Knowledge-making in a crisis: Literacy policy, pedagogy and practice during COVID 

Gemma Moss, University College London

Gemma Moss

Gemma Moss is Professor of Literacy and Director of the International Literacy Centre at the UCL Institute of Education. She is interested in the shifting relationships between policymakers, practitioners and stakeholders that are reshaping the literacy curriculum, and the use of research evidence to support policy and practice. She is Director of the ESRC Education Research programme, a five year investment in enhancing research capacity in education. 

This keynote considers the challenges and possibilities that supporting literacy learning during COVID posed practitioners, researchers and policymakers and why and how their responses have been so different.  Drawing on a sequence of research projects that focused on how primary schools in England dealt with the crisis and the knowledge they accrued as they adapted to novel conditions, the presentation will consider how to bring research, policy and practice into more productive dialogue in the interests of building a more resilient and socially just education system. This will include reflection on whether the pandemic created particular dilemmas for education systems that put curriculum delivery at the heart of their models of teaching and learning, as England does, and use testing to monitor curriculum delivery as their main mode of system accountability.   



We are all semioticians  

Navan Govender, University of Strathclyde, Glasgow 

Navan Govender

Navan Govender is a lecturer at the University of Strathclyde where they co-lead the PGDE English programme. Across teaching and research, Navan works with critical literacies to consider how issues of power, identity, culture, and social action might become embedded into the everyday practices of teachers, teacher educators, and learners. Currently, they run two main projects: 1) Queer Critical Literacies which seeks to explore the politics of (a)gender and (a)sexual diversity in language, literacy, and literature education, and 2) Monumental: Critical Literacies & Decolonial Praxis which seeks to explore the role of critical (multimodal) literacies in taking the ‘decolonial turn’ in literacy studies. Navan is also involved in a joint project with the Writing for Pleasure Centre and other colleagues, entitled Writing Realities, which explores critical-creative and asset-based writing pedagogies that enable children and young people to harness the productive power of difference through a social justice lens.
Who we are, as well as where and when we are, influences the meanings we are able to make. On one hand, this reveals how our individual identities, contexts, cultures, and social positions might enable us to make sense of the world in particular ways. That is, these are our resources of meaning-making. However, this also reveals the limits of any individual perspective in the act of making meaning (whether that be reading, writing, speaking, listening, doing, being, or believing). In an attempt to move away from powerful and persistent notions that literacy and literacy education resides in the individual and what they are assumed to (not yet) know, I will use my platform here to consider how an asset-based understanding of literacies might reveal possibilities for doing literacy education that is critical and inclusive. Working from the assumption that we all already have practices for making sense of ourselves, our world, and each other through multiple sign systems, I invite you to participate with me as we look and relook, read and re-read, write and re-write, as well as design and redesign the meanings that are possible within our space – drawing together the critical, the queer, and the decolonial. 



Researching teaching and learning literacy in digital times: Equity, participation and children

Annette Woods, Queensland University of Technology, Australia

Annette Woods
Annette Woods is a professor in the Faculty of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. She researches and teaches in the fields of literacies and languages, curriculum, pedagogy and assessment; and social justice education, with a particular focus on children growing up in communities of high poverty and increasing cultural diversity. Her current research projects include a study with teachers investigating the use of home languages in rural secondary schools (with Kettle and Danby); a project investigating the inclusion of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander content in school curriculum (with Lowe, Burns and Vass); and school reform research on culturally nourishing schooling (with Lowe, Vass, Burnett, Amazon, Martin). She is a Chief Investigator on the Australian Research Council, Centre of Excellence for the Digital Child and is currently investigating how makerspaces can contribute to more equitable access to digital literacies (with Chalmers, Dezuanni and Levido) and what young children have to tell us about learning with digital technologies.

Literacy education cannot be the panacea for all inequities in society, but literacy is a basic human right and critical in the drive toward achieving socially just education systems. Literacy is a social, material, and textual practice, and it is timely to remember that there is no one ‘best’ literacy program to solve the real and imagined problems of children’s literacy learning. However, we do know that providing access to diverse and balanced literacy learning and teaching opportunities, that foreground making meaning with print and digital texts, is achievable and should be an expectation of those in and around schools. In this presentation, I will draw on a number of research projects that have been conducted in schools in communities of high poverty and increasing cultural diversity, and that demonstrate the power of researchers, school leaders, teachers, children and their families and communities working together to ensure all children have access to quality literacy education for current times. There will be a focus on exploring what children can tell us about their rich literate lives, and how being interested in this might interrupt the resilient deficit discourses that permeate schooling.


LOST AND FOUND IN A BOOK – How books can give us the world

Natasha Farrant

Natasha Farrant

Natasha Farrant is the author of ten books for children and young adults, including the Costa Book Award winner VOYAGE OF THE SPARROWHAWK. From 2017 to 2019, she also spent two years studying the relationship between psychotherapy, creativity and play at the Institute for the Arts in Therapy and Education. This included a year’s placement in a London primary school, where she ran workshops on creative writing as well as working with children in smaller groups. Drawing on her own experience as a writer and reader, as well as on her encounters with children during her placement, she will explore how stories enhance our understanding of ourselves and of others, and how ultimately make-believe can help us connect more profoundly with the world.

What exactly is the magic that happens when we read a book we love? How does it enhance our understanding of the world? Why is storytelling such a fundamental part of the human experience? How are we changed when the storyteller has finished?   

John Hegley – poet, comedian, entertainer.

After our Gala Dinner on the Saturday evening, we are lucky enough to be able to welcome John with ‘I am Poetato’ – an alphabet of creatures in song and in verse. A session with audience participation – you may be invited to become guillemots in search of food, and to sing along in part harmony!



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