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NACE Leadership Conference
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NACE Leadership Conference 2020

Understanding more able learners: key drivers to inform policy and practice


Interactive online event

16 - 20 November 2020

Monday - Thursday 3.45-5.00pm, Friday 12.30-1.30pm

This interactive online conference explores five key aspects to help schools develop effective practice for more able learners. Taking a holistic view of the learner, and current challenges facing schools, the event provides authoritative keynotes alongside opportunities for senior peer-to-peer exchange.

Delegates will gain an in-depth view of NACE’s national research project “Making Space for More Able Learners” and hear from leading figures as they explore the latest thinking around perfectionism and wellbeing. The role of learner and educator will also be explored as we review learning technologies.

The final conference session will focus on the role of school leaders in creating the climate for challenge, as we hear directly from headteachers who participated in the NACE research project.

The programme is a series of five online sessions across the week. Purchasing a conference pass allows for one participant to attend each live session, but for added flexibility, it does not have to be the same person each time, allowing you to share conference participation amongst your leadership team if you wish. Additional conference passes can be purchased to allow wider remote access, or you can purchase a recording of the main sessions if you are unable to join us live.

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Members Membership starts from £95 +VAT per year for the whole school.

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Members - additional ticket

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Recordings onlyOnly available to members.

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Non-members - additional ticket

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Exploring cognitive challenge - how do you optimise the engagement, learning and achievement of very able young people?

3.45 - 5.00pm, Monday 16 November

In this session, NACE research leads Hilary Lowe and Dr Ann McCarthy will share findings from our latest research project with insights into pedagogical approaches which provide cognitive challenge and have a positive impact on the learning and achievement of more able learners.

Based on a series of research visits to schools that have gained the NACE Challenge Award, the session will explore:

  • Design and management of cognitively challenging learning opportunities;
  • Rich and extended talk and cognitive discourse to support cognitive challenge;
  • Curriculum organisation and design.

Breakout questions:

  • How do you measure the current state of cognitive challenge in subject areas?
  • How is challenge evident at present and where are there opportunities to develop this further into cognitively challenging learning?

Perfectionism and able learners: current research and future classroom practice

3.45 - 5.00pm, Tuesday 17 November

Presentation and discussion led by Professor Andy Hill, Acting Pro Vice-Chancellor (Research), York St John University.

Breakout questions:

  • How does your school create a learning environment that supports able learners and reduces perfectionistic thinking?
  • What more can be done?

What’s holding them back? Lifting barriers to achievement for more able learners

3.45 - 5.00pm, Wednesday 18 November

Carrie Winstanley, Professor of Pedagogy at Roehampton University, will consider some of the reasons why more able learners do not achieve as well as they could. She will consider classroom strategies based on research that can support areas such as self-regulation and mindset, along with sharing her views on equality of challenge.

Breakout questions:

  • In what ways is your school supporting pupils at risk of underachieving and what could you do to provide additional support?
  • In what ways do your pre- and post-COVID measures differ? Are you content with the provision? What more is needed?

How can schools optimise the use of digital technologies to support the needs of more able learners?

3.45 - 5.00pm, Thursday 19 November

Starting from the perspective of the learner, NACE patron Dr Chris Yapp will consider what learning needs technology can address, how to extend and enrich through digital resources and enable true independent pursuit of learning for the more able.

Breakout questions:

  • How could you adapt your teaching practise to optimise the benefits of technology?
  • What gaps do you feel your school needs to address to make this a reality?

Creating a climate for challenge – leadership imperatives that support high-quality education

12.30 - 1.30pm, Friday 20 November

In conversation with headteachers from our research project schools, NACE Education Adviser Hilary Lowe will explore key organisational factors that have led to high-quality education for more able learners. Following initial views from our panel, you will be invited to take part in a live Q&A session.


Hilary Lowe
, NACE Education Adviser

With extensive experience in the education sector and a longstanding focus on more able provision, Hilary plays a key role in developing NACE's CPD, research, policy and guidance for schools.

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Dr Ann McCarthy
, NACE Associate

An experienced education consultant, leader and practitioner, Ann is a former Improvement Director for a multi-academy trust. She currently leads on NACE's regional R&D Hubs initiative.

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Prof. Andrew Hill
, York St John University

Professor Hill directs a research group examining the consequences of perfectionism in different achievement contexts at York St John University, and has written widely on this topic.

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Dr Chris Yapp
, NACE patron

Futurist Dr Chris Yapp has a longstanding interest in the future of education, including the challenges of personalised and lifelong learning, educational transformation and the knowledge economy.

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Prof. Carrie Winstanley
, University of Roehampton

Having taught in schools and HE for 25 years, Carrie Winstanley is now Professor of Pedagogy at Roehampton University, with an interest in developing appropriate challenge for learners of all ages.

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