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BrewEd: bringing together people, pints and pedagogy

DARYN EGAN-SIMON and ED FINCH introduce a new initiative for teachers to discuss the issues that matter in education in a friendly setting over a drink or two

WE have often thought that one of the best things about an education conference is the “after party” where you congregate with colleagues in a nearby pub to discuss the day’s proceedings over a well-deserved drink. 

BrewEd started life as a little more than a wishful idea to bring educators together on a Saturday afternoon to discuss and debate policy, practice and pedagogy. 

There have, to date, been two BrewEd events (Sheffield and Wakefield), with further events planned across the country from Liverpool to Leicester and Oxford to Chester. 

The format is fairly simple; book a nice pub with a good selection of beers, confirm a date, sell some tickets and put together a thought-provoking programme. 

BrewEd is a grassroots movement in the truest sense of the word. It is for educators, organised by educators and attended by educators. Anyone, anywhere can organise their own BrewEd event, however we do have some guiding principles which we hope others will adopt too. 

We believe that the pub is the broadest church, it really is what makes them so special. BrewEd hopes to be an agent to find commonality in the teaching profession, across sectors, subjects, age groups and pedagogical groupings. 

BrewEd events are also small and intimate with tickets being limited to approximately 50 per event. As wonderful as large conferences are, they can also be overwhelming for some people.

Attendees are often more inclined to contribute to discussions when surrounded by fewer people. Also, as there are no breakout sessions connections can be made and networks grown as you spend the day with a relatively small group of people. 

We would also like as many people as possible to be able to attend BrewEd events so, as such, tickets should be affordable. Tickets should cost around £5 and include an arrival drink; tea, beer, wine or the equivalent tipple. 

Most venues will let you hire a room for free on a Saturday as the prospect of having 50 teachers drinking and eating makes very good business sense for anyone who knows the profession. 

Keeping costs low helps with inclusivity as educational conferences can be quite costly once you factor in travel, accommodation and such. The more local events that are organised, the more inclusive BrewEd will hopefully become. 

BrewEd events should provide a space to share and challenge ideas and promote robust debate in respectful and congenial terms. Yes, we often disagree with each other but we can do that with good manners and good grace and without casting aspersions on each other’s intelligence. 

There is plenty to be unhappy about in the world of education and it is quite easy to get drawn into negativity. While there is plenty of scope to critique the status quo, BrewEd events also provide a platform to present alternative narratives for systemic change.   

BrewEd events are not for sharing teaching tips. These sorts of events are hugely important and much needed, however there are already plenty of them in existence. 

Instead, BrewEd events should provide a space for deeper and wider philosophical discussions, such as what is the purpose of education? How might education be reimagined? Do teachers have a sense any autonomy? Should children and young people have more agency? Some CPD events give us ideas for what we could try on Monday morning, BrewEd events hopefully give us ideas for how we can transform our practice and profession. 

There are no keynote speakers as such. Presentations are great (and are a part of BrewEd events) but it is conversation that brings us together. 

BrewEd events provide lots of space for discussion which can be instigated through short presentations, panel discussions or debating where William the Conqueror was crowned during the Edu Pub Quiz. 

Lots of time should be factored in for talk. Ask people to move around so they have the chance to talk to as many people as possible. It’s a small group which can lead to a large network of practitioners. If it’s about anything, BrewEd is about debate. At the Wakefield event the panel (and other attendees) debated the motion: “The teaching profession needs to find a sense of collective ambition if it is to bring about real change.”

BrewEd events should have an engaging and varied programme. Examples from previous events include presentations and subsequent discussions around the age-appropriateness of picture books, the neoconservative war on the youth, challenging Bold Beginnings, developing whole school positive cultures, “flipping” the education system and exploring teacher identity. 

Events should be low-tech so people are not over-reliant on PowerPoint presentations. In fact, at Wakefield there was no computer or screen to use as a visual aid. 

BrewEd events should be free from sponsorship. This is not a criticism of events which rely on sponsors to run as conferences can be costly, especially when you have to pay speakers or travel expenses. Everyone who presents at BrewEd events does so voluntarily. Thankfully, there are lots of generous people out there who are willing to offer their time without cost.   

BrewEd is still in its infancy. It is growing as an idea, a concept and a real grassroots movement for educators. We want to continue to build on its success by bringing people together to share a beer, promote and challenge ideas, discuss and debate educational issues and make new friends from across phases, settings and pedagogical persuasions. 

For this to happen will take a collective effort so please join us at an event or, better still, collaborate with a group of colleagues and organise your own.   

All BrewEd events are promoted on Twitter (@BrewEd2017) and posted on the events page (brewed.pbworks.com). Alternatively, if you’d like to have a conversation about organising an event then please contact either @darynsimon and @MrEdFinch through Twitter. 

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