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2013 IHBC Annual School

Thursday 20th to Saturday 22th June 2013

Carlisle School Report - Context Issue 131, September 2013
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The IHBC 2013 Annual School explored ‘skills’. Skills lie at the heart of how specialists advise on the complex issues that face us when conserving cultural fabric and places. From understanding how significance is considered within the planning process today, to appreciating the impact of low carbon design priorities, the modern specialist needs to be able to work to established conservation standards, but also to identify where and what skills are needed to make sure that conservation outcomes are cost effective and reasonable.

The Annual School examined the challenges for built and historic environment conservation specialists and place-makers in the 21st century: what are the skills needed to ensure that our heritage is viable and sustainable, and how do we cultivate and manage those skills? It scrutinized the latest thinking on skills resources, priorities and opportunities. Discussions ranged across practice, policy, funding, community education, low-carbon priorities and traditional skills as well as the tools of the mainstream construction sector such as contracts and design review.

Access to all the plethora of skills required is one of the biggest challenges for modern built and historic environment conservation specialists. Skills are the starting point for all specialist advice in conservation: the description of skills lies at the heart of the UK's standard for conservation, the 1993 ICOMOS 'Guidelines', and as such, underpin all credible conservation standards.
Monitoring success of the training capacity of the School – meeting the IHBC competences
The IHBC Annual School helps members’ meet the IHBC’s Areas of Competence and maintain these competencies. These Competences are the key membership criteria of the Institute and Annual School programmes are developed to cover as many aspects of them as possible. The Competences are shown in the table below (with more information available at link). The Areas of Competence are, however, equally relevant to non-members, conservation professionals and other built environment professionals.

The Professional Area of Competence informs and shapes conservation advice and conclusions, and is the most important and most challenging for applicants. The Practical Areas of Competence correspond to how we achieve conservation, by evaluating, managing and, as appropriate, changing places. These Practical Areas correspond respectively to cultural disciplines such as history or archaeology; to ‘place management’ and regeneration specialisms such as planning; and to design and technical solutions provided by architectural, engineering, urban design and project management skills sets (link).

The IHBC’s four Areas of Competence, as represented in the model conservation cycle, in figure 1 below, represent members’ inter-disciplinary skills – the overarching ‘Professional’ Area of Competence, and the three Practical Areas: ‘Evaluation’, ‘Management’ and ‘Intervention’.
For conservation professionals including IHBC members and prospective members, issues around significance lie at the heart of the first of the IHBC’s ‘Practical Areas of Competence’, Evaluation. Significance also underpins advice and decision across all the IHBC’s Areas of Competence.

The matrix below (figure 2) explains how the 2013 Annual School provided training to meet the IHBC Areas of Competence and also dealt with the theme of the school. It shows that the Annual School sessions provided training options to cover all of the IHBC Areas of Competence whilst giving specific training on the School theme of “Skills”. It is possible using the various options available for delegates to further develop all or some of their competences.
Ensuring feedback from School delegates
To ensure maximum delegate feedback delegates are directed within two days of the end of the School to an electronic survey form. This approach, first used in 2009, has proved to be very successful. It simplifies the process of submitting feedback for delegates, allows them to make any additional comments with ease and has been shown to deliver more responses than paper feedback forms. In 2013 61.3% of delegates responded with delegate feedback.
Annual School Delegates
Attendance at the Annual School over the past decade has been consistently good and in 2013 the School attracted 155 delegates (72 Day School and 83 Full School). Given the current economic situation and the long running substantial cuts in both conservation posts1 and available training budgets the attendance was encouraging.

Although the event is organised by the IHBC and is a key annual event for its members it provides training for non-members and all those with a professional interest in conservation. The Annual School continues to provide important training opportunities for those outside the Institute. 16% of the School delegates (which is 20 Day School delegates and 5 Full School delegates) were not members of the IHBC, demonstrating the School’s wider appeal.

Delegates to the Annual School come from a variety of different types of employment falling into the three broad categories shown in Figure 1; Local authorities, private practice and government bodies & quangos and charities. Local Authority employees participate relatively equally in both the Day School and the Full School, whilst those working in private practice are less likely to stay for the Full School preferring the intensive lecture programme of the Day School. The Full School also include delegates in receipt of the bursaries offered by the IHBC either nationally (link) or through bursary schemes run by various IHBC branches.
1 33% of local authority conservation posts have been lost from 2006 to 2013. A fifth report on Local Authority Staff Resources. Produced by English Heritage, the Association of Local Government Archaeological Officers and the Institute of Historic Building Conservation July 2013. http://www.ihbc.org.uk/skills/resources/5th-rep-LAStaff.pdf
Monitoring success of training capacity of school – delegate feedback
(i) Conference content and CPD value
Delegates were asked to give details of the Day School presentation or class they felt they gained the most from and the results are shown in Figure 4.
The greatest interest (42%) was in Alan Gardner’s talk on outreach, education and training in construction projects which many selcted because they felt it was inspiring and motivational. But aside from this one popular talk all other speakers were considered by other delegates to be the one most was learnt from, a positive reflection on the choice of speakers and subject matter.
Apart from specific comments on individual presentations the general comments made by delegates showed that in the main delegates found the talks useful and relevant and comments included:
  • Nice range of topics
  • Good, relevant range of speakers.
  • Enjoyable and informative event, presenters were enthusiastic about their subject and information transferred well to the audience.
  • Extremely enlightening, yet edifying, at a time of great change and transition in the industry/sector!
  • All were impressive!
  • They were all in all very good!
  • Very interesting speakers
  • Inspirational
(ii) Conference organisation
Delegates were asked to rate the organisation of the conference and the booking arrangements. 92% of delegates rated the organisation of the School as good or excellent (see figure 7).

Many delegates offered unprompted comments on the organisation of the event and the following are typical examples:
  • Absolutely brilliant all round.
  • Another successful IHBC school.
  • I found the event very well-coordinated and it all ran very efficiently
  • Great value, quality activities, interesting tours and thought provoking content.
  • I thought the school ran extremely smoothly this year so credit is due to all involved, from the IHBC admin team, the local team (and particularly Richard Majewicz), the contributors and tour leaders, etc., and the hotel management and staff who I thought handled things excellently. A big 'well done' all round!
  • A school role model in every way possible from venue, organisation, to speakers...
Delegates rated the school venue highly with 81% feeling it was a good or excellent venue and none feeling it to be unsatisfactory (see figure 7). The booking arrangements were likewise rated as good or excellent by 91% of delegates.

(iii) Overall conference experience
Delegates rated the overall experience they had at the conference and its usefulness very highly with 93% rating it as good or excellent. (See figure 8).
As well as the formal educational and informative aspects of the Annual School many delegates value the networking opportunities it offers by being able to get together with like-minded professionals. The social and networking aspects of the Annual School were very well received and Figure 9 shows this. 98% of responding delegates rated the Tullie House Museum reception as excellent (71%) or good (27%) and of 78% of delegates responding to this question rated the Annual Dinner as excellent (39%) or good (39%).
The generally high level of satisfaction is backed up further by the very encouraging data in figures 10 and 11 which reveals that 88% of delegates felt the School met their training requirements completely or sufficiently and that 97% felt the School was invaluable, very useful or useful.
To assist both Carlisle City Council who had supported the School extensively an the local IHBC Branch in considering future events delegates were asked about their experience of visiting Carlisle. Exactly 50% had not visited Carlisle before and were new to the City. Of those who had both been there before and those who had not 91% plan to visit again.
General comments on the City included:
  • Carlisle's an excellent scale of city to be based in, with everything in easy walking distance
  • The good parts are very good, but otherwise it’s another clone town. Presumably TKMaxx and Wilkinsons were seen as fundamental to retention of the Old Market but the new "lanes" and Debenhams could be anywhere. Playing with their architectural design doesn't disguise the identity of the tenants!
  • Not engaging, when in competition with the opportunities in the local area for tourism
Lessons for the future from feedback
The more extensive free text options on the feedback form allowed delegates to express any concerns about areas of the Annual School which did not live up to their expectations or which they felt could be improved. This is important information as it allows the IHBC to consider how improvements can be made on the basic product of the Annual School. In general the critical comments were very limited and the key points raised were.

Negative comments from one person are often balanced out equally by positive comments by another person. Whilst strong feelings of one person, which are not repeated by others, are useful but can not always be used to develop the School in future years. Of those areas where a number of delegates felt the same way the following points were identified;
  1. English focus Some delegates felt the focus on English planning legislation was not very relevant to those in the audience from other countries despite having speakers from Scotland. The IHBC is a UK based organisation and ensuring UK wide coverage is very important and attempts are always made to make the School relevant to all. The location of the 2014 School in Edinburgh should ensure different perspectives.
  2. Speaker Balance One delegate made an interesting point on the fact that there were no women speakers at the Annual School; “I was disappointed by the fact that there were no women speakers. Yes, Jo Evans spoke but it appeared that she only spoke in her role as Chair not in her own right as a professional. What kind of message does this send to women in the sector especially in the light of diversity discussions on the day?!” In general speakers are selected for their expertise on an area identified as being important to the main theme but lack of female speakers was certainly not intentional and one planned female speaker had been unable to attend and so was replaced.
  3. School venue The hotel used as the main venue was excellent in many ways but the air- cooling system meant that in a full hall during the Day School the temperature was rather high. This is unfortunate and for some uncomfortable but is a one off issue for this School. The venue was generally well received in other ways except for one or two minor comments on the standard of accommodation and noise in rooms. This is a one off issue for this venue only. As the School uses different sorts of venues depending upon the region, location or theme it would not be possible or appropriate to introduce a standard for accommodation or other venues. The IHBC endeavours where possible to provide excellent venues which represent value for money to keep delegate fees at a reasonable level.
  4. Annual Dinner A number of delegates expressed a view that the after dinner entertainment at the Annual Dinner was unnecessary and too long. The IHBC President was asked to conclude the event because last years’ Dinner was felt by some to not have a logical conclusion. As the Annual dinner each year will vary these comments will be used to develop the event for future years.
The IHBC’s Annual School has been operating successfully since before the foundation of the Institute in 1997, and is developed from the Schools pioneered by the Association of Conservation Officers and operated effectively each year since the mid 1980’s. The Annual School is the principle platform for training and professional development for historic environment conservation specialists. It is the IHBC’s flagship national annual event drawing from customer base of IHBC members, non-member conservation professionals and broad sector interests.

The proceedings of 2013 Annual School have been described in some detail in Context the journal of the IHBC (Issue 131 September 2013) and this is a main source of record which will endure beyond the event. Six months after publication the Annual school edition of Context is made available freely to the public on the IHBC web site. Alongside this material the web site also carries Annual School resources in perpetuity (link) including programmes, speakers presentations and feedback details ensuring that the key aspects of the School are available for open public reference and future research.

The successful delivery of the 2013 School has reinforced the importance of the IHBC Annual School in the annual training calendar of conservation professionals and provided the opportunity for delegates to obtain quality, focused Continuing Professional Development.
Welcome and introduction
Chair, Jo Evans IHBC Chair & David McDonald IHBC Education Secretary
Legislation & Policy - Mike Brown, IHBC Policy Secretary
Resources for Skills - Nick Randell, Programme Manager - Skills for the Future/Training Bursaries, Heritage Lottery Fund
Skills Development For A Low Carbon World - Rory Cullen, Head of Building, The National Trust
Skills for Change (1): Outreach, Education and Training during Construction Projects - Alan Gardner, Principal Alan Gardner Associates. Historic Building and Traditional Materials Consultancy
Skills for Change (2): Practical Approaches to Design in Historic Environments - Colin Haylock IHBC, consultant & Immediate Past President, RTPI
Spotlights on practice Brief case studies introducing current issues in skills

Apprenticeships: Skills development for professionals - Phil Bell, National Apprenticeship Service (NAS)
Digital Technology: Skills in a changing world - James Hepher, Surveyor & Spatial Analyst, Historic Scotland
Skills in Community Engagement - David Lovie, IHBC Past President
Clay Buldings: Skills in a traditional context
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