Education Exchange Conference Brings Education Professionals Together

The Inaugural Conference for The Education Exchange Conference was held at Doncaster Racecourse over two days this November.

Over 100 education professionals and experts were brought together to discuss this importance of sharing knowledge and best practice to put collaboration over competition. The goal of The Education Exchange is to build connections across schools, Trusts and organisations so everyone has someone to turn to about any problems they need help solving in an education setting. Pupils and students must be put first in the mission to improve schools and the outcomes of our children.

The conference hosted a range of speakers and discussions, initiating with the Data Manager from Delta Academies Trust, Ian Gilsenan. Ian’s presentation compared regional differences in student outcomes and how we can work together to close this gap.

Learning more about the challenges faced in education in the north of England. It’s important that regional variations are understood to ensure strategies we implement are fit for purpose and reflect contextual needs. Powerful words from Ian Gilsenan.

Director of Merrick-Ed Limited

The conference was graced with a presentation from John Volanthen, a cave diver involved in the Thai Luang Cave rescue. John gave an astonishing account of the harrowing rescue effort. With heart-pounding anecdotes from the high-risk rescue mission, he hammered home the importance of perseverance, determination, and preparation, and explained why he believes success in life is rarely due to “luck.” The presentation resonated in the room, with many parallels with the role of education leaders.

Andy Cave, world-leading Mountaineer, delivered a fantastic speech about overcoming adversity and creating a culture of excellence, offering his unique perspective to challenge thinking and behaviours to unify teams facing demanding workloads.

Katrina Gueli, Ofsted Regional Director, gave a breakdown on regional statistics, and presented research highlights carried out by Ofsted based on performance. Katrina also addressed how Covid has impacted assessments and explained the changes to the Ofsted handbook and how this affects schools. This presentation also provided statistics around regional outcomes and stressed the importance of sharing best practice.

[John provides] an inspirational lesson for all leaders in the importance of careful and diligent forward planning, rapid intervention using ‘tried and tested’ methods, taking calculated risks, and above all, human kindness.

Director of Exchange Teaching Hub

Simon Hartley, consultant and performance coach, cleverly applied his knowledge of psychology principles to the education sector and its leaders. Simon’s ‘2 lengths of the pool’ presentation resonated with everyone in the room and encouraged them to take a step back and focus on what’s really important, and why they do what they do. Simon commented: “It’s such a pleasure to work with such passionate and purpose driven leaders! Massive thanks to everyone at The Education Exchange and Delta Academies Trust”.

Had the pleasure of listening to Simon talk about ‘two lengths of the pool’ Had a great SLT meeting this week where we discussed our two lengths to refine and focus our thinking. Sometimes the simplest ideas have the greatest impact.

Gawthorpe Primary Headteacher

Professional Partners joined forces and took to the stage for an honest and thought-provoking panel discussion, led by Simon Hartley and guided by questions from educators in the room. The panel consisted of Sue Vickerman, CEO of Inspire Partnership MAT; Sir John Townsley, CEO GORSE Academies Trust; Jo Higgins, CEO Dudley Academies Trust and George Panayiotou, CEO Castleford Academy Trust. Input from all partners provided the opportunity to address various issues facing education and how we can work to overcome them.

What a thought-provoking session sharing knowledge about school improvement through effective leadership. The common theme: “do simple things well consistently”.

Director of Exchange Teaching Hub

Across the two days, our delegates had a selection of breakout sessions to attend, hosted by experts. These were:

  • GORSE Code: Maximising Impact on Pupil Progress – Exploring GORSE’s approach to pedagogy and the curriculum, and the impact of that approach on the progress of all pupils including the most disadvantaged.
  • Reading routes: How to embed a reading culture in your school – Providing an introduction to the Reading Routes programme developed by Northern Education Trust and shared with partners. Aiming to inspire a love of reading and develop a culture of reading for pleasure.
  • The Science Learning Partnership – An introduction to SLP so far including Primary Science Kits and the impact it has had, including how to access the programme in your academies.
  • Integrated Curriculum & Financial Planning – Examining the significant challenges to the country’s financial position and pressure on the education sector to become efficient while remaining high quality. This session looked at the application of ICFP at secondary phase and shared a detailed model looking at the national picture.
  • Key Elements of Quality Assurance – Providing advice and guidance in order to demonstrate strong quality assurance in your school, with focus around structuring lines of enquiring around SEN and assessment.
  • The Ambition Programme – Targeted at years 8, 9 and 10 the programme aims to raise aspirations, improve attendance, reduce the amount of FTE/PEX, improve behaviour, confidence, teamwork and resilience by targeted intervention to prepare students for the world of work.

The conference also heard from leaders of The Brooksbank School and how The Education Exchange gathered experts across schools to perform rapid school improvement. Hearing from staff and students who witnessed the change in behaviour, and the shift in school culture, really brought home what The Education Exchange is all about.

A great 2 days at #EdExConference. What a brilliant way to share effective #schoolimprovement with education professionals, build relationships & network. Also, having watched ‘Thirteen Lives’ I was also a little star struck by John Volanthen!

Director of School Improvement, Pontefract Academies Trust

Great day of professional partner discussions with plenty to reflect on. #EdExConference Day two of the conference provided a time to reflect on the great work happening in the North. Brilliant to see schools supporting each other with one common goal. Rounded up by a fantastic speech by Simon Hartley.

Gawthorpe Primary Headteacher

A great 2 days of inspiration. Thank you.

Senior Lead, Curriculum for Wales

Wonderful two days building professional friendships as part of the Education Exchange.


We hope this is the first conference of many, with more professionals each year joining our mission in creating a culture of sharing knowledge through generosity.

If you are interested in joining future events or would like to find out more, please email