Back when we started what led to the three BrewEds in Derby, Mansfield and Nottingham, Steve and I always saw them as more than just Saturday CPD.
Both of us trained through Teach First. We moved to a region where we hadn’t existing links to serve some of the most socially deprived areas in the East Midlands. We knew we wanted to do more in the region than just teach, we wanted to engage with the communities outside of our classrooms, even outside of our schools.
The East Midlands & Yorkshire and the Humber regions (adapted from the Social Mobility Index, 2014)
The East Midlands falls behind many regions in terms of social mobility and social deprivation. These factors have a huge impact on the life choices, and even the life expectation of our students and their families. Michael Willshaw (2016) said that “Many families in the region are caught up in a cycle of deprivation. For the children of these families, high levels of educational attainment can seem like an unrealisable goal.” and that “Educational provision in the East Midlands is plagued by mediocrity”. Furthermore, Ofsted’s Warning about education in the East Midlands (2016) stated that “School leadership and collaboration across the East Midlands lags behind other areas”, so it is easy to see that while those of us in education in the East Midlands are not directly going to change years of poor investment in the region, we sure as hell are being told we need to do more to change the face of education to address some of the issues.
This is where the idea of a teacher breakfast club came up (see https://pintsizedpedagogy.wordpress.com/2020/06/05/how-to-win-friends-and-influence-people/ for details!), Steve and I wanted to connect with teachers in our communities to be able to discover how other schools, teachers, and leaders were tackling issues that appeared as a common thread weaving it’s way through our educational landscape. I remember going out on a limb and organising the event; finding a venue in Derby city centre that would host an unknown number of people, for free, was a challenge. Thankfully my local said they had a church group they opened for and would be happy to let us use a different part of the bar to run the meetings. At our first event there was only six of us. I felt like I had failed to read the room, but was reassured by those that came; we were on to something special that hadn’t been done in Derby before. By the end of that session, our model was clear. We were keeping the relaxed venue (pub/café) feel that has worked well for the hundreds of Armed Forces Veterans breakfast clubs up and down the country; likewise we wanted to use these events to promote the work being done in the East Midlands, by educationalists with links to the East Midlands – to showcase what is being done in our region.
The first ‘proper’ BrewEd Derby kicked off with around eighteen of us in a room listening to how an infamous school in Derby was being turned around by their new Headteacher, and how a knowledge-based curriculum was challenging the expectations of a community in Mansfield. The rest of our time was spent talking about trainee and NQT life, and how to make the most of it – wisdom being passed on for free. Everyone left with a full belly, and a the venue were keen to keep working with us. Twitter was great for connecting with people; a buzz around the events started, and speakers started to reach out to me, rather than me having to chase people to speak. As Steve and I were both on what was the East Midlands Action Network committee, Teach First approached us to see if we would put on an event for trainees at the 2018 Summer Institute in Nottingham. We hired out a church hall close to the accommodation, I invested in a projector, and we got some merch together to gift to our speakers (the coveted BrewEd Derby mug!), and Kate Jones (@87History – Author) even brought us some copies of her book to give away. What we didn’t expect on the back of this was for Teach First to send a film crew down, and for us to be interviewed! We ended the year on a high, without support from outside organisations, we were able to establish this community network, and gain plenty of support the following year.
September 2019 saw a school move for me, and one of the first things I was asked was whether I could organise a BrewEd event in Mansfield. We found a venue, and I set tickets to 30 on Eventbrite – we sold out within a couple of weeks. This was a deliberately a different event to BrewEd Derby – all day long, with a break for dinner, and a couple of cheeky beers along the way. It was the first BrewEd event where I felt I needed to explain what we were there for, and what we hoped to achieve. I’m pleased to say that this went down a storm. BrewEd Mansfield’s first event was such a success that I doubled the number of tickets for the next event, and sold out (but cancelled due to Covid-19).
Since organising these events, I have been asked repeatedly why, with Nottingham and Derby being the centre of the East Midlands, do we not have more educational events in the region; people wanted a larger event. So I approached the founders of the BrewEd name, and asked them if they would be happy with me organising a larger event at the request of BrewEders. Both Ed and Daryn were reluctant to see the BrewEd model move away from what it was set up to be, and I understood their reasoning. BrewEd has always been about being teacher-led, starting conversations, people all meet on an equal standing, and not having sponsorship. Also break-out sessions weren’t part of the format. For us to organise a regional conference we needed support, and we couldn’t do it within the BrewEd model. Ed and Daryn had said they were happy for it to be organised as a “BrewEd Mansfield’s BBQEd” as long as we were really clear about the fact this was not a BrewEd.
This has been the subject of many a discussion between Steve and I. The idea of breakfast clubs and teach meets aren’t new. The model of the BrewEds worked for those of us attending the events. What we needed was leeway in how we structured our organisation and events.
With both of us having TLRs next year, and continuing our professional development with qualifications, we needed to streamline the organisation of three event locations, and an aspirational first BBQEd event. The cost of setting up the three BrewEds has also been self-funded. It was clear that for us to provide what those in our network wanted, we needed support, so we have initially secured this from Teach First’s Networking team, and will be inviting other stakeholders to support us in the next year for BBQEd ’21, this is to ensure we keep down the cost of tickets to this event. These events are still not a profit-making scheme.
@NetworkEdEM seemed to be the right way forward. Our ethos is to engage with those involved in education across all phases, specialism and to include SEN and AP specialist in this. We keep the relaxed CPD feel, and we ask all speakers to use their talks to start a discussion – this is important, because we cross the prog/trad spectrum and want to keep it this way. The biggest change will be that we are hoping to use this network to pull together people from across the region to collaborate on projects that benefit our wider school communities too. We hope to be more than just a community that organises quality CPD at cost, but to be able to have an impact outside of our classrooms where possible.
Originally posted in the "pintsizedpedagogy" wordpress blog - June 2020