On a typically wet and windy late April evening in Manchester, my colleague from EdStart Schools, Kevin Buchanan and I joined some of the region’s key education and academic figures at Opogo’s cheese and wine night, taking place at 111 Piccadilly in the heart of the city.

Hosted by Director, Phil Denton and members of the wider Opogo team, this friendly and informal event was focused on teacher resilience, excellence in leadership, what Artificial Intelligence means for educators and, of course, some truly outstanding cheese and wine.

What we mean by teacher resilience

The night opened with Steph Ainsworth, Senior Lecturer at the Manchester Metropolitan University. Her fascinating and informative talk explored what we mean by teacher resilience, presented her recent research on the subject and explained what practical steps all leaders can take to give their staff the best possible support. I must say that Steph’s section was a real eye-opener for me personally; it taught me that resilience is a process, not a character trait, and that there are many different elements that need to come together, in order for a teacher to become truly resilient.

Barriers to learning and inclusion

After a brief pause for some more cheese and wine, we then heard from Deputy Headteacher at Burnage Academy for Boys, Helen Carter, who gave us an impassioned and insightful account of her career to date, as well as discussing the challenges and barriers to learning and inclusion experienced by the team at her school and, importantly, how they’ve successfully overcome them together. Helen’s talk was met with laughter and a furious, collective scribbling of notes from us all and, once she had finished explaining how important being a school leader is to her personally, there were more than a few tears in the room.

A swift – you’ve guessed it – cheese and wine break ensued, before re-convening to be addressed by Jo Malone from the Foundation for Education Development, an organisation dedicated to long-term strategic planning in the pursuit of individual and collective success. She gave us a quick and concise snapshot of the work they’re doing to help bring about real thought leadership, and place it at the doorsteps of UK policy makers.

The emergence of Artificial Intelligence

The event was then moved along by Caroline Keep, Data Scientist, Teacher and Artificial Intelligence (AI) specialist. A woman with a clear passion for – and extensive knowledge of – technology, Caroline talked to us about the emergence of AI within the context of education, how educators can benefit from its usage and how to maximise its value within a school and classroom setting, as well as looking at its current drawbacks and potential pitfalls. Caroline is doing some incredible work around AI in schools at the moment, and I shall be following with interest as it continues to unfold, to learn more about her findings.

After a quick wrap-up by Phil – and, of course, a final visit to the cheese and wine table – Kevin and I took the opportunity to network with our fellow attendees. All in all, it was a great night and I’d to like to say a huge thank you to all of our speakers and everyone at Opogo for making this wonderful event possible.

We took away lots of points to consider, with a common thread throughout being to challenge our thinking and ways of doing things. The event certainly contributed to our own CPD, and we’ve already identified areas of our service that we can positively change.

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