2016 Speaker Profiles

Ian Gilbert

Ian Gilbert is an award winning author and editor, a leading educational speaker and entrepreneur and a man who the IB magazine named as one of its top 15 educational ‘visionaries’. He established Independent Thinking in 1994 as a platform for leading practitioners to share their work in bringing out the best in all children. Currently based in Hong Kong he has lived and worked in the UK, South America and the Middle East and so has a special perspective on classrooms and systems, what works and what definitely doesn’t.

He is the author of several best-selling books including Essential Motivation in the Classroom and Why Do I Need a Teacher When I’ve Got Google?, is the man behind the Thunks phenomenon and  has also edited many books for the Independent Thinking Press. His latest book Independent Thinking was published in 2014.

Ian's key note presentation, What Have the Venezuelans done for us?provides an overview for school leaders of the lessons to be learned from creative education systems around the world and lessons to be ignored from those that are less so. Drawing on his experience in South America, the Middle East, the Far East and across the UK, Ian will share insights about the purpose and practice of education and why PISA may be the work of the devil. (Source Independent Thinking)

(Source Independent Thinking)

Dr Debra Kidd

There’s a fight going on. While some are advocating putting teaching in a box labelled ‘Do it like this!’ others know there is much more to their learning than your teaching. Through her wide and varied experience in so many areas of education, Debbie knows that teaching and learning is a far more complex business than some would have us believe.

Part of her understanding about the nature of education comes from her rare experience having taught at every phase of the educational system, from early years and foundation stages, through primary and secondary to VI form and even into teacher training at university level. Increasingly she finds herself these days asked to address school leaders and decision makers as well as the national media to fight for the sort of education she believes in.

Part of her skill is in helping teachers re-examine in almost microscopic detail the essence of their craft as well as challenging them to reflect on the moral purpose which should be at the heart of what goes on in the classroom and the staffroom.

What’s more, at a time when the Arts are under attack in schools, she is a vocal advocate of the power of creative expression to help bring the best out of all children, regardless of their background or academic achievements.

Debbie is at her best when she is challenging teachers to be inclusive in their practice – and challenging the school practices that prevent that from happening. Whether a child has special needs, is academically ahead of the rest, comes from a background of poverty or privilege, they all have the right to a curriculum that is creative, rich, challenging, meaningful and well rounded. With the curriculum – and children’s experience of school - becoming increasingly narrow, Debbie is more than ready and able to lead the fight.     

(Source Independent Thinking)

Debbie's key note presentation, Teaching with Deep Moral Purpose, explores some of the underpinning language we find in our education system and asks the question of whether what we do is fit for purpose. How can we create schools in which agentive, confident learners emerge with the power to change the world?


Jelmer Evers

Jelmer Evers is a teacher, writer, learning expert and innovator. He is an active transformer of the Dutch educational system. With a solid basis in teaching, still teaching two days a week at UniC in Utrecht the Netherlands, he is moving away from traditional teaching, introducing concepts such as Challenge based learning and Connected learning, personal learning environments and networks, MOOCs, Flipped Classroom, game based learning and gamification. Using a variety of web 2.0 tools he’s creating blended learning environments in which learning can take place anywhere and anytime. In 2014 Jelmer was nominated for the Global Teacher Prize and has been nominated again in 2016.

Jelmer studied History of International Relations at Utrecht University. Afterwards he attended the Foreign Relations Course (Leergang Buitenlandse Betrekkingen) at Clingendael Institute on a scholarship. He decided that he wanted to take up teaching and enrolled in the Bi-Lingual and International Teacher Training Programme (BITEP) in which he also taught in a secondary school in Mamelodi Township, Pretoria.

Besides teaching he is also a blogger, writer, designer and consultant. He is on the design team of a new teacher training institute and new educational ecosystem: The Dutch School. Jelmer has been featured regularly in national press and on television. His latest book Flip the system was published in 2015.  http://www.flip-the-system.org

(Source thenextspeaker.com)

Jelmer's key note presentation will discuss how education is threatened on a global scale by forces of neoliberalism through high stakes accountability, provatization and a destructive language of learning. In all respects a GERM (Global Education Reform Movement) has erupted from international benchmark rankings such as PISA, TIMMS and PIRL, causing inequality, narrowing of the curriculum and teacher deprofessionalization on a truly global scale.  Jelmer will make the case for a move to away from this uneducational economic approach, to instead embrace a more humane, more democratic approach to education. This approach is called 'flipping the system', a move that places teachers exactly where they need to be - at the steering wheel of educational systems worldwide.


Professor Paul Clarke

Thanks to his unique insight into the scale of the challenges the world is facing combined with an understanding of what we in education can do about it, Paul Clarke is an important man. Currently Professor of Education at St Mary’s University in London, he is also director of the award winning Pop Up Foundation. He combines longitudinal research with practical action across the programmes he undertakes with schools, communities and businesses worldwide, programmes inspired by ‘permaculture’. This a straightforward yet powerful approach that insists on 1) care for the planet, 2) care for each other and 3) that you put back more than you take.

Paul’s roles have seen him work throughout the world, gathering insights and ideas from the many communities he connects with, especially the indigenous populations and those in ‘wilderness spaces’. For example, a project in the Australian Outback has led him to now work as lead consultant in the Ecoliteracy education programme for Indigenous Schools Program in Northern Territory Australia. Through his Pop Up Foundation he is participating with scientists and artists to explore the consciousness of a forest environment over a thirty-year period. He has also worked on reform and futures thinking programmes for the ASCD in the USA, managed school development projects in Hong Kong and China, has undertaken numerous crisis intervention projects in places such as Haiti and East Africa and is supporting the banking community in Geneva to design and develop a permaculture training farm for staff to learn about new forms of connected investment and well-being.

What all this means is that Paul has a perspective which few others in education today share – and one that very much needs to be listened to. And it should be heard not just because it describes the very real and very alarming challenges facing us all today but because it also holds many of the answers we need. For Paul, it boils down to one question - will the children in today’s classrooms be able to address the environment and social problems we have created when they are running the world?

(Source Independent Thinking)

Nina Jackson

Nina Jackson is someone who sees the bigger picture and, throughout her long and varied career, has been driven to bring the best out of all children, regardless of the issues, challenges and special needs they bring to her classroom. And this is something to which she brings not only high levels of creativity, innovation and professional rigour but also a contagious compassion that proves to be a winning formula wherever she works.

The theme of her most recent book best sums up her approach to education – to the teachers in the classroom and to the nature of the lessons they deliver on a daily basis. You see, it’s about the sherbet lemons! In other words, the classroom needs to have the hard stuff in place. It needs to be rigorous, with the right systems in place for adults and children to thrive, with high expectations surrounding learning and behaviour and with a professionally inclusive approach to the achievement of all children, regardless of their ‘living and learning differences’ as Nina calls it. But there also needs to be the fizz - the magic, the excitement, the emotional engagement, the sense of wonder, the passion in the teacher to bring the best out of children and the passion in the children to make the most of their time at school.

This is where Nina is at her best, whether she’s taking staff through the latest expectations when it comes to SEND across the whole school, whether it’s introducing teachers of all backgrounds to the latest learning technologies, whether she’s working with EYFS practitioners or with professionals from the FE sector.

Apart from her work in the UK and abroad in teaching, learning, thinking skills and technology for learning, her background in special needs and music has led her to devise specialist ‘Learning and Therapy Programmes’ for schools as well as supporting mainstream teachers working with children with anger management issues, disaffection, poor motivation, behaviour and confidence.

(Source Independent Thinking)

Trisha Lee

Sometimes, to get the best out of young learners, you have to make it up as you go along. Or, to be more accurate, let them make it up. This is the power of the work that Trisha Lee has been doing in schools in recent years – letting children’s imaginations, creativity and natural abilities to create pretend worlds lead the learning in some very special directions.

Trisha is a pioneer in a number of exciting classroom techniques such as the ‘Helicopter Stories: Letting Imagination Fly’. This is a way of working with young learners based on the work of renowned Kindergarten teacher and author Vivian Gussin Paley and is proving itself as a way of developing many social and emotional aspects of learning as well as language and learning skills in children as young as two. This is Trisha’s skill, helping teachers use the tools that children bring to school each day and incorporate them into imaginative, dynamic and stimulating learning experiences for daily use in the classroom. And these are tools and approaches that can be used whatever area of the curriculum.

(Source Independent Thinking)

Professor Ruth Merttens

Professor Ruth Merttens is Education Director of Hamilton Trust, an educational charity producing adaptable resources for primary teacher. She is responsible for Hamilton Maths Plans and all associated materials including assessment tools and investigations. Ruth is the lead author of the Abacus mMths Scheme published by Pearson and of the Ladybird 'I'm Ready for Maths' series. She also contributes regularly to professional journals, educational magazines and newspapers.

Ruth believes passionately that Primary Maths in the UK is not only well-taught by dedicated professionals but that we have our own distinct ethos, based on creative learning and critical thinking. This is in contrast to some other, much-lauded jurisdictions. She travels te country giving practical, hands-on in-service training on creative teaching in mathematics and English. Ruth has particular expertise in Early years education.

Ruth has written many training materials for DfES Strategies, including the DfES Planning Guidance in the NNS and the Foundation materials for Mathematics. More recently she has been one of the advisory group working with the DfE on the new primary Maths Curriculum. She led a team to produce the Cambridge International Curriculum for Primary Maths and worked with the International Community of Women living with HIV/AIDS,CAFOD and others to use the Hamilton resources as a way of developing the educational aspects of these charities' works

Ruth claims that her steepest learning curve was (and is) being the mother of six children and the granny of eleven!!

In her keynote presentation 'Mastery - Home or Away?' Professor Ruth Merttens recaps the origins of this currently ubiquitous notion and traces its provenance within educational theory, touching on some of the scholarly debates around it. She then moves on to outline how we may achieve the required 'mastery of age-related targets' for all children, in the UK context, without throwing the educational baby out with the political bath water. A clear and succinct outline is provided of the 'five keys to success' in enabling as many children as possible to master the new and challenging National Curriculum mathematics objectives. 

This is predominantly a practical session in which the pedagogical strategies for improving the teaching of mathematics are described, together with a careful exposition of their relation to 'mastery'. 

Dame Alison Peacock

Alison Peacock DBE, DL, DLitt, MEd, BA, is co-author of 'Creating Learning without Limits' (2012). This research explores an alternative improvement agenda; identifying key dispositions for school leadership where every child and adult is valued and where no one is labelled by so-called 'ability'.  

Alison is Executive Headteacher of The Wroxham School, a primary school in Hertfordshire. She led the school out of special measures less than a year after her appointment as headteacher (jan 2003) and it wa subsequently judged by Ofsted to be outstanding (2006, 2009, 2013). The Wroxham School was designated as a School of Creativity in 2009 and as a Teaching School in 2011. The teaching School established The Wroxham Transformative Learning Alliance. 

Alison's teaching career spans primary, secondary and advisory roles. Alison was appointed by the DfE as a member of the Commission for Assessment Without Levels and as a member of the ITT Expert Group and CPD Expert Group. She is a trustee of teach First and a member of the Future Leaders Advisory Group. Alison is also a member of the Ofsted (East of England) Headteacher Reference Group, North West London and South Central Regional Schools Commissioners Headteacher Board, Royal Society Education Committee, a trustee of the Chartered Institute of Educational Assessors, a trustee of the Teacher Development Trust, a trustee of Open Futures Helen Hamlyn Trust and Consultant Headteacher advising on the new University of Cambridge Primary School.

Alison was previously a member of the Royal Society Vision Committee, CBI Education Reform Group, Cambridge Primary review Trust, NAHT Commission for Assessment, member of the Prince's Trust Commission for the proposed Royal College of Teaching and was previously a national representative of the Teaching Schools Council.

In July 2014 Alison was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Brighton and in May 2015 appointed as Deputy Lieutenant  of Hertfordshire. In December 2015 Alison was appointed as Visiting Professor for the University of Hertfordshire. Throughout her career Alison has worked in partnership with educational researchers to document her innovative work as a teacher and creative school leader. 

In her keynote presentation Dame Alison will address the core principles behind an inclusive pedagogy that aims to give freedom for children to surprise us. This session will focus on ways in which curriculum, pedagogy and assessment can enable schools to achieve high standards of attainment and achievement. 

Baroness Shirley Williams

Baroness Williams of Crosby is better known to us all as Shirley Williams, one of the “Gang of Four” who dramatically left the Labour Party to form a new political party, the Social Democratic Party. She became the first woman General Secretary of the Fabian Society in 1960, and in 1964 was elected MP for Hitchin. She was a member of the Wilson and Callaghan Governments in the 1960s and 1970s, culminating as Secretary of State for Education and Science, and Paymaster General in the cabinet from 1976 to 1979.

By 1980 the Labour Party in her view was veering into left-wing extremism, and in 1981 she co-founded the Social Democratic Party as one of the “Gang of Four”. She became the first MP elected for the SDP in a 1981 by-election in Crosby. From 1982 and in 1988 was elected President of the new party. Shirley Williams strongly supported the merger of the SDP with the Liberal Party into what was to become the Liberal Democrats.

Shirley Williams became Public Service Professor of Elective Politics at the John F Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University from 1988-1996. She has lectured at Cambridge, and in Princeton, Berkeley and Chicago in the US.  In 1993 she was appointed to the Lords and served as the Party’s spokesperson on Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the Lords from 1998 to 2001 and was elected Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords in 2001 serving until September 2004. She became in 2007 adviser to the Prime Minister on nuclear proliferation, has been a member of the board of the Nuclear Threat Initiation (NTI) of Washington DC for over ten years, and the only British member of the International Commission on Nuclear Disarmament and Proliferation and chairman of judges for the National Teaching Awards. Shirley Williams is the recipient of thirteen honorary doctorates and remains a frequent broadcaster and prominent public figure.

(Source:  libdems.org.uk)


Dave Keeling 

6'2" and ginger, Dave Keeling is a professional actor and has been a 'stand-up' educationalist (or kinasthetic and passionate) for over 10 years, working the length and breadth of the country with teachers, pupils and parents.  

Having trained as a professional actor at the London Academy of Music And Dramatic Art, Dave has worked extensively in theatre and television. He also writes and performs comedy, something that has taken hom from Bolton to Las Vegas and then usually back to Bolton again.

Author of several books full of practical strategies for adding humour, energy amd risk to any lesson, Dave combines his expereince working with all sorts of young people and pushing them to aim that bit higher, get off their backsides and make something of their opportunities with his gift for quick-fire, improvised stand-up comedy.

It is Dave's inimitable sense of hunmour, enthusiasm and ability to engage with everyone that makes him an ideal choice for working with some of the most disaffected students around and winning over even the most reluctant of audiences.

Dynamic, energetic and not a bad singing voice to boot, Dave creates a unique and inspirational experience that no one will forget. Generally speaking you won;t have met anyone like Dave before.

Dave's events are high on energy and entertainment value covering in a very practical and down to earth way a range of areas including confidence, motivation, the brain - how it works and how amazing it is, - memory skills, managing change, visionary skills, improvisation, forum theatre, revision techniques (did I mention memory skills?) success and creativity in the classroom, not to mention a little bit of magic!!    

(Source Independent Thinking)



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