Conference Reports

Annual conferences are organised with keynote speakers on Leadership, Early Years, Inclusions, Curriculum and Assessment.

The Portswood Teaching School Alliance have welcomed a number of leading experts to deliver conferences for the development of local Teachers and Leaders. Reports of previous conferences and any relevant presentations and documents can be found here.

2 October 2018 – Laura McInerney and Sir John Dunford

“Best CPD of my Life…”

Feedback from our Leadership Conference has been nothing short of phenomenal. On 2 October we were joined by ‘highly engaging’ guest speakers Laura McInerney (education journalist for The Guardian and Schools Week and creator of Teacher Tapp) and Sir John Dunford (all-round educational guru!). Providing a whole host of research based tips and creative solutions, both education experts offered a different perspective on key issues facing the profession.

As one delegate put it:

“It was so beneficial to take the time out to consider current education issues/possibilities with expert input…the best CPD of my life”


4 April 2017 – Alistair Smith and Russell Hobby

The PTSA hosted another “fantastic, high quality CPD opportunity for leaders” when we welcomed inspirational speakers Alistair Smith and Russell Hobby to facilitate the 2017 Leadership Conference at the Solent Hotel in Whiteley.  We were delighted to see Headteachers and members of SLT from primary, secondary and special schools across Southampton, Portsmouth and the Isle of Wight.  Focusing on lessons in leading and learning with ample time for discussions, reflection and networking.

Opening the conference, Alistair Smith, described as the UK’s leading trainer in modern learning methods, offered a “superb” insight into how high performing schools and organisations create and sustain a culture of success.  A number of delegates commented on the usefulness of “looking at leadership from different professions/contexts and what we can draw from these”.  As school leaders, remembering and re-evaluating core purpose was a key theme.  “Alistair was excellent – makes me recognise once again why we are doing the job we are…real nuggets of information backed by theory”

The afternoon session was delivered by Russell Hobby, General Secretary of the NAHT.  Russell “touched on really pertinent issues which affect us all; in a concise and reassuring way”.  Looking at ‘matters of the moment’ Russell gave a “clear, confident and fluent summary of current hot topics”.


The impact of the event has been clear:

 “Excellent range of speakers that covered a range of poignant issues…delivered in an engaging and thought-provoking way”

“Many tips and ideas to be tried and tested. The leadership team have a lot to discuss!”

“Clear messages, inspiring, relevant, lots of ideas to consider…I will reflect on my own leadership impact and behaviours”

“A brilliant day – another leadership conference next year please!”


29 April 2016 – Steve Munby and Barry Hymer

The Changing Role of School Leadership

The PTSA was delighted to welcome over 90 delegates, consisting of members of SLTs from primary, secondary and special schools across Southampton and Portsmouth to our 2016 Leadership Conference at the Solent Hotel in Whiteley.

Steve Munby, Chief Executive of CfBT Education Trust, opened the conference with an inspirational input on current leadership challenges and opportunities. As one delegate put it, “Steve was pitch-perfect for our position at the moment…a great start to the day – as always”.

We then welcomed Barry Hymer, Professor of psychology in education at Cumbria University. Barry shared with the audience a deep understanding of growth mindsets -the results of which can be transformative for our students.

The day also built in ample time for discussions, reflections and networking.

Feedback from the event has been truly amazing:

“Truly inspiring – I was totally gripped and my outlook on teaching and learning has changed drastically”

“Thought-provoking and practical ideas…lots to take back to school and action immediately”

“Barry Hymer was simply incredible in getting our whole SLT to reflect so deeply”

“Absolutely what I needed – my soul has been fed!”

“Thank you for another inspiring day…more like this please!”


27 April 2015 – Prof. Charles Desforges and Sir John Jones

The Portswood Teaching School Alliance was delighted to welcome Professor Charles Desforges and Sir John Jones to the Solent Hotel in Whiteley. Over 75 delegates, consisting of members of SLTs from primary and secondary schools across Southampton and Portsmouth, were privileged to hear from Professor Desforges in the morning – an emeritus professor in the University of Exeter. He now works as an independent researcher and education consultant with special interests in teaching, learning, parental involvement and school leadership. He has been a research adviser to various government bodies here and overseas.

In the afternoon we welcomed Sir John Jones – he has worked most of his professional life in challenging schools across the North West of England, his last post being the head-teacher of a large secondary school in Merseyside. Sir John has proven himself to be one of the most entertaining, inspiring and sought-after speakers on the global educational stage.

The day also built in ample time for discussions, reflections and networking.

Feedback from the event has been truly amazing:

“Inspirational speakers with contrasting styles but research based advice combined with passion and integrity…They have truly motivated and rejuvenated me as a leader”

“Inspiring – remembering why I do this: we can make a difference and be a ‘magic weaver’. ”

“Recharged batteries…re-focussed on the importance and reasons of why we do our work”

“I will go back to school and develop parental engagement as a whole-school initiative with a shift from parenting skills to pupil achievement”


28 April 2014 – John West-Burnham

Securing effective earning for every learner

John West-Burnham is a writer, teacher and consultant in education leadership with a particular interest in leadership learning and development and learning in schools and communities. He has been a school teacher, teacher trainer, education officer and has held posts in five universities. He is Professor of Educational Leadership at St Mary’s University College, Twickenham. John is the author or editor of 25 books including Education for Social Justice and Rethinking Educational Leadership and he has worked in 26 countries.

Aimed at School Leadership Teams, the theme of the day was the pivotal issue of securing equity for every learner – the single most important component of closing the gap and school improvement. The morning session started with a review of policy changes and then considered the alternative approaches to closing the gap and embedding equity. The afternoon session focused on the implications for effective leadership.
“John’s comprehensive knowledge and clarity of explanations [and fantastic humour!] [as well as] excellent presentation [and] a good balance of opportunities to discuss ideas and formulate plans for implementing new ideas [enabled us the] opportunity as Senior Leadership Team to talk strategically about where we are and where we are going.”

“We will take lots back to use in our own setting]…I have an 8 point action plan for doing things differently at school…[ensuring] learning-centred leadership at the heart [and the ] language of learning is explicit.”

“Thank you to the Alliance for finding another very inspirational speaker in John and bringing high quality development opportunities into Southampton… delivering messages on important educational topics, and encouraging debate and reflection.”

“An incredible, useful…and thought-provoking…day. Lots to share with staff and governors: this term and beyond. “


22 April 2013 – Mick Waters

Portswood Teaching School Alliance were delighted to welcome Mick Waters to Southampton to deliver an outstanding INSET Day on the curriculum.

“Some of us at Fairisle Junior had heard Mick before so we decided to come to the conference as a Headship team (Head, Deputy and Assistant) and we were certainly not disappointed. Enjoying the Learning Adventure was truly inspirational and we all came away from the conference with ideas that will make our service to the children more effective and above all more exciting.

The day was a mix of presentation, educational anecdote and reflection; we were able to talk about how areas Mick introduced to us could be adapted very easily for Fairisle Junior School.

The day went very quickly and without sounding ‘cheesy’, left us wanting more. Our table was made up of colleagues from our Federation schools and we all decided our teachers must hear Mick as he talks common sense in a highly motivating style.”

Peter Howard
(On behalf of the Headship Team, Fairisle Junior School)


24 January 2020 – Lessons from the Working Class – Ian Gilbert and Mikey Markham

The PTSA Inclusion conference was delighted to welcome Ian Gilbert who spoke with passion and insight on the subject of working-class culture. He was also joined by ‘Rhythmic Mike’ an inspirational spoken word artist who has been able to bring his own challenging experiences to life through rap and poetry. Colleagues from across the city and from different sectors were able to hear about this important area that affects all of our schools and colleges.

Successful author and educationalist Ian Gilbert spoke of a danger of education currently becoming a ‘middle-classification’ of children. He said that we hear a lot about cultural capital but we need to be careful about whose culture we are talking about. He quoted many statistics to show the impact of poverty such as those born into poverty are more likely to die in their first year, be born small, breathe second-hand smoke and suffer from asthma. By Year 9 over half of permanent exclusions are for those born in poverty. He reminded us that ‘It is not and never has been a level playing field’ and challenged all of those present by asking, ‘Is your school classless?’.

While the subject matter was challenging, the conference was also rewarding and entertaining. The sight of over 40 colleagues learning how to rap will live long in the memory although we all agreed the performance poetry should be left to Rhythmical Mike.

Many thanks to Liz Filer and the PTSA Inclusion group for organising this great event.


11 January 2019 – Autism – Chris Packham

On 11 January 2019 Chris Packham returned to Southampton to present to our teachers, school staff and other professionals working in our schools.

The Portswood Teaching School Alliance organises an Annual Inclusion Conference to share best practice across our schools. Previous themes have been around Mental Health, Angry Learners and Resilience in Education. Following a keynote presentation from a guest speaker, delegates are invited to attend workshops delivered by many of our own city professionals and practitioners in schools.

This year, approximately 300 delegates appreciated the keynote presentation by Chris Packham. The delegates represented more than 65 educational establishments covering academic years from preschool through to university. Professionals attended from Southampton, The Isle of Wight and other neighbouring areas.

This year the focus has been on supporting children with Autistic Spectrum Diagnoses and included workshops from the University of Southampton, Solent NHS, Southampton Educational Support Teams and The National Autistic Society.

Extraordinarily creative and prolific presenter, Chris Packham has led a remarkable life, recognised as a naturalist, television presenter, writer, photographer, conservationist, campaigner and filmmaker.  However, Chris experiences the world in a different way, with heightened senses that at times are overwhelming, and a mind that is constantly bouncing from one subject to the next. Growing up and attending school in Southampton, Chris struggled at a time when little was known about autism. He wasn’t diagnosed with Asperger’s until he was in his 40s.   This was a fascinating opportunity to hear about and learn from Chris’s experiences, exploring society’s desire to change the individual living with autism, rather than adapt to them.

Just a sample of some of the incredible feedback:

  • Chris Packham was brilliant – he perfectly explained his world and the need for neurological diversity.
  • Excellent – I wish I could have attended every workshop. I’m leaving with handfuls of notes, resources and to do lists
  • Every workshop I attended was informative and I have developed my understanding of autism when working with children and their parents
  • Brilliant to see an event of this calibre arranged by passionate schools and professionals from the city.
  • Great to share ideas with colleagues working in different sectors and organisations including the NHS.
19 January 2018 – Sawubona (I see you) – Chris Lubbe

“The CPD highlight of the year”

The fourth PTSA Inclusion Conference has been called ‘the best conference yet’ by the 240 delegates who attended from 60 different settings across the City.  The key note speaker, Chris Lubbe – handpicked by Nelson Mandela to become one of his bodyguards – was involved in the delicate negotiations with the ‘apartheid regime’ which resulted in the drafting of the new constitution and the first democratic elections in South Africa. Chris used stories from his past to inspire positive change while overcoming adversity – covering themes including determination, courage, humanity, responsibility, courage and forgiveness. Born at a very difficult period in South Africa’s history, Chris decided early in his life to become an activist and oppose the racially based system of ‘apartheid’. This decision put him on a direct collision course which was to result in several spells of incarceration, torture and near death experiences.

  • The most important speaker I have ever had the privilege to listen to
  • Just WOW WOW WOW, so engaging and very thought provoking
  • Personal, insightful, interesting, revealing, emotional and memorable
  • Thank you!  It was an honour to be in the audience
  • Pleased all the SEN support team attended as it enables the school to improve as a whole
  • Yet again another well organised and enjoyable day. I am filled with positivity.
20 January 2017 – Is your Mind Set? – Barry Hymer

Our third Inclusion Conference in Southampton was even more popular than previous years – welcoming over 300 delegates from EY settings through to colleges and universities.  Barry Hymer was key note speaker and asked the question: ‘what does mindset theory have to say about setting and grouping practices in schools?’.  Barry approached this question from the standpoint of mindset theory and outlined several implications for good practice looking at grouping of pupils by prior attainment which increased in educational practice over the past two decades – and for ever-younger children.   Delegates were then able to choose from a range of over 40 workshops focusing on different areas of inclusion delivered by schools and other agencies.  The feedback, as ever, was wonderful:

  • Experienced speaker who was passionate about his topic and was able to give many real life examples. Education is more than academic achievement.
  • I will be more of a ‘Growth Mindset’ person
  • I will think very carefully about the language I use particularly when the child has experienced failure.
22 January 2016 – Mind that Child – Margot Sunderland

The Portswood Teaching School Alliance is delighted with the success of our second Inclusions Conference.

The 2016 ‘Mind that Child’ conference invited Margot Sunderland as key note speaker and welcomed 235 delegates from 61 settings across the city – ranging from early years settings, schools, colleges, universities and agencies.
Delegates were able to drop in to a variety of sessions throughout the day (a choice of 31!) and the feedback has been amazing…

  • Loads of information that will help me in my role…and will have an impact at school;
  • Hands on experience and addressed lots of my concerns about being out of my comfort zone;
  • Eye opening – brilliant;
  • This session affirmed what I do and inspired me to try more;
  • A wonderful opportunity to learn and share different approaches to Inclusion;
  • We can empower and effect change. Inspiring;
  • Made me feel I can make a difference. I wish all my school could have been there.
23 January 2015 – Angry Learners – Paul Dix

The Portswood Teaching School Alliance hosted its first Inclusion Conference. The key note by Paul Dix was followed an array of workshops led by 29 different speakers. The conference welcomed 240 delegates from 45 schools and colleges.

The feedback has been incredible:

  • Thank-you for a fabulous day – Would like another event like this.
  • Love to hear more – Excellent conference overall – Fantastic day of networking, variety of sessions
  • A fantastic day where each session reinforced the same important messages of building relationships. I wish all my staff could have experienced this. My chimp must learn to sleep!
  • Wish I could have attended them all but it was worth coming for the first session alone!
  • I picked up so many ideas to reflect on and use. Thank-you
  • Very informative and inspiring day. A great chance to develop and share practice.
  • Brilliant organisation and atmosphere.
  • Thank-you for a great day. I hope this will become an annual event
20 October 2017 – Deepening Learning in English – Debra Myhill

Supporting all learners to get the very best outcomes in English; reading, writing, grammar and spelling

The Portswood Teaching School Alliance was delighted to welcome Debra Myhill (Pro-Vice-Chancellor: College of Social Sciences and International Studies, University of Exeter) as keynote speaker to the 2017 PTSA English Conference.   Debra explored meaningful and constructive ways to support children in becoming confident, and motivated, readers and writers, looking in particular at how grammar can be used as a resource to enable growth as readers and writers.

The PTSA was delighted to be able to offer delegates follow-up workshops including:

  • Being Creative with Language (Debra Myhill)
  • Greater Depth in Reading (Sarah Carpenter)
  • Investigating Spelling (Miranda Dodd and Natalie Wilcox)
  • Mastery in Writing (Steph Mander and Lewis Tribbeck)

“Debra Myhill was outstanding…inspiring and informative” 

“Really useful and informative day…knowledgeable, passionate and up to date speakers”

“It is refreshing to be able to go back to school with new ways of teaching grammar”

“All sessions had elements that will move on our thinking…lots of new ideas and strategies to try”

24 June 2016 – Mastery – Tim Oates

Mastery is a journey, not a destination

Tim Oates explored the journey of mastery – deepening the grasp of key ideas over time, rather than moving on and leaving gaps behind.

Assessment without levels has been in place for over a year, with schools having selected and implemented their own unique systems. We are delighted that the PTSA assessment conference brought together schools, from across Southampton, who have offered to share their journey on developing aspects of assessment.

We were delighted to be able to offer each delegate a choice of workshops exploring depth in the core subjects – looking at progress over time and embedding key skills.

16 October 2015 – Primary Maths Conference

Over 80 people attended the Primary Maths Conference run by the Portswood Teaching School Alliance on Friday 16th October at the Eastpoint Centre.

We were delighted to welcome Clare Tope of the University of Winchester: Author of Becoming a Primary Mathematics Specialist, Clare led the morning, bringing her zeal for primary approaches to calculation, collaborative practice and ‘deep subject knowledge’.

Delegates were challenged to think creatively about task design with an eye on mastery and deep mathematical understanding in a collaborative, hands-on environment and the afternoon workshops allowed time to apply this to the relevant key stages and subjects.

Clare Tope was amazing…passionate [with] deep subject knowledge and practical ideas to implement straight away, adaptable to all year groups Quick pace, new ideas and key information on the National Curriculum…I now have a much clearer idea of how to achieve mastery [and] I can do Binary!
Very easy and inspiring…clear direction of how to deliver maths more effectively in the classroom

27 & 28 March 2014 – Roger Cole

Launching into the New National Curriculum

140 delegates from 73 schools across Southampton and Portsmouth attended the PTSA Curriculum Conference on 27 and 28 March 2014 at The Solent Hotel in Whiteley.
Participants ranged from NQTs to Head Teachers with a mixture of primary and secondary colleagues as well as colleagues from Winchester and Southampton universities, the LA, Ordnance Survey, History Learning Centre and the School Library Service. Delegates were party to inspirational input from renowned Educational Consultant Roger Cole which provoked responses such as:

Reassuring and positive outlooks and examples of putting the ‘new’ elements of the curriculum into place – the freedom to be creative

I enjoyed the day and I think that all the volunteers took a leap of faith…it is about moving forward together to maximise the achievement of OUR children using the framework of the new NC. A framework -not straightjacket – if we have the right attitude, application and professionalism

Truly inspirational input with practical discussions and excellent resources to take away

An inspiring…excellent and helpful day – my mind is buzzing!

In the afternoon delegates were treated to a variety of workshops facilitated by members of the Alliance Curriculum Group. Some of the feedback included:

Very useful workshops that gave a very clear overview of key changes

The [workshops] focussed well on differentiation and inclusion…very well informed and passionate speakers…full of practical ideas

Feedback from the conference enabled the group leads to carve out the next steps within the curriculum journey.

22 November 2013 – Joint Alliance English Conference

The first conference delivered by senior leaders and lead practitioners across two Alliances.

The day covered:

  • Outstanding Teaching and Learning
  • What are we going to do about English?
  • Effective Marking, Feedback and Questioning

Both Teaching Schools are passionate about teaching and learning and this was an opportunity for schools across the City to come together to work towards the development of ‘good or better learning for every child for every lesson’ as well as to celebrate the excellent teaching currently being delivered in our schools.

24 June 2016 – Mastery – Tim Oates

Mastery is a journey, not a destination

Tim Oates explored the journey of mastery – deepening the grasp of key ideas over time, rather than moving on and leaving gaps behind.

Assessment without levels has been in place for over a year, with schools having selected and implemented their own unique systems. We are delighted that the PTSA assessment conference brought together schools, from across Southampton, who have offered to share their journey on developing aspects of assessment.

We were delighted to be able to offer each delegate a choice of workshops exploring depth in the core subjects – looking at progress over time and embedding key skills.

19 April 2012 – Paul Black

Portswood Teaching School Alliance were delighted to welcome Professor Paul Black to Southampton to deliver an outstanding INSET Day on the principles of formative and summative assessment.

The rigorous and inspirational session guided Headteachers and senior teachers through the process of developing a world-class assessment system in their schools.

“In nearly 20 years that was amongst the most useful and challenging courses I have been on …thank you for a stimulating, engaging and highly valuable day…looking forward to the next Alliance event”

6 October 2017 – Stories Can Be Counted On! – Neil Griffiths


The Portswood Teaching School Alliance warmly welcomed Early Years Teachers and Leaders to the conference at the Solent Hotel and were treated to a truly inspirational day.  The key note speaker was Neil Griffiths whose lively and thoroughly engaging session demonstrated how maths can be delivered in a fun and imaginative way.  The afternoon offered the opportunity to attend workshops providing valuable resources and lots of ideas to be taken away and used in schools across the City.

  • Neil was amazing and has definitely got my ‘maths head’ buzzing
  • Brilliant morning… Neil is a fascinating and engaging speaker
  • [I will] go back and look at my bookshelf – what maths can I get from it?
  • [the day] was very informative and [provided] lots to take away and try in own setting
14 October 2016 – Child-Initiated Writing – Alistair Bryce-Clegg

Portswood Teaching School Alliance was delighted to welcome Alistair Bryce-Clegg to explore why lots of children, particularly boys, find the transition from mark maker to writer so difficult and why some seem to find it significantly more difficult than others.

The conference was attended by over 100 Early Years Teachers and Practitioners from schools, nurseries and preschools across Southampton and Portsmouth.

  • The best training I have been on for a very long time
  • Brilliant
  • I haven’t laughed so much in ages
  • Fabulous entertaining speaker full of wonderful ideas and anecdotes with realistic practical ideas and resources.
  • The day was inspirational
6 March 2015 – Outdoor Learning – Kathy Bigio

The Portswood Teaching School Alliance were delighted to welcome 70 EY teachers and leaders from 36 schools across Southampton and Portsmouth to the Early Years Outdoor Learning Conference.

Delegates were party to inspirational input from Kathy Bigio – one of the country’s leading authorities on Early Years environments. Kathy has worked as a local authority Early Years adviser for the last 12 years supporting & training the non-maintained & maintained sector. Prior to this she had 10 years teaching experience working in nursery, reception & KS1. Her enthusiastic, informative and honest session was brought alive with a huge range of practical ideas and activities that could be implemented immediately.

Kathy was joined by Jan Stevens (Speech Therapist and ECaT), Michelle Stride (Riverside Preschool) and Tony Hill (Forest Schools) to deliver a series of workshops throughout the afternoon.

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