Learning Festival 2016

Tuesday 12th July had finally arrived. The Learning Festival. My first development day in my new job at a new college.

We had made the decision to take a departure from recent years based on feedback received from staff:

  • We would no longer be a teaching and learning day- this would be learning for everyone.
  • We would no longer be solely reliant on external speakers and contributors- we would celebrate our own talent.
  • We would no longer be holding the event at our city campus every year- we made the commitment to run it at Hillsborough for the first time.
  • We would involve students in the facilitation of the day.

I had been told by many of my colleagues that staff wouldn’t volunteer to share their practice so our initial plan was more conservative than it would end up. The offers kept on coming until it came to the point where we had to finally say ‘stop‘. ‘Oh go on then, just another.‘ ‘No, really, stop now.‘ We had offers from all parts of the college; not quite enough from learning support and business support as I’d hoped for to make it a truly inclusive event but it was a start.

The planning of the day’s workshops went through a number of phases before it was close to sharing with staff:

Due to the vast range of options, an A-Z of all workshops was also produced for staff to peruse a few days prior to bookings opening:

Click here to view the brochure online

I had then been told by many of my colleagues that staff wouldn’t register or attend. Within the first hour of bookings opening (8-9am on Monday 27 June), more than 80 staff had registered and by the end of the day, we had reached 300. I began to worry (although this is pretty normal for me): rooms had filled to capacity quickly and we had only planned for 500 attendees (based on the generous side of previous years). We’ve still to add up the total number of registrations but with 511 lunches arriving (all plastic was recycled by the way), there were just 495 left.

A series of online workshop alternatives were offered to staff so that they didn’t end up having to attend sessions that were of little to no relevance for them. Click the image below to view these (staff from The Sheffield College should access the College version that has been shared).


After all the designing of flyers, creating of top tips cards, printing and signing certificates, packing and repacking goodie bags and packs, putting up of bunting, checking and subsequent changing of rooms, liaising with estates and IT, the Learning Festival was ready.

The day began relatively smoothly (bar the last minute cancellations and detour taken by our keynote speaker) and there was an atmosphere of anticipation as staff gathered for the day’s learning:

Challenges were given out (no day of learning with Hannah is complete without them).

Challenges (1).png

Thanks to Triptico, Crown House Publishing and TES for sponsoring prizes.

The day progressed without me as I facilitated two of the morning’s workshops but the world of Twitter helped me to catch up on all of the action.


Click here to view the story of the day in full 

The workshops soon turned into lunch and the marketplace, where staff participated in their challenges and collected information on new initiatives from September.

Before long, staff entered ‘team time’ so that they could reflect on the morning’s learning however they needed to and discuss the initiatives together in more detail. We gave heads some guidance 4 weeks before the event and revisited it the week before the event; some teams choosing to follow the suggestions as they’d been given them and others choosing to facilitate the activities in their own ways (the kind of differentiation we’d hoped for).


The day ended with a live hangout from the Principal (we needed to test the technology out on a large scale). This was followed by a small celebration for our graduate trainees (now progressing to main grade lecturers) and all of our facilitators. The students who volunteered their time to contribute on the day were also rewarded for their incredible professionalism and good humour throughout the day.

The purpose of this year’s Learning Festival was to engage staff in learning from colleagues; no matter what their role or department. There was a hope that staff would enjoy the event and they’d feel they were a part of something bigger than their own department and job.

There are always things to do better next time around (especially in Hannah’s world) and there will be a review of all feedback received as well as our own reflections next month, but for now:

‘The Learning festival was the bestest ever and I was totally blown away by the buzz and excitement …. I have never felt that level of energy before in any organisation, let alone the college.’

Click the image below to view a video of the day, generously created by our own Steve Kelly @stevekellyuk


Starting the year- Day 1

“Don’t lower your expectations to meet your performance. Raise your level of performance to meet your expectations. Expect the best of yourself, and then do what is necessary to make it a reality.”

(Ralph Marston, author of The Daily Motivator)

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So Martyn Reah began the #teacher5aday hashtag on Twitter in order to tackle the urgent need for staff working within education to focus more on their wellbeing. This week, I tried to hit one thing for each of the 5 during the week:


is the one I like the most and was certainly the easiest to do. On Monday evening, I arrived home before the park had closed and the sun was shining. The new sensory garden was open and there was a great deal to #notice:

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A Close Encounter of the Welsh Kind

‘The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.’

Jon Krakauer, Into The Wild

Last term, we made a visit across to Coleg Sir Gar after seeing that they had been nominated for a Teaching and Learning initiative at the #tesfeawards. Here are some notes from the day.

Raising aspirations is crucial and being the College of choice is their mission. Commercialism is worked into every job description they have at the College and it really shows in the commercial partners and ventures they have expanded into.

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Easter Reflections

On return to work tomorrow, I’ll be asking my learners to complete some short reflections on their Easter revision. We’ll discuss the other things they got up to but we need to evaluate our next steps in the weeks leading to their exams.

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Learner Planned Lessons

Last term, my learners took it in turns to plan seminars and they became increasingly confident with this as they wrote challenging questions and imagined new ways of engaging their peers.

This term, I decided to group the learners so that those of them struggling with their confidence could work more interdependently and so that they could develop their collaborative working skills. The learners planned (completely independently of me) and then delivered activities as part of a review of Act 1 of All My Sons. All I had to do was check their plans and ask questions of their ideas.

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Silent Debate and #timelapseclassroom

I’ve been using silent debate in the classroom for a while now but I’m yet to use it with pens on tables- I’m just not convinced it will come off! Instead, tablecloths/playpaper/wallpaper works really well.

I decided to record the lesson as part of #timelapseclassroom

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My Management Journey Begins Here

I remember my first year in teaching very well indeed; it was filled with mistakes brought about by fear. I was a very worried fish out of water.

After my first term in a new role at College, those nervous gasps for air and flailing of my fins are once more, all too familiar for me.

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My First Year in Teaching- 2009

This reflection has been dug-out of a dusty folder and was written in my first year of teaching and PGCE, 2009. At a time when the complexities of teaching seem too big to overcome, I hope I’ll find some solace in the optimism and naivety of ‘my first reflection.’

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No More Excuses

Writing on this site is often a necessary catharsis. I am compelled to openly reflect on my teaching practice. To those of you reading, apologies. I am not thinking of you a great deal of the time. It’s me, not you. This isn’t a break-up as such but it is perhaps a parting of ways.

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