A festival of excellence

Issue: Volume 93, Number 2

Posted: 10 February 2014
Reference #: 1H9ctq

This year’s inaugural Festival of Education comes to New Zealand’s three largest centres in March.

“There is much to celebrate in the New Zealand education system. Our educational success has two dimensions – the achievement of our students, teachers, schools, and community organisations; and our proud record of inspiring educational excellence in other countries, where our expertise and systems are highly valued.”

This quote, from the Festival of Education website [website no longer available], neatly encapsulates the underpinning reason that New Zealand’s first Festival of Education came into being, says Barbara Ala’alatoa, principal of Sylvia Park School, and currently working with the Ministry of Education and Cognition Education to facilitate the delivery of the Auckland leg.

The Festivals of Education are to be held in three New Zealand cities: Auckland, over three days from 21 to 23 March; Christchurch on 23 March; and Wellington on 29 March. The festivals symbolise what can be done when public, private, and professional interests partner up. Many different stakeholder organisations within New Zealand education have signed on to support the festival, including the Minister of Education, Ministry of Education, Cognition Education, the Cognition Education Trust, schools, and performance groups, to name a few.

The seeds of the idea came about when Cognition personnel were in the UK during the London Festival of Education and were inspired to bring something similar to New Zealand. At the same time, the Minister of Education was working on ways to raise the status of the profession and celebrate education excellence. Bringing together these agendas has resulted in a uniquely New Zealand festival that the wider education profession and the public can participate in and be proud of.

Barbara Ala’alatoa says that she is excited that such a prestigious event has made it off the drawing board.

“This is really a first for us in New Zealand. It’s a great chance to get together to celebrate and discuss some of the great things that are going on throughout the profession. It’s for students, teachers, and the community to get together and highlight success and innovation. What we’re fundamentally trying to do is get a conversation happening that we hope will keep going well after the festival, as well as create a forum that will allow for the continued incubation of success in New Zealand education.”

Barbara says the festival is determined to stay away from the tired old ‘stand and deliver’ style of conference that so many of us dread. Instead, organisers have gone for a festival that bears more of a resemblance to an expo. Variety is the watch word, says Barbara. With the support of a number of companies, local bodies, and sponsors the event will be free to educators and the public to attend. The festival will reflect the themes of innovation, collaboration, cohesion, and celebration.

“Where we can, we will be looking for opportunities to showcase the positive collaborations that are happening. An example might be to have someone who runs a youth trust organisation, as well as a philanthropist who helps to fund it. This is typical of the kind of panels that we’re putting together. What we’re trying to do is set up panels that can engender robust discussion, and we think they’ll be highly entertaining and thought provoking.”

The festivals are timed to coincide with the OECD International Summit on the Teaching Profession being hosted in New Zealand by the Minister of Education on 28 and 29 March. This has meant that internationally renowned education speakers Michael Fullan, Andreas Schleicher, and John Hattie, who are attending the summit, have been able to arrange their schedules so they can be keynote speakers on the festival programme.

The Auckland event is to be held at the Viaduct Events centre. The bottom floor will showcase school performance, such as kapa haka. The other floors will have plenty of interesting exhibitors, virtual classrooms, and interactive experiences, along with the things parents and kids want to see and do. One of these experiences will be a collaborative artistic endeavour, which will see some of our greatest Pacific artists get together with students in the creation of a mural over the three days of the festival. This mural will then be gifted to Auckland city.

Chat room sessions will be led by discussion panels, with attending numbers of around 50-100, so that interested people can interact with some education movers and shakers.

TED-style talks will also take place, with speakers broadcasting their big ideas over the internet.

Inspired by U

There are a number of initiatives underway that lead into the Festival of Education. One of these is Festival Stories. This is a page within the festival website [website no longer available] where anyone can submit a great education story. There’re plenty of inspiring tales already on the site, ranging from a ukulele festival, to education cafés, to environmental initiatives.

“We want to hear from anyone who’s got an inspiring or interesting story to share with the sector. Lots of these have come in from across the education spectrum, from ECE to primary, secondary, tertiary, and PTE. We’re saying ‘it’s a great chance to do some shameless self-promotion for yourself or your school, so get your stories in!’ We want everyone to see the very best that New Zealand education has to offer.”

The Prime Minister’s Education Excellence Awards are a more formal way to recognise and raise the profile of excellence in education.

Entries for these awards close on 28 March. These awards are for groups who have demonstrated education excellence and raising achievement.

Another initiative is the ‘Inspired by U’ site, which will launch soon. This is an opportunity for the general public to recognise a teacher who has inspired them in their life.

“The whole idea is that we create a bank of examples of education excellence that we can share. We’ve got people thinking hard about how we can draw stories from this collection of innovative and successful examples and use them to help paint a picture of education in this country.

“It’s a chance to raise the status of the profession by saying, ‘let’s not be ashamed to get out there and talk about excellence in education.’”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 5:33 pm, 10 February 2014

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