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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
ICP Conference report
Article Type: ICP Conference report From: International Journal of Educational Management, Volume 26, Issue 1
The ICP (International Confederation of Principals) World Convention was held in August 2011 in Toronto at the Metro Convention Centre. Having attended two previous congresses in Helsinki and Edinburgh I knew that it would be an interesting and well-run convention and it did not disappoint despite ignoring the repeated requests by the publishers for a press pass. Undaunted, I was still determined to attend for a theme of “Leading student achievement: an international odyssey” Odyssey is a good choice of word as the original was tortuous and full of pitfalls much like the journey of education can be these days.
The first day was one of the best I have attended at conferences as the keynote speakers and presentations were spot on. Both keynote speakers were introduced by Doug Keeley and international “story teller” whose description of Ernest Shackleton’s Antarctic expedition and Roger Bannister’s breaking of the four minute mile were inspirational in terms of teaching others about the value of leadership and teamwork.
The first keynote speaker Stephen Lewis, a Canadian whose international work through the United Nations was described with great humour and compassion for the needs of deprived and abused children. It was important to teach respect for others, especially men for women, and to teach global citizenship.
In the next keynote speech, Jennifer Jones, whom I have heard before is a cultural anthropologist who deals with the human face of technological change and diversity. Again she applied with humour and eloquence her particular take on the world and its stories and the applicability to these changes on peoples’ culture and learning.
Two interesting presentations involved Andrew Eastcott from Australia and Andrew Day from London. They are both headteachers who have turned around failing schools with challenging environments into successful achieving schools both in terms of academic results but also other sporting and community awards. The first was Narara Valley High school in NSW Australia, and the second was Haberdasher’s Aske’s Knight’s Academy in London. It was striking to note the similarities in approach to the problem by two principals unknown to each other and how they reached untapped depths of character and achievement by deprived pupils who frankly had been failed by previous regimes.
The morning dual keynote session of the second day involved Andy Hargreaves and Michael Fullan. The organisers had done really well to get two such renowned educators together although the latter is local and Prof. Hargreaves works from Boston. Hargreaves talked about the five fallacies of change- 1)the fallacy of speed where new innovations need time-if rushed they have little chance of success:2)the fallacy of replacement-if a school is doing badly it is necessary to retain some stability with the past:3)the fallacy of numbers where the measurements used to define schools are far too limited:4)the fallacy of prescription-it does not make sense to have differentiated instruction yet standardised tests:5)the fallacy of competition-there can be off field competition alongside on field collaboration.
Professor Fullan followed and talked about criteria for successful whole systems reform; the wrong versus the right drivers; external accountability versus capacity building; individual versus group solutions; technology versus pedagogy and fragmented versus systematic.
In the break out session Dr Junhua Zhang of East China Normal University (associate Professor and assistant Director of the national training centre for secondary school Principals),presented on classroom culture and practice in China. Much of the teaching is rigid involving book reading to the students, often to very large classes in very large schools. There is little encouragement to innovation as University entrants require to pass an examination for this purpose. The work of Dr Zhang suggests that new values need to be introduced to make the system more successful, such as respect, cooperation, diversity and harmony.
Sir Michael Barber was the afternoon keynote speaker and again the conference was pleased to attract him and he genuinely felt that the group before him was probably the single most influential group for change that could be assembled. His talk, while interesting concentrated on his work in government attempting to resolve blockages in the system in order to achieve greater success. The focus was no essentially education so may have been disappointing to some of the audience although it was fascinating for me having worked for many years in government at a local level.
A further break out session involved a Toronto VP who described the school’s attempts to deal with a very culturally diverse community through a policy of visible leadership.
The final day saw a keynote presentation from Roger Martin, a Toronto Professor who has done voluminous research into what makes a good leader. Good leaders hold opposing ideas in their minds at the same time and are still able to function, moreover they can take two opposing models and rather than run with one or the other will be prepared to create another new model. They will often run with a model in detail to really understand the essential key issues.
Elena Lenskaya spoke on Russian education and its progress (she had major links with the British Council). The description of the Russian system shows between and within regions and also some misconceptions about how good the country really is-there existed an impression that it was just about the best in the World although some international comparison tests in individual subjects seemed to demonstrate a different result.
The final keynote session was with Lesra Martin, a black lawyer who was brought up in a ghetto being unable to read or write. His was a story of hope to all brought up in poverty and deprivation.
The conference was very positive with lots of interaction and as an Editor who had managed Principals in the past gave a useful insight into today’s issues. The proximity of Toronto to the USA gave it an edge I suspect in gaining some high quality speakers who lived not too far away, such as Michael Fullan. Even some much larger conferences would be hard pressed to attract Fullan, Hargreaves and Barber together in the same programme. The 2012 conference is in Cairns, Australia and preparation is already under way.