We’re a primary MAT with 15 academies that spans the M62, from Leeds right across to Manchester and down to Cheshire, and as a trust, we’re keen to celebrate and share the details of our teaching and learning initiatives. We’d hosted similar open events within Focus Trust before, but this was the first we’d organised where ‘external’ people were invited.
We put out an open invitation and advertised the event far and wide. We used social media, approached four universities – three of which shared our invitation with their students and graduates – got staff to share it with their peers and colleagues and organised the responses with the online booking system Eventleaf (eventleaf.com).
We also arranged for the open evening to be added to some free event listings sites based in Bradford and Leeds, in an effort to broaden our reach as much as possible. Prior to that, we’d been good at communicating internally, but less so at reaching out.
We hosted the event at Thornton Primary School in Bradford, as they were able to offer us the use of their hall and had good parking arrangements in place. The Eventleaf registration system meant the school could get a sense of the numbers attending, and we’d hoped that the process of booking and effectively needing a ticket to attend would make people regard it as a fixed commitment. Ultimately some did and some didn’t, but it at least gave us an easy way of confirming people’s registration details. In the end, we had around 20 external visitors from schools across Bradford, plus additional people from within Focus Trust.
Beforehand, our CEO, Helen Rowland, had put together the event’s running order and shared it with schools in the trust that had been using metacognition in their classroom settings. We ended up with more speaking volunteers coming forward than we’d anticipated, so we found ourselves having to tailor the agenda accordingly. The event lasted around 90 minutes in total and consisted of a welcome, a series of presentations and then a Q&A at the end, followed by an informal networking session.
Our priority was to involve teachers and practitioners who were experienced at delivering metacognition in their classrooms. It wasn’t a theoretical discussion, but one centred more around ‘This is what we’ve done, this is where it’s worked, and this what worked for me.’
We considered the evening a success, and are envisaging doing something similar again in late spring 2019. We organised this event for the first week after half term, which in retrospect perhaps wasn’t ideal – deferring it for a week may have been better. The booking system we used worked very well, however. It made it easy for attendees to get all the details, and really lightened the administration load for ourselves.
Allison Simpson is procurement lead at Focus Trust.