Independent Schools Conference 2017

National Education Union (ATL Section) Independent Schools Conference 2017.

When & Where?

Saturday 11 November 2017, 10am to 4pm.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel London - Tower of London, 7 Pepys Street, London, EC3N 4AF.

How do I book?

Priority booking at this ever-popular event is given to NEU school representatives and contacts. Invites will be sent by email at the beginning of September.

Thereafter, any unfilled places will be offered to ordinary members. 

What does it cost?

The conference is free to members and includes lunch and refreshment. Not only that, the National Education Union also covers reasonable travel expenses. Though if you have a reserved place, please remember that we go to some considerable expense to put on the event. If for any reason you can’t, please let us know as soon as possible so that we can offer your place to someone else.

What & Who?

The Conference is a great opportunity to meet colleagues from the sector, to discuss issues, share experience and learn new things.

The proceedings will get under way with a welcome from your National Education Union (ATL section) President, Niamh Sweeney, who will outline the priorities for her presidential year.

Question Time

Here’s your opportunity to ask some of the leading figures in education that burning question.

The centre piece of the morning session will be a panel discussion on current issues in education. On the panel will be Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, NEU; Richard Harman, General Secretary, AGBIS, Association of Governing Bodies of Independent Schools; and Ed Dorrell, Head of Content, TES, Times Education Supplement, Nicky Powell, Founder & Director, Primary Matters.

Richard Harman is the General Secretary, AGBIS. Richard has 32 years in teaching. He taught English and Drama at Marlborough College and Eastbourne College, before becoming Headmaster of Aldenham and then Uppingham.  Richard has also been Chairman of the Boarding Schools’ Association and HMC.

Ed Dorrell is Head of Content, TES. Ed Dorrell is head of content at the TES, former features and comment editor and former news editor.

Nicky Powell is the Founder and Director of Primary Matters. Nicky has over 20 years of experience supporting school improvement with school leadership teams and classroom teachers as a leading practitioner providing an innovative and memorable curriculum.            

Prior to setting up Primary Matters, Nicky spent 12 years teaching Reception through to Year 6 and 10 years as a Literacy Consultant for West Sussex County Council.

In the afternoon, you will have the opportunity to hear in more detail from one of the leading figures in education, your very own Joint National Education Union general secretary, Dr Mary Bousted. Mary is known for her candid and forthright views and you might even get an insight of what’s really going on behind the closed doors in the world of education and what our priorities are as a union.

Seminar discussion groups

In the morning and afternoon, you have the opportunity to attend two out of three seminar groups.

The seminars provide the opportunity to discuss with colleagues practical issues in the classroom and workplace and how together we might influence issues which affect our daily lives.           

With our new union, the National Education Union, just a couple of months old, the session on 'what does the new union mean to you?' provides an ideal opportunity to take stock and discuss the practicalities and opportunities for you and your colleagues in your school or college. The session will be led by Richard Vanstone, Secretary ATL Bath and NE Somerset. He will draw on his experience as an ATL branch secretary and more than 30 years working in two large independent schools. Richard will be joined by John Richardson and Jennie Bremner, National Officials for the independent sector.                                          

In the session, 'Inspiring Schools in service of society', Justin Blake, NEU contact and Head of Social Responsibility, at Windlesham House school will facilitate discussion on school culture, values and leadership. This session will include useful resources and some exciting new initiatives to help support you and inspire your school in service of society. Justin will be joined by Nicky Powell, Founder and Director of Primary Matters. Justin Blake is Head of SMSC & Social Responsibility at Windlesham in West Sussex. Windlesham was awarded ‘Independent School of the Year’. Windlesham is one of the first schools in the UK to receive a Gold Award as part of the new National School SMSC Quality Mark. Justin has over 20 years of experience working with state and independent education. He has pioneered state and independent school collaboration. He is on the Independent Schools Council Expert Advisory Group for Community Action and works in partnership with national initiatives such as Step Up To Serve and the WE Movement supporting over 10,000 schools. Justin regularly facilitates leadership conferences and is the independent schools lead for INSPIRE, a new national initiative.           

It is important for you, your colleagues and your school to keep abreast of the latest legal developments. In the 'Legal Update' seminar, Jayne Phillips, NEU (ATL section) Deputy Head, Legal Member Services, will look at the key developments and their implications for you and your schools. Jayne will be joined by John Richardson/Jennie Bremner, National Officials, independent sector, who will look at areas where the law meets political agendas, such as charitable status and public benefit.

There will be discussion, hand-outs, quizzes and more. 

Talk: Into the woods

In his talk 'Into the woods', Kester Brewin will discuss the journey of learning. We have often seen teaching as ‘throwing light’ on a subject. But a deeper reading of the great films and literature reveals that characters learn most when they go through periods of darkness, a journey – as the award-winning screenwriter John Yorke puts it – ‘into the woods.’ What might this offer to us as we seek a professional practice beyond the exam factory that is committed to self-discovery?

Kester Brewin has taught mathematics in London schools for 20 year. He is the NEU school rep at Sydenham High School and the branch secretary of the NEU (ATL section) Girls Day School Trust Branch, covering 25 GDST schools.

Kester is the author of 5 books. He has written and presented for Radio 4, and spoken twice at the UK’s premier TED event. Funded by the Arts Council and the Society of Authors, he is currently working on a novel, while still working part time.

Summing up

At the end of the day, Deborah Parren, chair of the NEU (ATL section) Independent & Private Sector Advisory Group will sum proceedings and highlight actions going forward. It will also be the first opportunity to find out the findings of our unique and authoritative Independent Sector Pay and Conditions Survey 2017, which are embargoed until the conference.

Members of the  Independent & Private Sector Advisory Group and NEU staff will be available to discuss individual and collective issues in your workplace. IPSAG would be particularly interested to hear of any policy issues which you think should discuss at annual conference at Easter 2018.

IPSAG would be particularly interested to hear of any collective/policy issues you think that the union should discuss at NEU ATL annual conference at Easter 2018.

What do past attendees say about it?

The best INSET I have been to in a very long time!”

“I really value the opportunity to talk to colleagues from other independent schools.”

“I now feel confident to go back to school and tackle those niggling issues!”

Will there be any materials to take away?

NEU ATL publications will be available on the day, free of charge to members, such as Taking students off-site, the ATL Work life balance toolkit, and A guide to Tax, the ATL guide to Working in the independent sector, the ATL briefing on Collective bargaining in the independent sector. And there will also be some NEU freebies!

What do Heads think of the conference?

Many heads view the conference as a good CPD and encourage staff to attend. They also recognise the opportunity for their school to plug into what is going on elsewhere.

What we hope for the day

We hope that you enjoy the day. We hope that you learn new things, meet new people and are stimulated to do things differently.

We hope that you are energised to go back to your workplace to strengthen NEU’s collective staff voice in your school, so that together you can influence the decisions that affect your daily working lives.


The programme is available here.


If you have any queries please contact Jordan Biermann.