UKLA National Conference 2019: Sharing Inspirational Practice.

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On Saturday 16th March 2019, the UKLA held a conference celebrating winners of the School of the Year Award, over the last ten years.

It opened with a stunning performance of choral speaking from the host school, Horfield C. of E. Primary school, Bristol, inspired by the beautiful ‘Lost Words’ by Robert Macfarlane and Jackie Morris. They followed this with a superb singing and an exceptional, dramatic performance of an extract from Macbeth. The audience was transfixed by the powerful impact of these children who gave such a professional performance.

The warmth and friendliness of the headteacher, Jenny Taylor, and her staff was immediate. Another indicator that we were in a UKLA Literacy School of the Year was the range of displays of children’s writing and the celebration of quality texts on walls, stairs and doors.

Tracy Parvin , the UKLA president then gave a witty and interesting presentation of her personal reading history. It focused thoughts on the importance and pleasure reading has given us and how imperative it is to enable children to experience this too.

Workshops were available both morning and afternoon. They included presentations from Joy Court about the benefits of shadowing the Greenaway Award, Dianne Smith sharing ideas for running a teachers book group and Tracy Parvin talking about using picture books in KS2. Workshops were available both morning and afternoon. Several schools shared their very good practice.

Hillmead Primary from Brixton ran a practical session involving participants in the drama based approach to literacy that they use across the school. They have worked with the National Theatre, the Unicorn Theatre and appeared on the South Bank Show. They shared some resources available to teachers from the Unicorn Theatre company, who provide teacher resource packs to explore themes in plays. They involve children in drama and storytelling as a way of investigating ideas and devising scripts from stories they use in class for dramatic performances. The production process is all important and children benefit from the language they acquire, writing skills and increased creativity and confidence.

Lunch was an opportunity to catch up with old acquaintances and also have the pleasure of sharing experiences and expertise with new ones.

Marilyn Brocklehurst, The Norfolk Children’s Book Centre, completely contradicted the often suggested ‘after lunch slump’ with her passionate and funny sharing of children’s books for a glorious half an hour. Her Bookshop provided a great opportunity to find some of those recommended books and network with other colleagues, while enjoying sharing the expertise and support that was available, throughout the day.

A last cup of tea and cake were provided by the amazingly cheerful and helpful Horfield staff. Then a final summing up and sharing of thoughts with a headteachers panel brought the day to a close. How refreshing and rejuvenating to spend a Saturday with such enthusiastic colleagues from across the country exploring and discussing inspiring practice in literacy learning and teaching. It was a memorable experience.

Di Smith and Liz Robertson


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