On Monday we held our tenth annual Kaizen Conference. This is a day all schools in the partnership set aside each year for a shared Inset day. The Kaizen Inset day is the first date we all mark on our school calendars – usually a year or so in advance. The first Monday after the spring half term holiday is always our designated day to work together, share ideas and hear different speakers engage us with a range of educational thinking. This year, nine schools were involved from Blackpool, Preston, Wigan, Bolton and Liverpool. The morning was led by Dr Andrew Curran, a pediatric neurologist who specialises in ASD. Andrew’s messages about how the brain develops, how children learn and the barriers to learning were positively received and many of us wondered if such fundamental information was taught in initial teacher training, as without such understanding the role of the teacher is made all the more difficult. Andrew gave us an insight into how different parts of the brain act, the role of dopamine and serotonin and how we can create the optimum conditions for learning. His practical, no nonsense advice gave those present something to reflect on and consider when thinking about the pupils in their care.
As is the pattern each year, the afternoon was given over to a Teaching and Learning Exchange. At each Inset we run a series of workshops that allow staff from each school to share their practice on a range of different areas. This year, the afternoon was simply titled, The Love of Learning. Staff were invited to share something they really enjoy teaching. These practitioner led workshops ranged from hot seating, using picture books to develop critical thinking and developing characters through the use of props to forest schools, outdoor learning, yoga and mindfulness. Staff had the opportunity to choose three workshops from the fifteen on offer. The sessions provide a great opportunity for staff to find out more about what is happening in partner schools. It can lead to classroom visits and collaboration leading to focused, specific school to school support. The annual Kaizen Inset day is something all those involved look forward to. In a world where schools can easily become isolated, or forced into awkward and unwanted partnerships, we relish the opportunity to work together. Over the last ten year we have benefited from the input of some inspirational and passionate educators, we have worked together on a range of initiatives and learnt from each other through practitioner led workshops, where staff are comfortable to share with their peers and give an authentic take on things. We have built a strong, robust network that has grown from strength to strength and influenced the teaching and learning in each of our schools, more than any top down initiative or missive. Alongside our peer reviews, lesson study, pupil teaching and learning conferences, HT briefings and subject leader meetings, the annual shared inset is a great way for us to work together and learn from each other in uncertain times.