My time at Conference

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21 January 2014 by ATL
Katie Gascoigne is an ATL Future member teaching in a secondary academy based in the North of England and last year’s Conference was her first introduction to getting more active with ATL.

"On the coach now, not sure what to expect. Really hope it is not all about ‘the cause’, ‘the man’ and ‘the misery’."

This text was my conference starting point; I was unsure but interested.

On arrival there was so much happening you were instantly swept up into the hustle and bustle; people were welcoming, keen to engage and remarkably eager to chat, discuss and debate. In the main auditorium we were guided through the format of conference, the rules and regulations and a brief ‘how to’ conference.

Then it began. At pace, well researched and well written motions were delivered by people who really believed in what they were saying. Whether you agreed with the motions or not, it was hard not to admire the guts and the passion of those who had spoken.

Furthermore, the debate generated and the people who spoke ‘off the cuff’ there and then offered real insight and often inspiration. From porn and body image in the classroom to the availability of defibrillators in school, to the inevitable discussion on pay, pensions and policy, the range of motions were vast and really served to broaden my thoughts on education and indeed society.

Off the back of this I chose to speak in support of a motion. I was supported and encouraged to stand and clapped as a ‘first timer’. I don’t know if people agreed with my thoughts but they were a respectful audience and conscientious enough to give me little ‘well done’s’ as I returned to my seat. As I say, I hadn’t planned on speaking but such was the atmosphere, when I felt I had something to offer I felt comfy enough to do so.

Not all the break-out sessions and fringes were useful but, having conferenced a lot in my previous career, this is often the way of the world! Many however were fantastic and it is worth researching the sessions and googling speakers so you make the most of your time.

One of the break-out sessions in particular, led by Pivotal Education, provided real food for thought and has continued to provide an on-going reference point for my classroom practice.

Conference therefore turned out to be ‘for me’; there was a lovely social side with plenty of networking opportunities and lots of goodies being given away at every turn. Moreover however I left with a sense of positivity. In my training year I had encountered lots of different points of view on teaching, education and the changing landscape.

At ATL Conference, context was provided, gaps filled in and good news and optimism outweighed the negativity I had been concerned about.