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An introduction to NAHT’s Capturing the Teenage Brain conference

Capturing the teenage brain

NAHT is delighted to be launching a conference in 2018 especially for those practitioners and professionals with a particular interest in secondary-age children and young people.

Although the NAHT has a predominantly primary phase-based membership, its secondary numbers are strengthening, particularly in NAHT Edge. Hopefully, this conference will give a great opportunity for members and non-members alike to come together for an interesting and thought-provoking event. Our ambition is simple: to provide those attending with stimulating ideas alongside practical insights into how to develop provision in our schools.

When discussing the focus for the conference, we very much wanted it to be something that would appeal to a cross-section of those working in schools and, indeed, education more widely. There is much that could have done this, but we were particularly drawn to some of the latest developments in understanding the way the brain works. By calling it ‘Capturing the teenage brain’, we hope to have achieved the lofty aspiration of material that will reach widely across the sector.

We know, in particular, that our understanding of the workings of the brain is increasing rapidly. It has been said that we have learnt as much about the brain in the last 15 years or so than was previously understood. This puts a premium of offering those in education the chance to gain an understanding. Of course, the teenage brain, in particular, is one that itself undergoes a period of great change that's confusing for both the individual concerned and those around them. Understanding the way teenagers act has been critical to our work in schools. Hopefully gaining a better understanding of the psychology of teens will aid us. We hope the keynotes and workshops offer an enticing range of sessions in this area.

Our keynotes will provide thought-provoking insights into further understanding the ‘teenage brain’:

  • Guy Claxton’s work on building learning power has developed from his background as a cognitive scientist  
  • Andrew Curran is a practising paediatric neurologist who has used this to make the complex workings of the brain more readily understood
  • Sarah Kendrick is a therapist who has worked extensively with Place2Be, the leading national children’s mental health charity. 

The workshops will give those attending the chance to explore more specialist topics, as well as more practical considerations on how to apply knowledge about the teenage brain to educational settings. They cover an interesting range:      

  • Poverty of aspiration - from theory to practice        
  • Impact of peers on adolescent development - a neuroscientific perspective    
  • How quality first teaching can capture hard to reach students/The teenage brain 
  • The truth about resilience 
  • Behaviour, collaboration and connection       
  • Warm pedagogy: An innovative and exciting curriculum for everyone   

The challenge of working with teenagers has, in some ways, never been greater. The arrival of social media and new technologies is putting an even greater strain on the cognitive development of young people. Similarly, austerity and the widening gap between those who are affluent and those who struggle means there are significant numbers of teenagers in our schools whose lives are more challenging than ever. Understanding the brain may not provide all the answers, but it will enable us to develop even more sympathetic and supportive environments in which young people can thrive. 

We very much hope to see you in February for this conference. The more who come, the greater the opportunity to network and reflect on what has been shared in the sessions. 

See you there! 

Robert Campbell

Chair, NAHT Secondary Council and CEO, Morris Education Trust

First published 15 September 2017