Over the last two days, the College has once again become the centre of the educational universe – and I’m not just referring to the launch of DukeBox radio in China, which was something that gave us cause for celebration this week! We have, of course, hosted the Festival of Education – one of the most exciting and important events in the Wellington College year. This year marked the 10th anniversary of ‘EdFest’ and it was an anniversary that was celebrated in true Welly style, with record ticket sales, a remarkable line-up of speakers, and an atmosphere that, as ever, managed to balance rigorous academic debate with a sense of the carnival. We welcomed nearly 4000 visitors over the two days, all of whom were here for one thing: to learn.
It was a joyous occasion, a coming together of teachers and educationalists from across the sector. Three years ago, the festival was in full flow on the day that Brexit was announced. I remember that day clearly: the skies darkened, and we had rain of biblical proportions; it was almost like a message was being sent. Obviously, things have moved on apace in the intervening three years (!) and, in the deluge of decisions, education has hardly been top of the priority list.
These are difficult times for education: funding in the state sector is becoming an increasing issue, so much so that this year we saw the first ever headteachers’ strike; there have been changes to pension schemes, which are going to put even greater pressure on funding in all schools; and, as I said on Speech Day, the independent sector is under closer (and more critical) scrutiny than ever before. Difficult times indeed, but times that create a juxtaposition with the excitement of the Festival of Education.
The festival itself brings two days of great optimism. Wellington becomes the hub for educational debate for this period of time, and what you see around you in the speakers, the delegates and festival-goers is absolute commitment to bettering education and to brightening the futures of the children in their charge. But what really excites me is the sense of collaboration, the way in which we are open and undefended, the way in which we work together to create a better system for all and, most importantly, the way in which we learn from each other.
I learn so much each year; I know others do too. Those who attended the 10th Festival of Education may have noticed the two words printed on the t-shirts of the Pearson team (our headline partners for this year’s festival) – two words that capture the spirit of ‘EdFest’:
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