Day two in the grand surroundings of the Russell Hotel (whose interior designer also did the Titanic, according to a helpful member of the staff) and everyone's bright and breezy despite the previous night's activities, including a 10th anniversary dinner at the Oxford and Cambridge club.
Charles Harrison, one of the association's life members and one of those who worked on the ARELS/Baselt merger which created English UK in 2004, gave a quick speech recalling the "natural caution" which had to be overcome, and praising both Tony Millns as the "driving force" behind the association's success, and Sue Edwards, who has chaired the association for much of that time.
There are some new faces this morning: some delegates choose to spend just one day at the event. John Duncan, of ELC Bristol, attending the first day, said: "I come most years but can't leave the school for two days. What did I enjoy? I liked Tony's session very much, and the technology session was very interesting but not very specific."
Mark Cook of LAL, who's attended four or five annual conferences, said: "What's quite good about it is that you get time by yourself, not checking emails, and you get to think about the things you hear and that can stimulate something else. Something I heard in one of the sessions got me thinking about a possibility. It does get you thinking about things."
First presentation of the day is from Cambridge English Language Assessment's new CEO, Saul Nasse, who wanted to share what he'd learned from his six weeks in the job. But not too much, at least not about the "warehousing facility in a secret location where we print everything distribute it and where a lot the marking is done. It's an extraordinary operation with lots of people there thousands of bits of paper flying around building. And it's got world class security. If I told you about it I'd have to kill you all.. and that would be a bad start," he mused.
Then Martyn Clarke, director of schools at the Language In Group, arrived to tell us about change management. After an entertaining diversion through his previous career in education round the world, followed by a stint at DFID ("Mexico, Laos, Djibouti - normal. Civil service, weird.")
Anyway, a very short précis of what followed is his view is that classic change management misses a crucial element: an independent evaluation from some in the organisation as to what's happening and how the changes are actually working. He quoted an example of a change where an aquifer was dug near a Rwandan village so that women would not have to walk long distances with pots on their heads. "Six months later area which had always been harmonious had internecine strife, crops were despoiled and there were 2 fatalities." What nobody had understood was that two families had "negative interactions going back generations, but always sorted out by the women of the families as they walked to the water supply every morning. The journey was socially cohesive but nobody talked about it, it was just what happened.
Top down and bottom up change didn't always work, said Martyn, recalling an experience in Ethiopia where he was hired by the government to support teachers who had been given a new role, and support them, discuss the change, negotiate what they would do with it.
"It was a great role. It would have been a greater role if been able to go back to decision makers with a similar role saying this is what you want to do but what about everyone else help them negotiate their own ideas."
He said: "Change is complex, involves many people and I wonder if there is a position for a role which is non aligned. The purpose is not to see change succeed.... but to explore the reality of the situation."
We're now in elective sessions, and there are quite a few in the talk on PON funding from Henry Tolley of Trinity and Lorenzo Agata of the Italian agents' association. Look out for more tweets in the next plenary, where Jeremy Oppenheim will be talking about the visa system. previous entry << >> next entry