This article summarises an interview with co-convenors of one of six 2021 UKFIET conference themes: Rethinking the Education Workforce. The co-convenors are Claire Hodges, Senior Programmes Manager at the International Development Office of The Open University; and Katie Godwin, Head Research Associate at the Education Workforce Initiative, Education Commission.

What excites you about your theme?

We believe ‘Rethinking the education workforce’ is going to reinvigorate our conception of the education workforce as more than inputs in a system. The opening plenary will set the scene by illustrating how the wellbeing of teachers and the workforce is the foundation for creating safe and inclusive learning environments for all children and for fostering a broad range of education outcomes relevant to them and their future lives. 

We look forward to sessions on re-imagining leadership and peer support, exploring the diversity of new actors and roles that are emerging in response to Covid-19, and shining a light onto those issues that can be argued to have become less visible during this time.

The closing plenary goes full circle with a spotlight on the middle tier within education systems and how they can contribute to cultivating wellbeing, professional development, and teaching and learning across the education system.

How does this link to the overall 2021 conference theme of Building Back Better in Education and Training?

Covid-19 showed more clearly than ever before that it takes all of those involved in children’s lives working together, leveraging their particular experiences and skills, to ensure quality and inclusive education for every child. Notions of lesson time and the classroom as predominant spaces for learning have been challenged, as have conceptions of school and community roles and relationships. Rethinking the Education Workforce sees ‘building back better’ as an opportunity to re-envision the education workforce by taking into account the broader human and social capacity existing within systems.

What kind of sessions/ papers can we expect to find under your theme?

In our first sessions, symposia and papers will be exploring new imaginings and configurations that have emerged in school leadership and peer support during the Covid-19 crisis, examining how and in what ways these have changed the roles and relationships of the existing workforce to support learning and embraced new actors. The critical role of leaders will be explored as well as the mechanisms that help leaders facilitate collaboration and learning within and between school communities. 

Looking beyond the student–teacher nexus to the wider diversity of roles and relationships that have emerged to support education, the next set of symposia and papers will emphasise what much of the world has come to realise over the past year – it takes a village to educate a child. The evidence and examples in this theme will focus on the caregivers, communities, and volunteers that have radically stepped up to provide extended support to children and teachers during the global pandemic.

The final sessions will focus on issues that are often overlooked – such as gender and marginalised groups in the education workforce, private sector teachers, and a changing role for initial teacher education. This will provide a more zoomed out illustration of the interconnectedness that’s crucial in rethinking the entire education workforce and how it can better work together to support inclusive and quality education.