‘Do me a favour, there’s a new association called the British Education Studies association that we’d like to find out more about, can you go to their conference for me please?’ There were the words of my line manager to me as a new academic working in the field of education in 2006. As an institution, we had just begun developing our degree in Education Studies and the 2nd Annual Conference of the British Education Studies association had pinged onto the radar and I was the person despatched on a series of lengthy motorway journeys to find out more about it. Since that first encounter, I have attended all but one of the annual conferences, travelled the length and breadth of the UK and have met some wonderful colleagues and friends during that time. I have been a member of the Executive for this association for several years and have undertaken various roles as part of this including supporting the journal that we publish. I think it’s safe to say that this association holds a special place in my heart to the extent where the name is likely imprinted throughout my very bones like a stick of seaside rock.
This causes me to pause and reflect on why this may be. What is it that this association offers that supports and encourages such loyalty because I know that it’s not just me that holds such an affection for the organisation? I guess the one word that best sums it up is collegiality and this comes down to the real secret of this association and that is, the members themselves. What drives the motivations of the members of this association is this sense of wanting to support and develop other practitioners within education in a way that encourages and develops a real community that people are proud to be part of. In June 2022 we held the first in-person conference since 2019 and this experience really served to highlight the value of that sense of community and bringing people together. There were individuals in attendance from across the UK as well as internationally, including established academics, students and new researchers. Even though times were still uncertain, and Covid-19 was and still is, very much with us, the opportunity to return to those conference sessions felt like visiting an old friend. The warmth and the welcome generated by a British Education Studies association event are like no other that I’ve experienced. To be part of an organisation where new researchers feel so comfortable sharing their work in a supportive and friendly atmosphere is a privilege and to hear the positivity of the delegates at the conference is always a pleasure.
It’s true that as human beings we crave connectivity, and no I don’t mean the wi-fi, I mean those social spaces where we see ourselves as belonging. Those places where we see our own values and ambitions reflected back at us from others in that space and we can make meaningful connections with those around us to fulfil our own unique sense of self and identity. I have personally found that space in this association. For me, as an academic, advancing my own career and research are important aspects of my role, enabling and supporting others to do the same is another. As I write this, we are just announcing our call for papers for our 2023 Annual Conference, this year at the University of Derby. Again, I’m delighted that we can continue to offer the conference in-person and that already we have global interest in attending and presenting from a range of colleagues. We have some fascinating keynote speakers on the horizon, and I’m already filled with that sense of positivity of what’s to come for the conference. I know that we will be welcoming plenty of old friends as well as many new ones to the event and hope that many will take up the opportunity to share the conference with us in June 2023.
However, this conference will also be my last as Chair of the organisation and it will be time to hand over the reins to my colleague to continue this association on its journey. I will always be grateful for the opportunity to have been Chair and to work with such wonderful people and will continue to play a role within this association for as long as I can. My hope is that others will come to see the value in being part of this great organisation and will spread the work so that our academic family can grow and others can find the same support, collegiality and warmth that has led many others to join our community.
So, I write this as a thank you, both to my colleagues on the Executive and the members of this association both past and present. They say that you can choose your friends but not your family, but in the case of the British Education Studies association, I think there’s room for both.