What I look forward to about the HA conference

As History teachers, we are just about to embark on ‘exam madness’ season. We have precious little time left with our exam classes. We will be prepping and delivering extra revision sessions on top of completing all of the other tasks that are part and parcel of our profession. So it is no surprise that some of us may baulk a little at the thought of spending our treasured weekends attending conferences. However, going to the Historical Association conference is always a weekend well spent!

The main aim for attending a conference like this is, of course, to develop yourself as a classroom practitioner. Sessions range from how to step up your subject knowledge and innovative classroom strategies for different Key Stages, to refreshing your curriculum and handy workshops on specific historical skills and concepts. It is perfect for History teachers who are just starting out, those who are ambitious and looking to take their next career step, or those who might just be in a T&L rut and want a boost. Essentially, it’s a great way to re-energise and be ready for ‘the big push’ this term.

The first HA conference our department attended was during my NQT year. The new KS3 National Curriculum changes were just coming in. We were a young, very small department at a secondary school in the Midlands who saw the changes as an exciting opportunity to build a brand new curriculum from the ground up. We attended sessions that included local history at KS3, tackling sources, and ‘outstanding’ activities, and as a result, created a massively engaging and challenging curriculum which is now bearing fruit.

This year, as I return to the conference, my focus has shifted. I’ve taken on a new role within our faculty, and the workshops on new GCSEs will be my priority. As I sat down to plan my Saturday at the conference, I was overwhelmed by the choice on offer! Unfortunately, I’m missing a great opportunity on the Friday afternoon to feedback to Ofqual about the new GCSE. The whole programme looks more exciting and jam packed than ever before.

My top picks for the Saturday 19 May sessions this year are:

  1. Up on your feet, get out of your seat! – Carmel Bones
    I promise you’ll leave this session bursting with energy and ideas that you’ll want to put into practice right away. Just the thing you need to zhush up your teaching for the Summer term. One of the most inspirational trainers I have ever seen in action.
  2. What does mixed ability teaching look like? – Richard Kerridge
    With the Ebacc focus, many of us have a huge spread of ability in our GCSE classes; this session offers practical strategies that allow students to ‘learn without limits’. If you want to develop how you differentiate, this session sounds like it would be right up your street!
  3. Conquering assessment madness in history at Key Stage 3 – Christine Counsell
    Christine Counsell, whose work I really admire, will be looking at a fresh approach to ‘decoupling’ formative and summative assessment at KS3 and developing a progression model. Great for departments who want to change the way they assess KS3 students.
  4.  Negotiating sensitive issues in the classroom – Sarah Whitehouse and Lucy Fulton
    This sounds like a great session for any teachers who are struggling with teaching controversial content – I know I certainly did! We deal with sensitive topics on a daily basis, so the ability to cope with this is a brilliant tool in any History teacher’s arsenal.
  5. Historical sources in the classroom: time to think again? – Ben Walsh
    If you’re thinking that sources are our bread and butter, and you don’t need to attend this workshop, think again! Sources are extremely challenging for teenagers and we could all teach these skills better. This session demonstrates how to build a positive mindset towards sources from KS3 onwards.

I wish I could attend every single session, but the HA conference is so much more than CPD. It’s about networking with colleagues nationwide. It’s about you as a specialist refocusing on why you’re brilliant at what you do, and your passion for our subject. As an added bonus, there will be loads of exhibitors, from exam boards to tour operators (and of course, OUP!). You can always grab some freebies at the stalls – everyone loves a good freebie, right?

The real cherry on top though, is that the 2018 conference takes place in Stratford-Upon-Avon. Keep everything crossed for some sunshine that weekend. When the conference is over and you’re brimming with ideas, go down to the river and grab some food with your colleagues from the HA. Share ideas and resources. Swap email addresses. Get excited about how the conference is going to have a massive impact on you and most importantly, your students.

I’ll see you there!

Laura will be live tweeting from the Oxford History account during the HA conference – follow us on twitter to stay updated!

Laura Kibble is a History teacher and Humanities Second in Faculty in a secondary school in Wolverhampton. She is part of the Oxford AQA GCSE History author team. Follow her on Twitter  for ideas and resources!