What Works? Education Conference – London Book Fair 2019

There was a fantastic line-up of speakers awaiting us at the Education Conference at London Book Fair last week, and so we made sure Associate Director Verity Hawson, was there for a front row seat to catch what they had to say about What Works? amidst the Education landscape today. A week on, we wanted to share with you some of the fascinating insights gleamed.

We started off with a Key Note from Lynne McClure, talking about the design principles behind Cambridge Mathematics and the importance of time to consider research and evidence. Lynne explained how there’s a lot more research about how small children learn maths but less so about how older children learn, and asked the question, “is the maths that is in schools today appropriate for the 21st century?

Cambridge Mathematics have developed an innovative research based tool to design connected curricula, classroom tasks, assessments & professional development. There are 5 principles for this tool: 1) maths for all, 2) connectedness, 3) embedding, 4) early motivating experience, 5) based on research & evidence.

Lynne explained how they have used a network grafting software for the tool’s prototype, and how ideally it will be, to some degree, open access. Essentially, it will identify the problem, collect evidence and research to design appropriate maths curricula.

Lynne mentioned how the current UK curriculum is missing certain things, e.g. data sets, and interpreting big data. For instance, there is a serious amount of maths in the folding (origami) of an air bag!

We then moved on to look at the trends and viewpoints of International Education with thanks to Katie Hebbes from ISC Research where we heard that 80% of students in international schools are from local families. This is a significant change away from expats in the last 15 years. Katie told us how there is a growing cohort of teachers in international schools teaching in English as a second language, and that the international schools market has grown by 5.5% since 2012 with the biggest growth driver in education being English. Bilingual schools have had the most growth, showing that 32% of international schools around the world are bilingual. Katie shared some interesting insight, stating that the UK curriculum is the most popular, with the IB diploma becoming more widely recognised at University level. Apparently there are 104 new international schools due to open in 2019, based on UK and US brands, and China now has a greater number of international schools than the UAE. Spain has the lowest number of international schools with only 258 in total. Katie explained how demand for international schools in SE Asia is increasing from local families.

The Chair of the conference, and Cambridge University Press’s Director of Education Reform, Jane Mann, kicked off the first panel of the day, looking at international publishing, thinking specifically about the move from local to non-local.

Jane voiced how the drivers of the market are changing. There is a drive for local in a global world, and governments look to education where this should happen. But how do we achieve “glocal?” said Jane.

19.7% of European students are below level 2 reading in PISA, said the former Minister of Education Nuno Crato for Portugal in regards to the rapid progress made under his tenure. “High quality textbooks are the physical representation of the curriculum for teachers,” he stated.  A key factor in improving textbooks was the implementation of an independent review by experts, with a visible badge on the book to identify that it had passed the review.

Joy Tan, General Manager of Marshall Cavendish Education talked about how they partner with the MoE in Singapore. They are a carrier of a unique pedagogy, and textbooks are seen as a way to bring teaching standards to the classroom.

James Orr, Schools Publisher at Macmillan Education, talked about how they maintain and develop publishing programmes internationally, analysing market size, representation, distribution, and how they identify their strengths as a publisher for that local market.

Jane asked the question, “what are the responsibilities of the publishers to help local markets?”

The panel discussed the importance of having local market knowledge and of understanding the local curriculum. One example from James was how Macmillan Education partnered with FutureLearn and the University of Southampton to focus on areas that are transportable, e.g. the Singapore method. FutureLearn offers a MOOC which talks about the Singapore method and how it can be transported into international classrooms. It was also mentioned that there is a responsibility of publishers to understand the real life of learners’ cultures.

The discussion concluded with a member of the audience asking the panel about what damage, if any, can standardised education do to a local market? To which they answered that this depends on the outcomes looking to be achieved.

We then looked at how EdTech can assist learning and raise attainment, where we heard from a panel of EdTech experts about how purposeful EdTech builds teacher’s abilities, and how it should support targeted learning as well as the importance of the design being led by teachers and students themselves.

Caroline Bayley, MD of Pinemartin Education explained how human interaction is key, as is efficacy for teachers, as teachers are essentially economists of time. Caroline talked about collaboration and formative assessment, and how her company’s tool, SmartRubric, creates time efficiencies for schools.

It was also mentioned how BESA offer a very clever platform, LendED, looking at what EdTech tool suits which pedagogical requirement and measures its efficacy.

Importantly, they noted that professional development is a critical success factor in EdTech implementation.

The conference concluded with a very impactful open conversation between Jane Mann and Kate Cotton, Senior Programme Specialist at UNICEF, addressing the question of how publishers can support SDG 4 (sustainable development goal 4) in improving access and equity in education.

A major issue around the globe is “disruption” – the interruption of education.  Kate shared some statistics, including that “around 75 million children have had their education disrupted due to emergencies, conflict and natural disasters and that 420 million could get out of poverty if they were able to complete their schooling.” Kate said how education is in fact key to achieving ALL the SDGs. How can publishers help?

  • Monitoring
  • Pledging
  • Accountability

What was clear at the end of the conversation between Jane and Kate, was that if we are to achieve these goals, then we have to be working together.

A huge thank you to the organisers, the London Book Fair, for an excellent conference, supported by the Publisher’s Association, and a thank you must also go to the speakers for sharing their insights into the education space. I will most definitely be signing up to attend next year’s What Works? Education Conference at London Book Fair, and look forward to seeing what the programme entails.