The Skills and Education Group had an insightful time at the 14th UK Festival of Education held at Wellington College on 4 – 5 July! Over two incredible days, we joined over 5,000 attendees, 450+ speakers, and 85 exhibitors as the Global Strategic Partner, for a feast of professional development and networking.


Skills and Education Group in the spotlight.


Skills and Education Group, Senior Professional Development and Learning Manager, Jo Shirley, took to the stage in the Skills and Education Group, Venue One, with her engaging and interactive session, “The Power of Coaching to Develop Emerging Leaders.” Where delegates asked insightful questions and developed new skills for the workplace. Jo said:

Coaching has a proven impact and it was exciting to share empowering and motivational strategies with educators, showcasing how this can positively enhance student confidence and ownership of learning. We had a fantastic two days working at our first Festival of Education and it was a great opportunity to promote our professional development offer and make new connections for future collaborative relationships.

— Jo Shirley, Senior Professional Development and Learning Manager


Karen Plowman, Head of Professional Development, delivered another insightful session entitled “The Importance of Effective Partnerships for Robust Quality Processes.”


Reflecting on the festival Karen said:


“The Festival of Education provided us with a wonderful opportunity to meet educators and highlight the benefits of how our personal and tailored approach to Professional Development can enhance an organisation’s staff progression.”

Both sessions were met with enthusiastic participation and highlighted our commitment to providing educators with the tools they need to succeed and the skills to develop staff and students.

Our Deputy CEO Scott Forbes had the honour of introducing the keynote speaker Professor Sue Sanders, co-chair of charity Schools OUT UK and co-founder of LGBT+ History Month, for The Power of Persistence: 55+ years of advocating for LGBT+ visibility and safety in education and beyond session.

Scott said

“We must acknowledge the ongoing challenges and adversities faced by LGBT+ students and educators in our schools and broader society. This session promises to be a candid and thought-provoking exploration of the LGBT + community's journey in education. As we listen to their experience and wisdom let us reflect on our own roles in this ongoing struggle for equality. How can we better support LGBT+ individuals in our schools? What more can be done to ensure that LGBT+ History Month and contributions are recognised and celebrated?”

— Scott Forbes, Deputy CEO

During the session the speakers Sue and David Braniff-Herbert, Lead Organiser for LGBT+ Educators, National Education Union shared personal experiences and advocated for continued progress, emphasising the importance of inclusive education and challenging discriminatory attitudes. They also highlighted the significance of utilising LGBTQ+ issues across the curriculum, celebrating LGBTQ+ History Month, and working with unions to advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. Summarising her session, Sue said,

“I think the next six months is going to be crucial to actually work with the new government and get them to recognise the work that needs to be done on a whole variety of issues. But LGBT issues are crucial. And unions are absolutely vital in that work.”

— Professor Sue Sanders, co-chair of charity Schools OUT UK and co-founder of LGBT+ History Month

Fun and Games with a Learning Twist

Although professional development was the main aim, we also offered a taste of summer fun with attendees enjoying refreshing Dragon’s Den ice pops from Nottingham’s own Pola Poles, keeping cool with the Wimbledon theme in mind.


A Winning Combination

Combining professional development with a dash of summer fun meant our stand was informative and engaging. We connected with educators from across the UK, leaving them feeling inspired, informed, and ready to take their skills to the next level.


Looking Forward

The Skills and Education Group is already looking forward to the next Festival of Education in Washington this coming September. We can’t wait to make new connections and share our passion for educators to achieve their professional goals!

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