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Elizabeth Holmes

Spotlight on Northern Rocks

Although only in its fourth year, Northern Rocks is firmly established in the academic calendar as a powerhouse of pedagogical thinking. I spoke to its co-founder ahead of this year's conference.

Drawing together teachers and others working in the field of education, Northern Rocks offers a forum in which to learn about, discuss and challenge the very latest in research, and to celebrate all things teaching and learning.

For Dr Debra Kidd, teacher, author and co-founder of Northern Rocks, the growing popularity of the initiative is easy to explain.

I’ve heard a lot of very positive things about Northern Rocks through word-of-mouth, and seen a lot of support on social media. How did the project start?

Debra Kidd: Back in September 2013, I was talking to my friend and colleague, Emma Hardy about a TeachMeet that was taking place in Southampton. Neither of us had the time or the money to attend, and it dawned on us that so many of these opportunities to meet up seem to take place far away from us teachers in the north. We decided to do something about it.

So, would you say this is a grassroots movement?

DK: Absolutely. From a single tweet, asking if anyone would be interested in an event for teachers in the north, we had a phenomenal response. Within ten minutes, Jo Pearson had kindly offered to host the event at Leeds Beckett University. 

What we do at Northern Rocks is led by teachers, for teachers. We support teachers of all ages and phases. We keep the costs at just £30 a ticket so that teachers, who are already giving up their precious time, can afford to attend.

There’s no room for ideological tribes when your goal is to contribute to better teaching and learning

We also donate a portion of ticket revenue to charity, and raise additional money on the day. We’ve supported the Kakuma Refugee Camp, and have sponsored refugees through university.

It sounds like there’s a strong seam of generosity running through Northern Rocks events, both in practical and intellectual terms.

DK: I think there is. We try to keep a balance of perspectives on our panels and in our streamed sessions. There’s no room for ideological tribes when your goal is to contribute to better teaching and learning. We want to help teachers learn from each other, and reclaiming pedagogy for themselves.

Does each year have a certain theme?

DK: We have a loose theme. Last year we explored pupil wellbeing and this year we have a flavour of the arts. This will be reflected in the stands and the topics of the sessions. We also have opportunities for people attending to participate in artistic endeavours!

Ultimately, we want Northern Rocks to continue to be the celebration of teaching and learning that it is.  

Northern Rocks 2017 will be held at Leeds Beckett University, Headingly Campus, on 17 June, 9.30am - 4.30pm.

Find out more @NRocks17

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