Government minister Nick Gibb and author Frank Cottrell Boyce to top the bill at pioneering Northern education conference

Government minister Nick Gibb and author Frank Cottrell Boyce to top the bill at pioneering Northern education conference  name

Schools minister Nick Gibb and award-winning author Frank Cottrell Boyce will deliver keynote speeches in Carlisle next month when the city hosts one of the biggest events of its kind in northern England.

The speakers head a list of national and local figures appearing at Northern Lights, a day of debate at the University of Cumbria celebrating good practice and exploring the biggest issues faced by schools and educationalists across the region.

The University of Cumbria’s Institute of Education is staging the influential event in partnership with the St Ninian Catholic Federation, which runs St Margaret Mary’s and St Cuthbert’s Schools in Carlisle.

Northern Lights will take place at the University of Cumbria’s Fusehill Street campus, Carlisle, on Wednesday 20 March 2019.

The event aims to attract a wide range of delegates – from system leaders and class teachers to governors and local authority representatives.

Along with keynote speeches, the conference will include sessions such as ‘Broad and Balanced’ exploring curriculum issues to a panel-led debate entitled ‘NorthernEd – powerhouse or poorhouse?’

University Vice Chancellor, Professor Julie Mennell, said: “Education, we know, has the power to transform people’s lives, communities and countries. With power to spark passionate rhetoric and debate, education is never far from the headlines. From teacher training and retention, school accountability, inspections or raising standards and attainment, Northern Lights will shine a spotlight on the sector in a way never before witnessed here in Carlisle, the Great Border City where we have a rich heritage of providing quality teacher training and professional development.

“We are delighted to be working with the St Ninian Catholic Federation and proud to host such an event here in Cumbria, where Charlotte Mason founded teacher education in Ambleside.

“We are in the business of possibility, empowering people to succeed so we welcome the opportunity to bring new thinking, skills and opportunity in this field for the benefit of the wider region and beyond.”

St Ninian Catholic Federation leaders Chris Wilkins, executive headteacher, and deputy headteachers Michael Merrick and Luke Denny are collaborating on the project with Ruth Harrison-Palmer, Kathryn Fox and Pete Boyd from the university’s Institute of Education.

The St Ninian team said: “The purpose of the event is to highlight successes but also the needs of an area that has long struggled to get the same attention as other parts of the country. The fact that children in the North have less chance of educational success than their peers in the South is a fundamental inequality we are determined to address.

“We hope that the conference can help develop discussion and networks to help drive that improvement and close the divide. 

“We are proud to welcome so many voices from across the country, be these home grown or from further afield. It is an opportunity for academic discussion and debate to be a vehicle that allows professionals from the local area and all corners of the country to share best practice and build networks of excellent teaching and leadership.

“Closing the attainment gap and delivering the highest quality of education should be the aspirational target for all schools. We are hoping that this conference can be used by schools as an opportunity to be outward looking in their development, with the aim of ensuring success for all of our children regardless of their postcode or background.”

Nick Gibb, Minister of State for School Standards, said: “I am pleased that St Ninian Catholic Federation in partnership with the University of Cumbria has organised the Northern Lights conference to provide a forum for headteachers, teachers, governors, and others passionate about raising school standards to discuss and share the best approaches to improving educational outcomes. 

“The wide and distinguished list of speakers is testament to the importance of this occasion, and along with the varied agenda which addresses issues and ideas prevalent in today’s education debate, will provide for a rich and informed discussion about how every child, regardless of their background and location, can receive a high quality education.”

Tickets for the Northern Lights conference are available and can be booked here or at