Poetry on the Hoof: There’s No Such Thing as an Englishman.

There’s no such thing as an Englishman,
He really doesn’t exist.
There was never a castle, a moat, a drawbridge,
His house failed to subsist.
There’s no such thing as an Englishman,
With blood deep blue, and skin ghost white.
There’s no such thing as fists of red,
Shaking in varicosed fright.

Because an Englishman is part Scot, part Gael, part Celt,
Part Saxe, part Franco, part Serb.
He’s part Indo, part Carib, part Sino;
Part Arab, part Thai, part disturbed.
His blood is a Mishra mash of madness,
of cultures a-far and a-near,
He doesn’t know whether he’s coming or going,
So he curse, he shout and he swear.

Because an Englishman is part woman,
Part he-man, part her-man, part sha-man.
Scratch an Anglo and there’s a vigorous hybrid,
In a gene pool of shimmering light;
Their bloods are the colours of mud and of sand
Their bones, the tastes of the sun and the strand;
Their tongues, taste the moon rising high in the sky
And falling rains, wash away, the tears in their eyes.

Their nerves weren’t forged in Sheffield,
But in Scotia, near and afar.
Their guts were shaped in Islamabad,
And the restaurants and bazaars of Belfast.
Their oaths don’t belong to king and country,
But to their brothers, their sisters, their cousins.
Swearing allegiance, history and platitudes
Till their shoes are glued to their feet.

There’s no such thing as an Englishman,
He just doesn’t exist,
And those who would want to deny this,
Are deluded, foolish, trapped fish.
The deniers, the nay-sayers and dandies,
Who are looking to protect their list,
Had better beware, their game is to scare
But they won’t.
The dance of the Englishman is over.

All Our Futures: International Educational Study Visit to Liverpool in partnership with the British Council Bulgaria and Aspire-India

All Our Futures is Aspire’s annual conference for international head teachers took place in Liverpool between 11 and 14 June 2013. The event aimed to introduce pedagogical practices which are being applied at various levels in English schools by providing participants with exclusive, intense immersive experiences in schools and do generate unique, high quality insights into teaching and learning.

All Our Futures was produced in partnership with both the British Council, Bulgaria and our sister company, Aspire-India based in Bhubaneswar, Orisha: and so have welcomed Head teachers from the Indian subcontinent and introduced them to our schools in Liverpool, Wirral and Knowsley.

Further details of our programme in March with Bulgarian Head teachers and the British Council, Bulgaria are here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151543038237812.1073741827.657337811&type=1

More on the June conference as it happened here:

https://www.facebook.com/nick.owen.3781/media_set?set=a.10151732950132028.1073741829.686222027&type=3

and here:

All Our Futures: International Education Conference at Hull University Welcoming Speech

Hull has been the City which helped me makes send of the turbulent times that had been going on in the English education system since 1997.

I was a relative newcomer to working in schools in 2002 when I joined the Aspire Trust. My memories of primary and secondary statutory education were mixed – a disrupted primary education, marred by parental disputes and continued house moving was followed by a secondary phase which was altogether more stable and safe and provided a context which allowed me and many of my school friends to look back in pleasure at those halcyon school days. Not quite ‘the best days of our lives’ but not far off it we all agreed when we met some weeks ago on a school reunion which took us back to the site where we had met some 40 years back.

But my friends and I were in one sense a privileged few. We had the benefit of having passed the state’s 11+ exam which allowed us then to be accepted at the local grammar school. Others though in our class were not so fortunate. Whether this was due to their being less academically inclined, less prepared to comply with the demands that primary schools made in those days, or just had a bad day when it came to sitting the test, their failure to pass that exam at such a young age meant that they were parcelled off to the local comprehensive school.

Whilst they too may look back at their time in secondary school as being the best days of their lives, we shall never know; that splitting of us at 11 years old made sure that we followed different educational paths, established different social networks and altogether had vastly different expectations of us. It was expected of us that we would be prepared for university; other our friends (who our parents talked about in hushed tones as somehow having ‘failed’ something) were prepared for the world of work – which in those days meant some kind of vocational training in retail, industry or perhaps even the armed forces.

In those days there was a definite split in the English education system – the academically capable went to grammar schools, those who weren’t, didn’t. Those who went to grammar school were prepared for university and careers in the professions; those who didn’t, weren’t. Those who went to university and the professions were prepared to run the country; those who weren’t, didn’t.

This split at 11 year old was – and to a large extent, still is – a reflection of the bipartheid nature of the English education system. This system still perpetuates today the polarity of the academic versus the vocational education in this country.

There are many other awkward and contestable polarities in our education system which you will no doubt encounter this week in your visits to our schools in Hull. The pressure for children to achieves versus the desire for them to enjoy their education; the need to behave within a certain type of socially acceptable behaviours versus the desire to ensure every child’s education should be about recognising them as unique individuals complete with their own dreams and desires; the pressure to train children for the work place and to gain employment in a real job versus the pressure to prepare children for life long learning and the vagaries of the future; the pressure to educate children in order to maintain social norms and to protect cultural values versus the pressure to educate to change the social norms.

These polarities are no doubt echoed in your own schools – and this is why we have called this conference, All Our Futures. It is clear to us that the challenges and joys we face in education here are the same challenges and joys that you face; whether this be dealing with the impact that a dysfunctional family can have on a five year old boys dreams, or witnessing the eureka moment when a 15 year old girl can play Beethoven’s Appassionata piano sonata all the way through for the first time.

Of course, our contexts are vastly different, our languages and cultural practices sometimes hard to fathom. No amount of conferencing will ever be able – nor should it ever endeavour to be able – to wipe away those differences and pretend that we can easily transport one set of educational tips and tricks to a far off land. Providing education is not like selling burgers at MacDonald’s.

Sometimes we may look at each other this week and realise that there are huge oceans of difference between us which can never be bridged. But we hope that our similarities and our common concerns will eventually bind us together this week in search for some solutions for the common good of all our children.

I hope that in our second All Our Futures conference that our mutual work, our shared conversations and our mutual presence will enable us to see ourselves as part of larger human jigsaw picture in which we all, like smaller jigsaw pieces need each other to fit together to provide a reflection of the human race as a whole.

I hope that we can paint a picture for our future generation of children and learners and that they can say that their futures started with All Our Futures here, today.

Beyond Leadership: International Business Conference on export and international trade at Lancaster University, March 2013

The pressure on businesses to survive and thrive through developing their export capacity are growing weekly. Hardly a day goes by without some politician or business leader exhorting businesses to develop their international links and export capabilities. But authentic and inspiring knowledge, advice and guidance can be hard to find. All too frequently, businesses can be offered superficial solutions to complex, strategic problems.

Beyond Leadership aims to reverse this trend by offering business leaders and acclaimed business academics the space, time and opportunities to meet, converse and establish meaningful long term dialogue between each other. The conference will offer opportunities to re-think strategic approaches to export and international trade and establish vital new links between the higher education sector, businesses and international partners.

Beyond Leadership is for business professionals, academics and researchers who specialise in business and those who practise leadership especially in international trade and export contexts. It is suitable for both those businesses who are new to export and existing, well established exporters. The conference will enable you to make new business and academic connections, develop new knowledge about export, develop new approaches to strategic development and increase your capacity to grow your business both nationally and internationally.

Co-produced by the Aspire Trust and the Grove International Management School, this event is for practitioners, academics and researchers and those who practice leadership in any kind of organisational setting especially in overseas trade.

The event will take place at Lancaster University on 21 and 22 March 2013. For further details, and to book your place please contact us at nick@aspire-trust.org.

Does your school need an international cultural attache? Here’s how…

Could your school benefit from international links with teachers, pupils and families? Are you interested in exploring some unique professional development opportunities with teachers and other educators on the other side of the world?

Over the last two years, the Aspire Trust has organised international conferences for Principals and Head teachers from India, Nigeria and the UAE to visit UK schools. We ran the All Our Futures conference in Liverpool and Wallasey this summer for Indian, Nigerian and other international head teachers and educators. The success of that and similar events has led me to being invited by the University of Tasmania with a view to establishing a similar event there in either 2012 or 2013. The first step in that process will be between 25 November and 13 December this year when I will travel there to make initial contacts with the University and schools across Tasmania.

If you would like me to represent your school with a view to establishing some active, realistic links then I am able to offer you a number of services:

1. Taking promotional material to schools in Tasmania, complete with contact details, so that schools could contact you directly. I will be doing this for 12 English schools so your information would be viewed in this context. I would take 10 copies of your promotional pack which should be no more than 2 sides of A4 paper and one CD / DVD. Materials should be clearly labeled and packaged.

2. or, I could take a more active role in promoting your school by coming to see you, developing an action plan with you, and taking a more proactive role in promoting your school to the schools I visit. In this option, you could supply me with additional promotional material and I would aim to identify a specific named partner school for you as a result of the trip. As this option would require a heavier investment from me in my time promoting your school, I would be looking for a sponsorship from you of £300 towards the costs of my time in this promotional activity. On my return to the UK, I would then revisit your school with an activity report which would specify who I had met, details of your potential partner school(s) and other information as specified in the action plan.

If this is of interest to you, please feel free to get in touch with me at nowen.aspire@btconnect.com