Serious fun

Wellington College in Berkshire is hosting this year’s Sunday Times Festival of Education. Here are some of the highlights

Described as “the Hay-on-Wye of education” and now entering its sixth year, The Sunday Times Festival of Education is an exciting, inclusive event which really has something for everyone.

From small beginnings as a one-day conference to having cemented itself as the UK’s premier forum for thought leadership, innovation and development in education, the festival continues to attract many of education’s most forward-thinking advocates, practitioners of change and policy makers. For teachers and lecturers, it has become a “must-attend” educational event.

What’s happening in 2015?

More than 4,000 festival-goers are expected to come through the gates this year, and, if you’re one of them, you’ll have the chance to hear from more than 200 influential speakers including: Andrew Adonis, Angela Lee Duckworth, Michael Wilshaw, Sebastian Faulks, AC Grayling, Alain de Botton, Alastair Stewart, Carol Dweck, Christine Blower, Claire Fox, Julian Cope and Ken Robinson.

The festival also boasts an eclectic mix of themes. Previous years have seen Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali discuss faith in schools, Imogen Stubbs and Alexander Armstrong read poetry and the racing driving Sir Jackie Stewart and AA Gill present on dyslexia. This year you can expect discussion and debate around creativity in the classroom, the changing impact of technology and how students with SEN can be better supported, to name a few.

In addition, the festival’s exciting, interactive, fun workshops and camouflaged learning activities will entertain and educate learners young and old. Those who bring along a class should be prepared for some serious fun and to walk away with new ideas and a renewed excitement for education.

After being inspired by speakers and workshops, festival-goers can take part in a wide selection of fun and “have-a-go” activities: a scuba dive tank, rock-climbing walls, a slushie cocktail party and a silent disco, amongst others.

The festival and continuing professional development

More and more schools and colleges are seeing the CPD value of the festival and now send groups of teachers, senior leaders, support staff and, in some cases, their entire staff. In a time of possible resistance to new policy and change, the festival will see staff return highly motivated, inspired, challenged and full of new ideas to improve their teaching.

Dance the night away at the festival social

On the night of 18 June, festival organisers are inviting attendees to grab their dancing shoes and join them for an evening of live music, good food and entertainment from fantastic up-and-coming artists, specially selected to put them in a summer mood.

The social is a fantastic opportunity to network with other education professionals from across the country, and after having discussed so many ideas, views and opinions during the day, the social offers a great place to continue the debate and will be buzzing with conversation. 

What previous festival-goers have said

“It is probably the most cost-effective CPD I’ve done in years” Sir Mark Grundy, executive principal, Shireland Collegiate Academy

“I have rarely, if ever, felt so empowered to improve my own teaching and to help others improve theirs. I have just spent two days at the Sunday Times Festival of Education and it was simply amazing” BH, assistant head, Loreto College, St Albans

“If you ever have the opportunity, I would urge you to attend the Sunday Times Festival of Education” Neil Hopkins, headteacher

“If you’re a teacher and you’ve never been to this two-day event … what possible excuse could you have?” Hannah Tyreman, learning and development manager, Reading College 

The 2015 Sunday Times Festival of Education will be held at Wellington College from 18-19 June. Please visit for tickets and further information.