The History of The Festival of Education at Wellington College

I remember vividly in a meeting back in 2009, the 13th Master of Wellington, Dr (now Sir) Anthony Seldon, telling the teaching staff that we were going to run a Festival of Education on site in June 2010, during term time, with hundreds of speakers, thousands of attendees from right across the world all descending on Wellington.  There would be tents and ice creams, music and deckchairs. It would be education sector’s version of the Cheltenham Literary Festival.  I can’t deny that many present thought this might be a little fanciful.  Yet it happened, and despite a few stumbles along the way, it has grown and improved from these beginnings to be well aligned to the vision that Sir Anthony painted.

Attendance, inclusivity, reach, relevance and pragmatism have all increased considerably in recent times.  We have worked hard to make sure that the Festival fulfils its aims – to be “the place where those who inspire go to be inspired”; to facilitate the educational conversation and debate; and to provide the richest and most pragmatic source of CPD possible.  Unlike smaller events, we have had the luxury of being able to accommodate a range of viewpoints; debates and panels where differences of educational opinion and outcomes of research can be aired.  We have also worked hard to make the speaker mix far more representative of the whole educational community.  Some schools now see the Festival as the very best use of their CPD budget, by sending their whole staff for a day.  Each teacher is able to navigate their own way through the content in the most relevant and appropriate way for them.

An indication of recent changes is the attendance figures for the last 3 years of the Festival as a physical event.


Ticket Sales
2017 1800
2018 2700
2019 4300


Given that most tickets sold are 2-day tickets, 2019 saw a footfall of approaching 7000.

In 2020, we had planned an even more exciting Festival but it was not transferable online.  Therefore, in March we took the difficult but unavoidable decision to cancel due to the global pandemic.  For 2021, we have throughout planned a Festival that could be either in-person or online, and in January we took the decision both to commit to a fully online event, and also to make it free to attend for all educators globally. This is, in some small way, a gift to the education community after the most challenging 15-18 months.

Content will be broadcast from keynote speakers over a 2 week period from 16th to 30th June, with the two Fridays (18th and 25th) being concentrated “CPD Fridays”.  All content will be made available for approximately one month afterwards. The programme is being finalised currently, and we will shortly be making a series of announcements.

By Iain Henderson, Deputy Head (Educational Developments & Partnerships) at The Wellington College


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