I have been going to this conference for over 6 years now. If you are a head or senior leader in a school and have never been I really recommend you do. I always go away feeling that there is a theme and this year it was about heart, humanity and ethics. The following were my highlights – in no particular order.

I was really looking forward to Steve Radcliffe but somehow my excitement for the book did not materialise whilst watching him. I feel I have to be careful because Steve’s book ’Leadership – Plain and Simple’ is great and I recommend it to heads and leaders. When seeing a writer in the flesh is it all about the performance?

Is that why @SirKenRobinson is so popular? His performance is always that of a practised stand up. It was great to hear him speak again. There is something affirming about him. Considering there is quite a bit of considered criticism of his work I still find it hard not to just go with him. He is not, as he pointed out, criticising schools but he is saying the system is no longer fit for purpose. I agree with him. As do most. Where I do struggle is in understanding how he would make it all work as a system. It is a little free school method. Believe in the just and moral approach to education and do it yourself.  I’d like to see more substance from him… But, all the same I just love the man and wished more influential people had his attitude and outlook.

@benatipsosmori who did his best ever slide show of INFORMATION OVERLOAD and really helped to put the challenges ahead of us into charted form. We love a chart us head teachers and we were not disappointed. I also thought his analysis of why they had got the polls so wrong really enlightening. I think the younger voter’s disinterest in politics is something we should be tackling at school. Activism in schools is now more important than ever. Maybe the Labour party can learn from this?

@alaindebotton was brilliant. His take on our flawed character was so good to hear.  Humans as ‘envious, anxious, fragile fallen creatures chasing unrealistic dreams in pursuit of love’ in the context of working in teams was so refreshing to hear. I even smiled at the man revving his Porsche outside the conference centre after I left.

For me though two people absolutely nailed the conference.

@Steve_Munby has a blueprint approach to his speeches. Beginning with a story around someone or something – he could have picked no better start than the legendary Sir Tim Brighouse in my eyes. He then gets to his theme – Invitational Leadership this year… But in truth it is none of this that warms me to him. It is his unflinching belief that we need to be positive and proactive if we are going to improve the system we work in. There has never been more uncertainty and unhappiness in the collegues around me and I am prone to moan too. Steve Munby makes you feel bad for doing this. He reflects a light on this and  shines back positive action and highlights what a privilege it is to do what we do and be where we are. I need him to do this about once a year and I thank him for it!

For me though Alastair Campbell @campbellclaret stole the show. He was a last minute shoe in for the incredible Bill Strickland who I had seen many years before and was telling EVERYONE they HAD to see. That mattered little after Alastair had been on stage for 5 minutes. His relationship with an audience is genuine and his honesty, wit and candour sucks you in. My wife once worked at Number 10 for a few months (A secondment) and she always said he was a really nice man. I saw that but you also see the honest and vulnerable nature. He’d make a brilliant politician. He also made the serene Jane Creasy loose her composure which I have never seen done before.

I also went to the Evening Meal for the first time. This was great I met someone who I liked who I could see was a genuine professional but when meeting strangers it is hard to stomach hearing other heads seem to bragg about the number of staff they ‘got rid of’ to improve their schools. I have worked in many schools and would never bragg about such a thing. I just had to assume they had not listened to Steve Munby earlier in the day?

I am looking forward to next year’s conference. I also feel that having some outcomes – bringing us together as a collective more would be a good move forward. I went away. Booked a visit with my new MP and I have drawn up a list of positive, engaged and proactive things we can work on together. It would have been interesting to see what we could have come up with collectively?

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