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End of Year Message From Our Chair

An Update From Our Chair, Deb Outhwaite


Dear BELMAS Members,

I have decided that it would be good if I wrote each term so that you can see what is involved in the Chair’s role of Belmas and the work that we are doing with, and for, you as members… and I would be really interested in any feedback that you have.

I think it’s particularly important, as apart from anything else – I’m not sure I quite knew what was involved in the role of Chair! So, I am hoping that in being more transparent, it will – if nothing less – contribute to the wider knowledge about these roles, and encourage others to step up into them, and help our wider policy memory, and enable people to be better informed, moving forward.

We decided to have a stand at the ECER conference in Glasgow in August, which was really useful, not just to attend sessions, but to watch a lot of the conference from the Whova App, whilst talking to delegates from the stand. Many came to ask us about our membership and we had enquiries about our great journals, and also with holding Belmas 24 on Clydebank, we were able to engage with lots of colleagues about visiting Scotland. This was the largest ECER conference to date, with nearly 4,000 people in attendance.  I had meetings with both the outgoing and the incoming Network 26 lead for Educational Leadership network, with whom we are organising joint Belmas and CCEAM events – more on this later on in the year!

I then went to BERA in Birmingham in September, again one of the largest conferences they have had, with just under a thousand participants, and I met with lots of colleagues from all over the world. Again, we held a stand and fielded some really interesting questions about our Conference 24 on Clydebank and our Research Interest Groups (RIGs).

Then in October I was out in Jamaica for IEAL-J – meeting colleagues from UCEA, AERA and CCEAM. I also presented twice on the role of a Learned Society in the 21st century and raised questions on what role we should be playing leading a Learned Society in a time of decolonisation of our school curriculums and critical educational research. What do you think we should be doing differently and why? Please do let me know. I met some Canadian colleagues at IEAL-J who are working on these issues within their own communities and are now presenting at BELMAS 24.

I have always said that the role of being Chair is to deploy our resources wisely, and I personally do not need to attend everything, but see us as a Council, representing our Society widely. So I am grateful to Victoria Showunmi, who went out to the Philippines in September to attend the WLE – Women Leading Education Across Continents conference, and to Denise Mifsud, who went out to Minneapolis in November to represent us at UCEA.

Following, representing BELMAS at the Beyond Ofsted Inquiry launch in Parliament on November 22nd, I then went to straight to Musselburgh, for SERA 24 in Edinburgh.  As I am Belmas Chair around a full-time job and my part-time doctoral supervision, it meant that I could not get to the New Visions Education Group meeting at KCL on Monday that week – but I endeavour to get to the next one, and feedback to members on steps that are being made in this area. Particularly of course, as we have an upcoming general election year.

On top of these major events that I have highlighted, we have been doing some really important work ready for our conversion to charitable incorporated status in January; updated our Research Interest Groups and handbook; held a BELMAS lunchtime session with Feyisa Demie, and conducted a membership survey, and been away for two Strategy Days to Manchester to think about the future of the society.

Many of you will be aware by now that last week was the most incredibly sad week for us as a society: to lose three such giant names, in field in one week, was truly shocking. Jacky Lumby’s contribution to field, really cannot be underestimated, and one of my favourite Belmas podcasts is Megan Crawford’s interview with Jacky. Then to lose Eugenie Samier just two days later, was shocking – Eugenie was a joint winner of the 2022 Best EMAL Paper Award, just last year. Then on Saturday morning to hear that Tim Brighouse had died, was so very upsetting. I have fond memories of being sat in my PGCE lectures, exactly 30 years ago, with Tim being our visiting professor at Keele, really challenging our thinking on our PGCE – about what sort of system we wanted to go and work in and what sort of teachers we wanted to be in order to make a difference to the world that we lived in… Tim was exactly my idea of where research and practice meet, and I shall really miss my occasional meetings with him.

Although that is a sad note to end on, the new term brings ICSEI in Dublin in January where BELMAS is represented by Berni Moreno. AERA in Philadelphia in April, which I am hoping to attend, and then of course BELMAS 24 in July, where I will look forward to seeing many of you. Then before ECER in Cyprus in August, there is a day of CCEAM conference – on which we will have more news for you in due course.

Please can I take this opportunity to thank you for your membership in Belmas, and your contributions to our society this year, and to thank everyone who works so hard in both our journals, and our office team who make sure that our annual conference and all our events go to plan.

Wishing you and your families, a really good seasonal break, and look forward to your engagement with us in the New Year.


You can read more from our Chair here.