Ice cream and cocktails

Wellington’s Festival of Education goes global

Iain Henderson and Chris Woolf look forward to the next Wellington Festivals of Education to be held at Wellington College in the UK in July.

 Iain on the next UK Festival, July 4-5 2024

“Ice cream and cocktails bring teachers together better than cold coffee and conferences, and the Festival of Education is the evidence to prove it! Hosted at Wellington College in the UK the Festival has its 14th edition this summer, and it has grown to a 2-day event for close to 6,000 people.


At the heart of the Festival is an understanding that learning should be inspiring, engaging and fun.

“With the tag line of ‘where those who inspire find their own inspiration’ the festival is an uplifting event for anyone interested in education. It has a focus on continuing professional development and thought leadership with a wonderful array of speakers: classroom teachers with a strategy or idea to share alongside 2023 headliners Chris Packham talking about neurodiversity and Eddie Izzard discussing their school experiences. At the heart of the Festival is an understanding that learning should be inspiring, engaging and fun. Some topics are perennial – Classroom teaching, Leadership and Wellbeing, for example. Others become key issues of the day: most recently, AI, Mental Health and Sustainability have emerged as key topics for the profession.”

Chris on ‘going global’ in 2023

“2023 was a big year for the Festival of Education with events not only in the UK but also in China, the USA and Thailand. The Festivals around the world are welcoming and open, bringing together the best of thinking and practice from across the educational spectrum, and enabling all interested educators who attend or present to feel that they belong. In the UK, we give away 2,000 free tickets to state schools, and offer big discounts for groups, which enables more schools, teachers and leaders to benefit.

“We aim to replicate this in the Festivals around the world. In 2023 the Festival of Education reached new territories with the inaugural events in Washington DC and Bangkok. The USA Festival of Education was a collaboration between St. Andrew’s Episcopal School and its internationally recognized Center for Transformative Teaching and Learning and the curators behind the UK Festival.

“The Washington DC area was selected as the location for the inaugural USA Festival of Education for a variety of reasons. DC has a wonderful concentration of various education stakeholders, including public, private, charter and home schools and districts, as well as undergraduate and graduate schools, educational technology innovators, national and state policy makers, foundations and philanthropic organizations. This region is united in its goal of improving teaching and learning both regionally and nationally. Festival organisers referred to it as “Coachella, but for teachers.”


“In Thailand, the same festival vibe was clear, with the focus still on inspiring, engaging and fun, but this time hosted at Wellington College International School Bangkok. Just as each of the Wellington Colleges around the world are unique to their local contexts, so the Thai festival evolves its own identity for its surroundings. It opened with Jassa Ahluwalia talking about his heritage with the title ‘Both not Half’. In 2019, he went viral with a comedy video of himself speaking Punjabi, a language he has spoken since childhood by virtue of his mixed British-Indian heritage. In an attempt to articulate his sense of self to viewers confused by his white appearance, he originated the hashtag #BothNotHalf – a rewording and a reimagining of mixed identity. Both Not Half has since evolved into a rallying cry for a new and inclusive future, a campaign for belonging in a divided world. His presentation really resonated with the audience and set the tone for a thought-provoking day featuring over 40 sessions, grounded in the same philosophy as the UK festival; classroom practitioners alongside renown headliners.

Ian on the China Festival of Education, April 20th, 2024

“The Festival of Education has been running in China for the last 6 years, with 800 attendees in Shanghai in April 2023. It is established as one of China’s leading forums for educators and general enthusiasts seeking insights on everything from career development to cutting-edge theories and new teaching techniques. The 2024 event will enable attendees to select from over 50 sessions. Alongside festival keynote speeches, there will be a selection of strands covering topics including artificial intelligence, coaching, cognitive science, sustainability and wellbeing.”

Chris on the global future of the Festival of Education

“Continuing professional development can be difficult to get right around the world. We aim to curate around half the content in each Festival, and the other half comes from the speaker application process. This enables top quality practitioners to share their experiences, which not only benefits the audience, but is a significant benefit to their own Professional Development. As well as the thought leadership events like this provide, it is also an opportunity to immerse yourself in an uplifting and fun environment, highlighting all that is positive in the global education community. And ice cream and cocktails really do help!”


Iain Henderson is the Co-Director of the Festival of Education,

Join Iain at The 14th Festival of Education on 4 -5 July 2023 at Wellington College,

Crowthorne, Berkshire, England.



Chris Woolf is the International Director at Wellington College International.

Find out more about The 7th China Festival of Education on Sat, 20 April 2024 at Wellington College International Shanghai



Thank you to Iain and Chris who kindly provided the images for this article.

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