#LearningFirst Conference heads north….


Learning First Conference University of Cumbria Lancaster Cirrus Assessment

#LearningFirst is heading north this week. The latest, profession led, assessment conference takes place at Cumbria University’s Lancaster Campus on Saturday 26th November. With that in mind, we look back at our thoughts after the first #LearningFirst conference in Sheffield. 

On a cold and miserable Saturday afternoon in February, a movement began. There had been a flurry of confusing messages and mishaps related to assessment and educators had been left feeling generally bemused. In fact they were more than bemused, they were anxious, uncomfortable and in some cases, angry.

It all started with a tweet. Under the hashtag #LearningFirst, professionals shared their frustrations and concerns. It was obvious that assessment had started to feel overwhelming for so many educators.

Headteacher Dame Alison Peacock and the team at Beyond Levels, took the bull by the horns. What was needed was to gather the profession together, discuss what excellent assessment practice should look like and share it with each other. Simple!

The Beyond Levels team (with a little help from social media) swooped into action and what came next was quite astounding.  Within days a conference date had been chosen, an impressive Higher Education venue offered, sponsors found and speakers arranged. It just took a little nudge and a bit of organisation (this may be an understatement!). Tickets for the event sold out in 40 minutes, such was the enthusiasm for a profession led approach to assessment.

Assessment needed to be returned to its rightful place alongside teaching and learning and, on Saturday, hundreds of education folk gathered at Sheffield Hallam University to do just that.

Educators and governors from Early Years, Primary, Secondary, FE and Higher Education were all in attendance, as well as representatives from regulatory bodies such as Ofsted and Ofqual who noted that they had come to listen just as much as to participate.

Delegates took part in an array of assessment workshops covering areas such as EYFS ,SEND, EAL and cross phase collaborations. An entertaining and extremely knowledgeable group of speakers then enthused the audience further with discussions and panel sessions.

No matter what the background of the speakers, the same messages came out loud and clear. Assessment needs to be all about the learner. If the assessment doesn’t benefit the learner then don’t do it! Educational Advisor Mary Myatt spoke of the need to keep assessment sat next to teaching and learning  and not to view it as a separate entity. Passionate speakers told delegates to ‘put on their Braveheart faces’ and ‘stick by their educational principles’ . If the learner is at the centre then we surely can’t go wrong. Mick Walker from the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors summed up assessment as being ‘the fulcrum of teaching and learning’.

In a hall in Sheffield it had all come together. Colleagues left the event inspired and invigorated. Collaboration and enthusiasm can take us a long way. Now comes the real hard work of putting all these ideas into practice!

The Lecture Theatre session was streamed live over YouTube and can be viewed here.

The next scheduled #LearningFirst event is 26th November in Lancaster. That’s just days away!