Wednesday, 25th April 2018 saw UKCBC make the trip to the ExCel, London for this year’s Academies Show. Attending the event was a host of speakers, exhibitors and professional development trainers offering their take on the current and future prospects of the education sector.  

This is part one in our series covering a handful of the seminars and talks from the Academies Show 2018.

Opening the event’s main stage presentations was Sir Steve Lancashire, a National Leader in Education and founder of REAch2, the largest primary academy trust in the country. Sir Steve’s opening remarks urged visitors to make the most of this “opportunity to listen to some of the key players in education.” 

More than just a chance for networking, Steve urged the audience to make time to see talks from some of the smaller stages who were “show[ing] the latest developments to make our sector more effective.”

The State of the Nation  

Steve then introduced the first speaker of the day: Tom Clark, CBE FRSA, who was previously Associate Director of the Specialist Schools and Academies Trust Network and has worked on developing international school networks in Australia, the United States and Hong Kong. Tom also worked alongside the Department for Education with publications on ‘study leave’, ‘benchmarking’, ‘financial planning’ and ‘workforce reform’. Tom is currently Chairman of Govnet’s Advisory Board on Education.  

During the presentation, Mr Clark looked at the current education climate and the struggle providers face in fulfilling the expectations of the general public: “The nature of public services is they’re always in a state.” Both the government and the taxpayer have a vested interest in the quality of education, which can lead to a rather short-term mindset regarding state education.   

Mr Clark went on to talk about the challenges the education sector is currently facing due to “the turbulent landscape” of British politics: the Conservative Party’s minority government results in a slowdown of legislation being passed; this is coupled with seniors from education feeling as if they’re being “micromanaged” by politicians. Mr Clark clearly felt there was a need for educational institutions to be given more autonomy: “there’s a lack of trust to let the professionals get on and do [the job].”     

Interestingly, Mr Clark picked up on the tertiary education sector’s role in shaping the future landscape of learning, indicating that there should be a “parity between technical and academic qualifications.” This would potentially lead to further investments in technical qualifications at secondary level, as well as encouraging more students into the professions that might suffer as a result of Brexit.

Unfortunately, for the time being at least, funding appears to be something of a moot point: “there’s a dam around public sector funding and a big queue.” Healthcare and police funding are dominating many of the headlines surrounding funding. Mr Clark finished his speech with a realistic look at how the sector is financed; in short, the sector could be facing a period out in the cold: “I don’t think money is coming in the short term.”

Although education funding appears to be in a precarious position, Mr Clark finished his presentation with a defiant message to the audience: “Let’s make noise around [the funding] areas we can influence.” This was seemingly a suggestion for school business managers to assess their school’s financial situation and assess whether becoming an academy trust or multi-academy trust could benefit their students.

Read the full round-up of the Academies Show 2018 coverage.

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