A word about the first Olevi conference
As I write this reflection on the First Olevi International Conference, I can hear my historian friend observing: “I hope this introduction of yours is going to be factual and precise and not your normal fare of long-winded generalisation,” and my response through gritted teeth: “Thanks for the vote of confidence. I will try my best.”
So let me set the record straight. When Richard said this was the first Olevi International Conference, he was technically correct. There have, however, been two conferences prior to this, in a previous iteration of this organisation – when we were the Thinking and Learning Schools Alliance (TLSA). The name was derived in 2003 from a conversation I had with Professor Sir Tim Birdhouse, who led London Challenge. We played with Teaching and Learning rather than Thinking and Learning, but he felt that the name should indicate the process as well as the outcome. We became Olevi in 2009 to protect our intellectual property and to ensure our work was shared and quality assured – a move suggested by the National College.
The first conference took place in a snowy Montreal during February in 2003 when the temperature outside reached -25C. The location was a rather strangely decorated hotel and the conference was sponsored jointly by the Western Quebec School Board (WQSB) and the Central School Board, both from the English Sector. The event was spread over two days and as well as Richard and myself, Mike Dubeau and Ruth Ahern from WQSB were in attendance, among many others. It took a while for the conference to get going because we spent the first day trying to understand the student examination system, the accountability for school leadership and all the anachronisms that were used in Canada and England. Once we got past this contextual stumbling block on the second day, we realised fundamentally we needed answers to the same generic questions, such as:
- How do we provide the best for our students?
- How do we know our teaching is impacting effectively upon our students learning?
- Does everyone have fair access to an excellent education?
As the conference progressed, we also realised that by learning together we could effectively answer these questions. I believe this still holds true today. We are still trying to collaboratively learn how to do this and we are not there yet.
I hear the uncommitted observer commenting: “Why have you not resolved this by know? After all it has been more than 15 years. ”
In the interim we have needed to assimilate much more knowledge and understanding. This has happened with the opening of the world education system to us all, the effective use of data to analyse performance, the use of information technology to share and support learning, our greater understanding of how our teacher and leaders learn and the focus upon evidence to support practice. It has been an exciting and energising time and many of you at the conference have been at the forefront of these developments.
Regarding that other conference. I am not sure of the exact date but the venue was the Hilton Hotel, on Park Lane in Central London. It was sponsored by the Specialist Schools Trust. Mike Dubeau gave an inspirational presentation. There was a major demonstration at Hyde Park Corner which made access difficult for some of those who attended. However, the aim was still the same as we have today – to provide for all of our students an education that represents the wisdom of the worldwide education community. We have learnt that to achieve this we need to learn collaboratively.