Posted by Posted on 04/05/2014 21:06:28
So all these people have given up a whole weekend of their precious leisure time to meet in Birmingham: why?
There’s a hugely positive mood among everyone I talk to, much more so than I recall at previous conferences. Typical was Sue Penglase from Bedfordshire, making her way into the hall at 9.15 on Sunday morning for closed sessions on the conference itself, and the draft manifesto, revised overnight after what one delegate described to me as “one of the best debates we’ve ever had at Conference.”
She said: “I think it’s been a really good conference. I like the new approach - you can actually feel the difference. It’s what Russell said we’re being proactive and trying to change things before we have to deal with them.” Her colleague Jit Jardin agreed. “There was quite a .lot yesterday on how we should be celebrating what we do,which is good with everything else going on.”
For Sue, there was another benefit: “We’re in a lonely places as heads. To meet with people who know and understand that makes a great deal of difference and it was good at the dinner last night.”
First-timer Julie Kelly from Hampshire, standing outside the hall at the end of the event, was delighted. “It was really brilliant. One of the strengths of this conference was that we debated the way forward particularly on the manifesto read for the general election coming up in 2015. I was also very impressed with Russell’s speech.” Colleague Nicola Harvey agreed. “The extra debating time we got was a good move forward. “
Another vote for positivity came from another Hampshire delegate, Carolyn Clarke “I really liked the positive point made that we are the second most trusted profession and that message needs to go through. It was good what Russell said.”
Lee Hardy, of Holy Trinity C of E in Manchester, was attending for his second year. He said: “I come away from conference particularly inspired to do my job even better and also refreshed because of the support from the NAHT. It’s a great thing to be part of an association that’s near to the government.”
His old friend Keith Wright (the pair trained together), president of Norfolk region, added: “I think this is brilliant that it does seem that the NAHT has respect from government and some ideals have been acknowledged and listened to.” NAHT wisdom had helped shape many proposals from their original form.
Getting extra private debating time from last minute changes to the conference programme – Michael Gove’s inability to attend – appears to have got more of the newer attendees far more involved, along with the recent innovation of the Saturday morning focus groups.
It is, as many participants tell you, great professional development. Rachel Brennan, a deputy head in Durham, has been on the National Executive for three years because her head had a “clear focus on succession planning” and persuaded her to go there on a temporary basis. “Her catchphrase was that it will be good for your professional development—and it was. It’s the best professional development ever. Its given me the confidence to know that I can get a headship and I wouldn’t have had that without this opportunity.”
There’s the practical support on employment and other issues, warmly recommended by most people you talk to. And then there’s the chance for a profession dealing with enormous changes (particularly this September) to get together and share the pain.
So what happens next? The National Executive and the Haywards Heath staff have now got to turn motions into hard proposals on which they can take the action mandated by the conference vote. Some of this happens as early as Tuesday when much more work will be done on assessment.
And with luck, more volunteers will sign up for the Primary Futures project – more than 110 did so in the 24 hours after the launch at Conference on Friday morning.
Bernadette, immediate past president, is unusually not going straight back into school: she only served for 50 weeks because conference was two weeks earlier this year. Her school staff have another two weeks to go, so Bernadette can tie up a few loose ends.
New vice-president Tony Draper thanked thanked delegates for their “humour, compassion and creativity,” before adding mischievously “Dolly [Parton, a tribute act which caused a bit of a stir the night before] was a surprise but entertaining and an extremely successful addition to our procedure. Gail has started very memorably.”
Gail herself is delighted with the way conference went, and that delegates liked her less formal style. “I’ve had a great time, met some wonderful people I’ve never met before. People liked the session yesterday on the manifesto and they liked that we came back this jorning with the changes.”
She’s already accepted invitations to speak to branches and regions almost everywhere – so if you want her at one of your meetings, best to book her up quick.