Well…that was the week that was! What a wonderful embrace we all felt from Glasgow and what a tremendous generosity of spirit we all shared as we journeyed together for our thirtieth CISC conference. Our theme, the Pearl of Great Price’ was chosen to reflect the passion, commitment and service you bring to your schools, giving all you have to bring the beauty of their charisms to all through encounter with God intellectually, morally and spiritually. And indeed, this trinity of encounter was at the heart of the conference invitation to you all and was most ably realised by our keynotes, workshops and liturgies.
Dame Alison Peacock set the tone, focusing our minds and hearts on the pupils we serve. She invited us to have the humility to allow children to surprise us and challenged us to move from being fixed and certain about pupils’ outcomes to a position of ‘transformability’. Her warmth ensured a personal response and engagement which moved many and underlined the value and significance of education and its potential to transform the lives of pupils and staff alike.
Professor Sir Harry Burns inspired and educated us – are you wearing a tie reading this?!! – on the critical significance of the home and family in the early years of a child’s life in terms of their potential to be healthy and happy in adulthood. Presenting data but rooting it in reality engaged us and challenged us as we reflected upon our own experiences. He concluded his keynote with the words of Terry Waite: ‘At the end of the day love and compassion will win’. Amen to that.
Both of our keynote speakers were unafraid to place themselves, their personalities, their hearts at the core of their engagement with us and it is this that remains and sustains us in our own work. Their authentic presence will resonate for some time to come.
This intermingling of the professional and personal was further enhanced by our sponsors, exhibitors and workshop leads. Each workshop sought to provide insight and support on key areas of concern to our schools. Richard Hester from School Leaders’ Training explored good governance, particularly with reference to the relationship between the Chair and the Head and the identity and ethos of a Catholic school. Tina Campbell, the National Safeguarding Co-ordinator for the Scottish Catholic Safeguarding Service, highlighted the review process as a model for good practice. Barbara Coupar head of the Scottish Catholic Education Service, led on inclusion, revealing it as an area that is rooted in the Church’s vision of what it means to be in relationship with God and others. Ten Ten Resources outlined their ‘Life to the Full’ RSE programme which will support schools in fulfilling the new statutory curriculum whilst remaining consistent to Church teaching. As such, each workshop highlighted the dual nature of the CISC school experience – Catholic schools within statutory settings – and sought to investigate how these can be brought together to realise the very best that education can offer. Our supporting sponsors, Powerful Allies exemplify this, working, as they do, with a number of schools to reduce their carbon footprint the context for which in Catholic schools emanates from Laudato Sii. The significance of this synthesis within the broader landscape of the independent sector was ably navigated for us by our headline sponsors Moore Kingston Smith and Stone King in their ever-popular workshop which always allows for a free-flowing Q and A.
The manner in which CISC schools make a unique and distinctive contribution to this landscape was wonderfully elucidated by Katie and Carolyn from Reed Brand as they presented feedback on our CISC and the Common Good survey. They revealed how CISC schools are engaged in a wide variety of works of service not because it is the ‘right’ thing to do but because we are charged to do so by our very foundation and existence. Revealing these stories and celebrating all you do was truly our pearl of great price!
Conference is also an important time for CISC as an organisation. It is the single largest gathering of our headteachers and therefore affords an opportunity for discussion and consideration of how CISC can best meet and serve the needs of its members moving forwards. Colleagues’ engagement as we began the process of re-imagining and revisioning our future strategy evinced its significance and the outcomes of this initial discussion will form the basis for a continuing conversation throughout the year and a launch of our new strategic plan at Conference 2021. We also thanked Antonia Beary for her support and leadership over the last six years, as she stepped down as Chair, and welcomed Antony Hudson as the new Chair of CISC. My thanks to them both and to the Committee for their work with and on behalf of CISC – their stewardship and friendship is invaluable.
Of course, conference is never just one thing but a composite of a range of experiences of which our exhibitors and delegates form a key part – temporally and spiritually and one of the delights of the CISC conference experience is the opportunity for prayer and reflection, both individually and as a community. In this, our host school St Aloysius with Kilgraston School provided moments of grace, tranquility and beauty as pupils and colleagues led us in dialogue with God. Particularly moving was the serenity brought forth from Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It is hard to imagine such a moment of tranquility in the midst of a busy conference but it is something that will remain with me for a long time. The Conference mass in the Memorial Chapel of Glasgow University was a contrasting yet equally spirit-filled experience. Archbishop Tartaglia, our principal celebrant, led us in a stirring, personal yet stately celebration with readings from Kilgraston School pupils and music led by the Schola Cantorum and the wonderful brass fanfares of St Aloysius’ College. It was a fitting finale to our conference and my thanks to Dorothy McGinty, Paul Allaker from Kilgraston and most particularly to Matthew Bartlett, Monica Harper and Tony McBride from St Aloysius for realising our liturgies with such presence and grace and for their generosity of spirit throughout the year in planning for conference with us.
Thanks must also go to one who never seeks it but without whom the CISC Conference experience would be much the poorer and that, of course, is Paula Hawkins. Paula, ably abetted by Michelle, ensured that all needs were catered for throughout our conference but of course this was the culmination of months of detailed planning on her part. Her forensic eye for detail, coupled with her personal warmth and humour make her a singular colleague to work with and I cannot thank her enough for her support, wisdom and kindness in making sure that our conference was a pleasurable experience for us all from start to finish. You are a pearl Paula.
Needless to say, we’ve already started planning for Conference 2021, so see you next year in…?
Venue to be announced!
Members can access the Conference Resources and Keynote Presentations through the Members Login area of the CISC website. Members will need to enter their email address, as registered with CISC and their password. To re-set your password please follow the links provided.