cowley:
I think the push towards MATs will change it, because they’re based on more of a business model, although education is still part of it. Whereas from a governance point of view, having a Board of Governors is slightly different. The MATs are bigger, they look across several schools, whereas as a as a chair of governance at a small primary, my only concern is about that primary school and how that's working in the education sector.

Alex Wallace:
Brill, thank you. And Jill, I believe it's your first time at Schools and Academies Show. Can you tell me your experiences of the show and what your thoughts are?

Gill Cowley:
Do you know what I've thoroughly enjoyed it. I've not been to one before. It's lovely walking around the exhibitions and picking up information and ideas. But it's also really enjoyable hearing all the different perspectives around SEND, because we've got a high percentage of pupils with additional needs in our school, to the religious side because we're a Catholic school, to hear from Sir Mo Farah who was telling about how school was helpful to him eventually, because you know, he had difficulties to begin with, and just meeting like-minded people who are all really involved in the education sector and want the best for our pupils. So it's been a lovely event.

Alex Wallace:
Gill, I'm glad you've had a good time. Thank you for joining us. As we know safeguarding is everyone's responsibility and supporting schools in their journey to improve their safeguarding is a key mission of the show. That's why we had Annie Hudson, Chair of the Child Safeguarding Practice Review Panel, sharing her thoughts and insights. Here's Annie talking about her session. I have the privilege of speaking to Annie Hudson in our Safeguarding and Wellbeing Theatre. Annie, what have you been speaking on today?

Annie Hudson:
I've been talking about what we're learning in terms of how well agencies work together to protect and safeguard children, and drawing in particular on local and national reviews where children have died or been seriously harmed, and identifying some of the lessons from those reviews about how we might need to improve our practices working together.

Alex Wallace:
Fantastic, and what are the key takeaways from the session today?

Annie Hudson
: For me the first thing is that we need to be confident about challenging one another. And not assuming that what we believe we are seeing is happening to a child is necessarily the only way, so that we were always checking our biases, that we're having conversations with other professionals who know children, but will know children in a different context, and making sure that we brought together that information and knowledge and intelligence about what's happening in a child's life into one coherent whole, so that we know when it is that we might need to step in to protect children.

Alex Wallace:
Brilliant. Thank you ever so much for that. Thank you for joining us at the Schools & Academies Show London.

Sam Powell:
As the sun began to set on the end of the day, well, actually it doesn't set for a few hours after the show wraps, but that's irrelevant. Right at the end of the day, Alex bumped into two of our speakers, Dave Howard from Stan's Cafe, and Stuart Worden, Principal of the world-famous BRIT School, whose alumni include Amy Winehouse, Adele and Tom Holland. To finish off our on site recordings. Here they are discussing their session in the School Improvement Theatre.

Alex Wallace:
I'm joined by Dave Howard and Stuart Worden, Stuart from the BRIT School and Dave Howard from Stan's learning Cafe. What have you been speaking on today gentleman?

The art of improvement? Well, that was that was the title given to the session. So looking at the role of the arts, in mainstream education, how important it is for the arts to be limited to their own your own rights for themselves, but also how valuable they are in support of constant improvement in learning in general.

Yeah we were talking about how the arts can transform a young person's life, and how it can almost sometimes save them, and sometimes even save a school. So the more arts that you have going on in a school, we’ve frequently seen that the school will improve. It'll be a happier home, it'll be a more secure, safe sense of belonging because the arts get you to share, especially yourself. Yeah, we were trying to change the world.

Alex Wallace:
I like that deep, especially in the last session on the day. I'm all for it. What were the key takeaways?

22:52: I think the key takeaway, it was interesting being the head to head of the BRIT School Principal of the Yehudi Menuhin School, for those of us out in the wild, it felt like illustrious company being on that stage. But the surprising thing was the unanimity, the agreement we have across the board, really, not just on the arts for their own right in their own stand alone, their openness as part of the curriculum, but also how valuable they are to everything else. And I think we focused on building a community, we focused on the arts as a way of engaging with children in a way that Maths might not necessarily do. All of those things, I think we lose lots of agreement on stage.

Yeah. And I liked I had a sense that the audience was the school leaders predominantly, they knew that the arts mattered, and they it was almost like a us saying to them, go on, do it. You know, you want to, you know, you need to, and I think I hope that they might go back a bit refreshed.

Alex Wallace:
Sometimes we just need that bit of encouragement, that modelling of saying you can do this.

Yeah I had an amazing conversation with a woman that involves an alternative provision centre and amazing conversation with someone who is trying to set up different ways of primary school teachers teaching music, and that's profound, because we know that it will transform those young people's lives. So yeah, it was a good session. Fantastic. And I've never been here before, or I can't remember being here before. (Have you enjoyed it?) Yeah, it's been a great day. Yeah, yeah.

Alex Wallace:
I mean, considering I've just shoved my phone in your face on the last thing in the day, I do apologize, and they were remarkably coherent answers. So gentlemen, thank you ever so much for joining us. We normally wrap things up by telling you to register for the Schools and Academies Show. And don't put it completely out of your head as the show will return to the NEC, Birmingham in November, with registrations opening later in the year.

Sam Powell:
Seeing as we have pretty much as far away from the next show as possible, your time is better spent catching up with the best bits of the London show just gone. Whether you want to relive your memories, or just get jealous of those who got to meet Mo Farah, make sure you follow us at SAA_Show and keep up with the hashtag #SAASHOW to view all the best bits from the show floor and theatres. And while you're at it, make sure to follow the Schools and Academies Show on LinkedIn as well.

Alex Wallace:
Well, that's all from us this month. And make sure you join us next month when we return to our normal scheduled programming. We hope you had a great time at Schools and Academies Show London, and if you weren't there, we hope we've sold that experience to you and we really look forward to seeing you in Birmingham.

Sam Powell:
Until then, though, it's goodbye from me.

Alex Wallace:
And I suppose that's goodbye from me.