IOE Beacon Schools in Holocaust Education: a teacher’s perspective

This annual initiative creates a unique partnership between the university and some 20 innovative schools across the country.

Teachers participate in an intensive residential seminar in London and a study visit to Poland, all free of charge and expenses paid, as they develop powerful new Schemes of Work.

Laura Walton, Beacon School Lead Teacher, Stratton Upper School, explains how the London residential is transforming her thinking about Holocaust education:

A CPD session is meant to have an impact in some aspect of your professional life. It is meant to improve something of your performance, to benefit the school and ultimately, your students. I have just spent the last five days taking part in a residential CPD programme which delivers all that in spades. Alongside 18 other passionate and dedicated teachers (well what else would you expect on a CPD which asks for such a time commitment?!) we embarked upon a turbulent journey which at times was inspiring and sometimes very daunting. We were guided through this by the wonderful staff from the IOE’s Centre for Holocaust Education.

There was a mix of guided lessons where we slipped in and out of the role of being keen, interested, and sometimes a little too engaged, Year 9 students, and back to being teachers where the rationale and the pedagogy was made clear at each and every point. This had the added benefit that not only do we know what these educational approaches look like in the classroom, we know what they feel like to the learner in the classroom. It has been a long time since I have felt that light bulb moment of grappling with something hard and all of a sudden, knowing that I understood. Over these five days I lost count of the number of times I wanted to shout ‘Ah ha, I’ve got it!’ Actually, I did say it, several times, loudly, as did many other teachers. Who doesn’t want that for their students?

We had sessions where we focused on what was appropriate to teach our children, the duty of care we have to them. Sessions where we considered what knowledge our students already had and where it might come from. We also had practical advice on how to take this project forward and how to establish a network of schools. No-one on the course thought that Holocaust education was unimportant, if they did, I don’t think they would have given up five days developing their thinking about how best to teach it. However, I am not sure that all of us understood the impact that it could have on our whole school. The links to the crucial SMSC aspect of schooling were clearly explained, and then shown throughout each day. OFSTED shouldn’t be the reason you take part in the IOE’s CPD but it certainly gives you a good reason to get your school to give you the time to do it.

Aside from the Holocaust education, simply exploring and understanding pedagogy, questioning your own teaching and rationale for why you do what you do, in the way that you do it. These are things that we should all engage with on a regular basis and to some extent I do. But this gave me the time, space and skills needed to do it thoroughly. When I really reflected on my own practice, I had the chance to recognise that lots of what I do is good. I might go as far as to say some is outstanding. I would fervently hope that anyone who has been teaching as long as I have can say the same thing. I was also able to spot the lessons that had great activities, but actually didn’t move my students in the direction I originally intended. It made me spot the factual errors, minor, but totally important to get correct in my lessons. It made me question why I had what might be described as filler activities when there were so many things I bemoaned a lack of time for.

This CPD has invigorated my enthusiasm for teaching, it has made pedagogy sexy, it has inspired me to become a more reflective practitioner and a better teacher. Do I know exactly what this is going to lead to in the next six months? No. Did I leave with all the answers? No, but I know people who can help me find them now. Is it one of the most exciting things I have taken part of as a teacher? Categorically, yes!

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