Marjon News

Marjon University Cornwall to host education conference on small schools

Released: 08.04.19

The Old Cathedral School, Truro, is set to play host to an educational conference focussing on the future of small schools in England.

Organised by Professor Tanya Ovenden-Hope, Professor in Education at Plymouth Marjon University and Special Interest Group Convenor for the British Educational Research Association (BERA) on behalf of BERA, Plymouth Marjon University, the National Association of Small Schools (NASS) and the Diocese of Truro, the day-long event on the 30th August will shine a light on issues and the value of small schools, both in the UK and Europe.  

The conference will play host to talks from education experts, such as Professor Daniel Muijs who is the Head of Research at Ofsted and Dr Linda Hargreaves from the University of Cambridge. It will also give a voice to school leaders and academics through hands-on workshops designed to explore the evidence, both empirical and experiential, that will contribute towards a manifesto for small schools and inform how they can thrive in a changing educational landscape.

Professor Ovenden-Hope, who recently published a report on ‘Educational Isolation’ that focused on locational challenges for rural and coastal schools, hopes the conference can have a positive impact on how small schools are perceived and understood, both regionally and nationally.

“This is such an important conference because of both the topic and the location,” said Professor Ovenden-Hope.

“Holding the conference here in Cornwall highlights the locational isolation that many small schools face. We will be discussing the challenges for, and value of, small schools in a place that understands those issues.

“The conference will provide a clear evidence base from which we, school leaders and academics, can work together to establish a ‘manifesto for small schools’. This will then be shared with policy makers to raise awareness of the current situation for small schools and of the support they need to meet school improvement expectations.”

Marjon has a long history of education excellence, having been founded in 1838 as the UK’s first teacher training institute. Now, Marjon offers a range of education undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, both from the Plymouth campus and from Marjon University Cornwall, which is based at the recently-refurbished Old Cathedral School in Truro.

Professor Ovenden-Hope is certain that the speakers at the event will be able to provide unrivalled insight in to how small schools can not only survive, but thrive over the coming years.

She continued, “We are so lucky to have two sector-leading keynotes at the conference. Prof. Muijs is going to explore the new Ofsted framework in relation to small schools. It will be incredibly useful because it will help schools prepare for inspections in a way that is focussed on their specific situation.

“Dr Hargreaves from the University of Cambridge is an expert on small schools in England and Europe and has the most up-to-date research on the subject area. This will allow us to draw on findings about how small schools are working outside of the UK and apply this to our own situation.

“We also have a panel discussion at the end of the day that will bring together all our thoughts from the workshops and lectures to build a ‘manifesto’ for small schools. I’ll be chairing the panel, which will include Professor Carl Bagley from Queens University, Dr Cath Gristy from the University of Plymouth and our very own Professor Ian Luke from Marjon.”

The conference takes place on the 30th August, in the INSET week before the new school term starts in September.

Anyone interested in the future of small schools is welcome to attend, but places are limited so please register as soon as possible by visiting: and click register at the top right of the screen. You do not have to be a BERA member to register for the conference.

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