The WAT Conference | Review

Schools only get so many INSET days every year. To the kids, this is a day off. For a teacher, this gives you good opportunity to do some training, collaboratively plan and to generally get on top of things.

At the Windsor Academy Trust, one of our INSET days is dedicated to the WAT Conference. This allows all nine schools in the academy trust to get together and share good practice, as well as celebrating phenomenal staff and students for their hard work.

What happened during the day? And was it actually useful? Here’s what I got up to when we convened at the ICC in Birmingham City Centre on the 10th December earlier this month.

The opening ceremony

After a lovely stroll down the canals, I’d made it to the ICC. I got there a little earlier than some of my colleagues to set up a stall that I’d be running later in the afternoon (but more on that later). On entry, we had to present our COVID domestic passports – which was smoothly handled as expected – and before long, were sat down for the opening ceremony.

I had a complementary coffee in hand because, well, it would have been rude not to.

The speakers began with a breakdown of our vision, as a Trust, for the next five years. But the real highlight of the opening ceremony of the WAT Conference was the student performance. It was an epic dance medley comprised of students from all over the Academy Trust, intertwined with recorded footage from all of our schools. Truly, it was breathtaking seeing some of the incredible work that our young people are capable of.

The first round of speeches concluded with a talk by James Kerr, author of Legacy*, who shared stories of success of the All-Blacks rugby team. He got us thinking about how we might apply insights learned by the All-Blacks to teaching strategies, and I really enjoyed this lateral way of thinking about the impact of teachers in the classroom.

Let’s go digital

After a short break, we were split into hubs that matched our interests. I visited the Apple hub, as I’m the digital innovator for my department, and want to continue integrating technology into the classroom in ways that make sense, so that we can power up our pedagogies with Apple devices.

Unfortunately, I missed the final five or ten minutes to finish setting up my booth in the main hall, which would be the next place of interest. All around me were teachers setting up showcases of their excellent work in the classroom, and I was thrilled to join them. My booth, co-hosted with a colleague, was dedicated to digital innovation that we’ve made in the classroom. In laymen terms, this means apps that are a really useful way to spend our time on. I’m not interested in gimmicky apps, and would rather only use those that I feel make a real difference, so was keen to share my ideas.

While it was a shame that I couldn’t see what others had brought to the ICC, I did really enjoy telling others about what I’d been up that makes iPads integral to my pedagogy.

Closing remarks

Our CEO is retiring, so this was a particularly special WAT Conference for him. He gave his closing remarks and left the hall to a standing ovation for his contributions to education across a jam-packed career.

Before that, though, the WAT Awards took place. Staff could be nominated for the excellent work that they’ve contributed, and both teachers and members of the professional services, such as the admin team, were all mentioned.

The main highlight, though – for me – was a talk by Andy Cope – otherwise known as Doctor Happy, author of The Happiness Revolution*. He spoke about teacher wellbeing and how a seven-second hug can spread love and happiness (Covid permitting, of course!). His command of the stage was terrific, and having such a genuinely entertaining speaker left us all leaving on a high.

Overall, the WAT Conference was a fantastic opportunity for networking, which is usually put the wayside in a school. It also offered apple time to reflect on and develop our pedagogies which, ultimately, will make better teachers out of us all.

*Any items marked with an asterisk are affiliate links and buying items through that link may give me a small kickback at no extra cost to you.

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