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Rethinking Ed 2023


After the first Rethinking Education conference in 2022, an otherwise positive review in SchoolsWeek noted that the "only thing that was missing was conflict”.

In organising the 2023 conference, we were keen to address this. We were therefore delighted when the Academy of Ideas offered to organise two sessions that promised to feature robust conversations - a debate on behaviour, and a 'forum discussion' on indoctrination.

We carried out due diligence and determined that we were happy with the speakers they proposed - including Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, a respected academic and author and the Director of Don't Divide Us.

We published the names of all the speakers on a poster and shared it publicly, to advertise what became a sold-out event for 500 people, including over a hundred speakers.

On the evening of Wednesday 20th September, we were contacted by several people - a combination of speakers and delegates - who expressed in very clear terms that they did not feel safe attending the conference alongside a representative of Don't Divide Us.

With very little time before the conference, we faced a difficult decision. Based on the information available to us at the time, we felt that we should respect the concerns of these speakers and delegates, and asked Dr Cuthbert to step down.

We wish to make clear that we respect Dr Cuthbert and her deeply held beliefs and views, and we would be happy to invite her to be involved in any future events that we stage. The loss of her involvement at the event was a loss for Rethinking Education and the values of free speech and open debate that we hold so dear.

We apologise to Dr Cuthbert, her colleagues and supporters for any and all implications this decision has had. We hope that there is some understanding - if not agreement - about the difficult position we were put in at the eleventh hour of planning.

We hope to be able to work together in the future. In the mean-time, we are undertaking an internal review to explore every aspect of our event planning, to help ensure that this unfortunate situation can be avoided in the future.



Unfortunately we have taken the difficult decision to ask Alka Sehgal Cuthbert not to attend the conference tomorrow, and we owe our speakers and delegates an explanation as to why. We have also discussed the reasons behind this decision with Alka directly, on the phone and via email.

As an organisation, Rethinking Education values freedom of speech and we recognise the importance of free and open discussion in improving educational and life outcomes for current and future generations.

At the same time, as a conference organiser, we have a duty of care to our speakers and delegates. At short notice, we have been contacted by several people – a combination of speakers and delegates – who communicated very clearly that they would not feel safe to speak at or attend the conference alongside a representative of Don’t Divide Us. When someone tells you that they feel unsafe, you need to listen.

In seeking to re-imagine an education system where all young people and adults can flourish and thrive, we strongly believe that we need to have difficult conversations and that people should be prepared to subject their ideas to scrutiny and challenge.

However, when multiple people came to us at short notice to express very clearly that they did not feel safe to appear at the conference, this placed us in an incredibly difficult position.

As an organisation and as a conference organiser, Rethinking Education is not taking a stance for or against any particular viewpoint. We are prioritising the safety of our speakers and delegates. We appreciate that the late notice of this decision is not ideal for any parties concerned but once the matter was brought to our attention, safety considerations needed to be our primary focus.

We hope this helps provide some context around this difficult decision. We look forward to an exciting conference and to focusing on our central mission - how we can improve educational and life outcomes for current and future generations.

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