A Snapshot of The 2nd TTA National Tutors Conference - Oct '17

If feedback is the measure of how successful an event has been, then The 2nd TTA National Tutors Conference at the Barbican on Monday 23rd October 2017 was an outstanding success.

Some two hundred tutors gathered to listen to an array of speakers on a range of topics that reflected the diversity of the tutoring and supplementary education sector.

President Adam Muckle opened proceedings with an introduction that highlighted the twin purposes of community and innovation that linked the venue itself with the Tutors' Association. This sense of 'community' was perhaps one of the most notable things about the atmosphere that pervaded the whole event itself.

Mary Curnock Cook's keynote address sparked some lively debate both during and after the conference. Whilst supportive of the role that she believe that tutoring has to play in the wider educational landscape, her appeal was for tutors to provide more low-cost, or free, tutoring for the economically challenged and educationally disadvantaged, portraying tutoring as part of the 'gig' economy. She also set out her thoughts on what TTA could and should stand for in the world of tutoring, encouraging it to raise the entry bar, enhance the role of safeguarding and consider a role as a trade association as well as a membership body. It’s food for thought for everyone in the way tutoring is perceived from the outside.

Former TTA President Tom Maher followed with a thoughtful session on what 'freedom of education' actually means. He distinguished between the 'linkedins' - those who have benefited from tertiary education in its widest sense - and the 'linkedouts' ; those who have not, both the young and the 50+ generation whose education has been overtaken by changes in society and technology and who need a means of reskilling. He challenged tutors to consider what role they might have to play with the 'linkedouts' as well as the 'linkedins' - who are the principal current beneficiaries of tutoring - and to use this as a way of developing a wider and more sympathetic understanding of the role of tutoring with the public at large.

Delegates then broke up into groups to attend their choice of three out of nine seminar topics on a range of subjects from understanding SEND and Generation Z, to tips for growing and marketing your business; and from the role of neuroscience in learning, to practical advice on making lessons more interesting. We were also privileged to welcome Andrew Harland from the EOA with whom TTA is looking to work more closely to build better links between tutors and the examination boards; Sarah Holloway and Philip Kirby who presented their research on the Tuition industry and its role in social mobility; and a video presentation from Rajay Naik on the whole arena of online education.

After an excellent lunch, and the chance for delegates to visit and talk to an impressive range of exhibitors, the afternoon ended with two further plenary sessions.

In the first of these, Mursal Hedayat shared her inspiring story of her journey from refugee to founder of an organisation that employs fellow-refugees as tutors to address language gaps. She also spoke passionately about her belief that working alongside a social enterprise was not just good for the community but made hard commercial sense as well.

Finally, Natasha Tiwari talked of her role as a 'Teach First-er', and how her experience of using her skills in the most challenging inner-city environments has led her to develop new ways of helping children to learn. She shared her belief that this was the most powerful way to produce not just well-educated children but happy and fulfilled ones - which is just as, if not more, important in her estimation.

Outside the presentations, delegates had the chance to meet, network and exchange experiences. The coffee-areas and open foyers were not just busy but buzzy, and the atmosphere around the whole event was full of energy and enthusiasm.

If our first National Conference last year broke the ice on the idea of tutors getting together to listen, and learn and to celebrate their profession, then this year saw a step change in momentum and engagement.

Our thanks go particularly to our sponsors; all the speakers; and to the admin team who worked so hard in the background to make this such a successful event.

Here's to next year.

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