On 15th and 16th November 2021, PaJeS held its sixth annual Headteachers conference, welcoming 27 Heads from Jewish schools around the country for a two-day event held at The Runnymede Hotel. The event was generously supported by Genesis Philanthropy Group, the UJIA Ashdown Fellowships and The Runnymede Hotel.
This annual conference provides an excellent opportunity for Heads to meet, share ideas, speak to colleagues about the similar issues they face, and is a forum for professional development, networking and reflection.
The event began with Primary and Secondary Headteachers enjoying an insightful and very relevant session about conflict resolution, led by Louisa Weinstein, a highly sought-after conflict resolution specialist and the founder of The Conflict Resolution Centre. She delivered a talk on ‘The Influential Leader’, discussing how to lead with influence to motivate staff, win over parents and curate a collaborative school culture. Participants explored their own responses to resolving conflict in both theory and practice, with plenty of time for discussion and reflection. Louisa’s engaging and approachable manner made a challenging topic both accessible and enjoyable.
Brainstorming sessions on the challenges faced by Covid, and opportunities and plans post- Covid, took place in the afternoon, with discussions on strategic goals and initiatives that schools are keen for PaJeS to support them on over the next year. These included a PaJeS SEN advisor, mentoring and professional coaching for new Heads and supporting closer collaboration between governance and senior leadership.
Keynote speaker Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Ofsted Inspector, concluded the day with a dinner and closed room conversation where many salient topics were discussed.
Day two began with Primary School Heads being treated to a highly engaging and inspirational session by ‘The Behaviour Buddy’, Robin Launder, a teaching and learning consultant and behaviour management expert, on ‘Making Learning Sticky’ – the process of learning strategies to enable teaching to reach the long-term memory of the student. Based on the theory of Constructivism, Robin's suggestions laid out practical ways to strengthen and deepen learning and retention for both students and teachers. The 90-minute session had the Heads completely enraptured and many of them had signed him up to work with their teachers by the end of the morning.
Secondary Heads participated in a discussion led by Executive Director of PaJeS Rabbi David Meyer, and Yavneh Head Teacher Spencer Lewis, on ‘Laying the Educational Foundations for the Community’s Future.’ The session looked at how schools are addressing the fact that Synagogue attendance of young people is diminishing, and how to connect students with their identity in the years after leaving school.
Raisel Freedman, Director of Public Affairs at PaJeS, provided a public affairs update, and the afternoon finished with Rabbi David Meyer holding a discussion on “Post-Covid Priorities.”
Rabbi David Meyer concluded that “After such a long time with interaction limited to zoom, it was a real pleasure to have everyone together and enjoying such wonderful facilities. The presenters of the sessions were outstanding and the closed room discussion with Amanda Spielman was a real highlight. The conference was an important opportunity for professional development, networking and strategic planning, which are essential elements in leading our schools. Its success reinforces the importance of supporting our school leaders and through their collaboration raising the standards of education in our schools.”
Marina Yudborovsky, CEO of Genesis Philanthropy Group, added: “The work of PaJeS to enhance formal Jewish education and support Jewish schools in the UK is exemplified by this conference for headteachers. Educational leaders have been working together intensively throughout the pandemic, thanks to the coordination and efforts of PaJeS, and bringing them together for the first time in two years for these two days of joint learning and inspiring sessions is a vital infusion of energy. It is a true pleasure for Genesis Philanthropy Group to support an initiative that provides a forum for constructive dialogue between headteachers from diverse religious backgrounds and geographic locations, enabling reflection on how Jewish schools in the UK can collaborate and develop together, strengthen the Jewish identity of their students, and create new opportunities for Jewish engagement among kids, their parents and school teachers.”
These sentiments were echoed in the positive feedback from those that attended:
“I wanted to thank you so much for organising the residential and taking us to such a lovely place. It was so good to be with everyone and re-unite after all this time.”
“Thank you for the Heads residential this year. It was very much needed after the past two years. It was great seeing everyone and being able to catch up in person.”
“Thank you for all your hard work organising another lovely conference. It was really nourishing (for all our senses!) – just what we needed, a good balance of input, connecting with colleagues, delicious food, and a great location by the river. I feel refreshed, redirected, reconnected and recharged for the challenges I will face tomorrow.”