Following the Ebola crisis, EWA was invited to a conference in 2015 organised by the Sierra Leonean community in England and titled ‘Education Beyond Ebola’. It was clear at the conference that the improvement of teaching in Sierra Leone needed to be the key priority for the future.
Conferences in Bo
In discussion with our colleagues in Sierra Leone, EWA decided that an effective way forward would be to hold training conferences for headteachers and their local Education Secretaries. The first conference took place in March 2016 in the Bo area, and was attended by 67 headteachers. It was the first time that the headteachers had met together, as their schools are scattered across a large and mainly rural area. They had the opportunity to identify issues that were aiding improvement and those that were hindering progress. These issues were followed up at a second conference in 2017, called ‘Leading Improvement’, which had a particular focus on creating a positive atmosphere, codes of conduct, school development plans and success criteria for monitoring progress.
Conferences in Freetown
A conference for headteachers in the Freetown area took place in November 2017, with the theme of ‘Involving Children in Their Learning’. The focus was on developing children’s independence within their learning and developing the pupil voice. It was an opportunity for the head teachers to get together to discuss teaching and learning, which included assessment/marking, effective questioning, different styles of questioning, behaviour, school councils and mission statements. We believe this was the first time that they had collaboratively worked together because of costs and distance.
In February 2019 a conference was held for all the Freetown and provincial headteachers from the west of Sierra Leone, numbering about 30 and focussing on ‘Leading Improvement’, the theme that had already been delivered in Bo. Local education contacts went through the programme in advance and ensured it was tailored to local needs.
These four conferences have enabled the heads to improve the educational opportunities they are giving pupils in their schools.
Next steps: independent planning
A planning conference then took place, also in February 2019, for a group of headteachers from the Freetown and Bo areas chosen to represent different types and sizes of school, with local Education Secretaries. The aim was for the headteachers to plan for future conferences, so that they were taking responsibility for their own development (all previous conferences had been planned and facilitated by EWA). This was a very positive conference, and the heads are now developing their own programme for a conference for heads from across Sierra Leone.
The first conference was funded by EWA, but a generous grant was then received from All Saints Educational Trust which has funded the subsequent conferences.