Draft or daft? 12 design principles for creative capacity-building schools

January 18, 2015 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Education Matters 

Late last year, the US-based Roosevelt Institute asked the RSA to write a policy memo to support its Next American Economy project. This project ‘identifies the trends and challenges that will shape our economy in the next 25 years to better inform the policy decisions we must make today.’

We were asked to explore how school systems can best be designed to develop all students’ creative capacities during their school years, so that young people are better equipped to succeed in the 21st century economy. Although The RSA’s ‘Power to Create’ philosophy is predicated on a belief that creativity has intrinsic and non-economic value for individuals and communities, this memo was driven by the project’s particular rationale – the economic imperative for a more creative workforce. .

Whilst based purely on desk research, the work, helped by the Roosevelt Institute’s recommended structure of ‘situation-complication-questions-answers’ and short word limit, has helped marshall our own thinking. Although our emerging aim – to close the creativity gap in learning - widens the RSA’s lens beyond schools and young people, it’s been useful to concentrate again on the eternally important and contested role of schools.

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Is it time for Supplementary Schools to evolve and rethink their role?

January 15, 2015 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

As part of RSA Investigate-Ed, a series of short investigations on key education issues, RSA Education are undertaking a research project on the role of supplementary schools. With around 3000 – 5000 in the country, supplementary schools are often volunteer led and offer educational opportunities for ethnic minority children and young people outside mainstream school provision.

Supplementary schools vary in their size, context and intention and so it is often hard to come to absolute conclusions about their specific roles. However research for the Department for Schools Children and Families (DSCF) in 2010 helpfully groups supplementary schools into three different categories (p. 27)

1.    Schools that focus on improving the educational attainment of their students and who provide support in national curriculum subjects. This type is particularly dominant within Afro Caribbean communities where the rate of educational attainment has tended to be below average

2.    Schools which focus on the cultural and/or language traditions of a particular community, typically common in Bangladeshi, Panjabi and Chinese supplementary schools amongst others.

3.    Schools which promote educational values that are distinctly counter to those found in mainstream education. For example, the home schooling movement where parents might elect to educate their child out of the mainstream completely

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My favourite education book of 2014 (and 1870)? Habits of Thrift and Industry: Improving Bethnal Green.

December 31, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

As the RSA’s small education team scrambles around trying to make a difference in the crowded world of education, our history can feel both inspiring and daunting. Our Vaults’ brick walls are marinaded in two centuries of Fellows’ coffee and wine-fuelled conversations; plotting and planning, activity and activism  From the 19th Century campaign for girls’ education, to the introduction of RSA national examinations for all, and the more recent education for capability movement, we’ve frequently succeeded (albeit temporarily on occasions) in turning the education dial – something we hope to achieve again through our new mission to close the creativity gap.

Back in November, the RSA’s Linked In Group helped me stumble upon the latest Occasional Paper from the William Shipley Group for RSA HistoryHabits of Thrift and Industry: Improving Bethnal Green by Pat Francis offers a fascinating biography of educationalist and energetic RSA activist George Bartley (Fellows didn’t yet exist). It also reprints in full his seminal inquiry One Square Mile in the East End of London,  commissioned by the (as then named) Society of Arts in 1870. After the habitually draining pre-Christmas work rush, I finally read the paper on Boxing Day. It’s a brilliant read. Whilst there are clear resonances with current education debates (note in particular the description of ‘free schools’, as well as an account of how the now painfully trendy Cat and Mutton pub used to house 27 families) the purpose of this blog is simply to encourage others to buy or borrow a copy from the RSA library.

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Improving school improvement

December 23, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

This is a guest blog by Ben Gibbs, Director of Restart-Ed

What is efficacy in the context of school improvement? That was the question posed at the second of the RSA’s planning for real impact series, run jointly with Pearson.

It proved to be a thought provoking one. The subsequent discussion was broad, but included a focus on outcomes relating to schools’ moral obligations: helping young people get ready for the complexities of the lives ahead of them; developing a love of learning and a drive to understand the world around them; nurturing students’ agency and engaged citizenship; building resilience and the ability to self-sustain wellbeing. When asked what it is that gives a school efficacy, people talked about having a clarity of purpose, based on a clear understanding both of carefully considered intended outcomes and the changes required to achieve them. People talked about organisational effectiveness: having very clear lines of accountability, transparent governance, a culture of innovation, and distributed power. People also talked about holding the line on the things that are important to them as professional educators; standing firm in the face of policy initiatives that run counter to their own considered intentions.

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International reach

December 15, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters, Social Brain 

We are thrilled that our report Everyone Starts with an A, published earlier this year in English and German, continues to be read by people from many corners of the globe.

Just last week we were informed that the Brazilian Securities and Exchange Commission has a summary of the paper on their website (here for anyone who reads Portuguese).

globes by Tup Wander

Image credit: Globes by tup wanders

And in the past few months, our Director- and Associate Director of Education spoke at conferences in Lithuania and Latvia, respectively, about the concepts explored in the paper. Joe attended the Creative Partnerships conference; see an interview with him here (in Lithuanian). Louise spoke at the Education Innovation conference, supported by British Council Latvia, Ministry of Education, Microsoft, and others.

Our RSA Global team is helping to spread the RSA’s key messages. And as the RSA’s audience continues to grow across the globe, we hope to carry on providing thought-provoking work which is accessible and relevant beyond our local borders.


Many thanks to Adriana Rodopolous for informing us about the SEC article. The Everyone Starts with an A report was made possible by support from Vodafone Foundation Germany. The RSA Global team is Natalie Nicholles and Laura Southerland. 

Nathalie Spencer is a Senior Researcher in the RSA’s Social Brain Centre, and tweets at @economiclogic  

Planning for real impact: Achieving better outcomes for young people

December 12, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

Vaithegi Vasanthakumar (@VaithegiV) is a member of the global efficacy team with the Office of the Chief Education Advisor, Pearson. You can follow the team’s work at efficacy.pearson.com 

The first event in the RSA’s current ‘planning for real impact’ series explored whether Pearson’s approach to efficacy and the RSA’s Power to Create concept might help organisations engaged in youth employment programmes achieve better outcomes for young people. The delegates were drawn from a range of commercial and third-sector providers of employability services, as well as educationalists, employers and policy makers.

For context, Pearson defines efficacy as having a “measurable impact on improving people’s lives through learning” – a commitment it is applying rigorously across the business – for example, any internal investment or acquisition requires a review of the efficacy behind it, alongside the usual financial assessment. Also, products and services are developed based on robust research that supports in the delivery of meaningful, measurable outcomes.

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Big Idea: Wikipedia Voice Introductions

Imagine reading a Wikipedia biography, and the subject says hello and introduces themselves. That’s the idea behind a project run by Fellow Andy Mabbett, called The “Wiki Voice Introduction Project” (“Wiki VIP”- geddit?)

“Hello, my name is Andy Mabbett, and I was born in Birmingham, England. I’ve been a Wikipedia editor since 2003 and Wikipedian-in-Residence at a number of institutions, most recently the Royal Society of Chemistry”

- If I said that out loud, it would take around ten or twelve seconds, but in that time, you’d know what my voice sounds like (enough to confirm my identity, if you’d heard me on the radio), a little about me (enough to distinguish me from someone else with the same name), and how my name is pronounced (useful if you’re about to meet me, or mention me in a presentation or on air). In fact, you’d have the canonical pronunciation of my name: mine.

Since we started a project to make such recordings a while ago, we’ve had similar contributions from  Adil Ray, Alice Arnold, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Emma Freud, Charles Duke (one of twelve people to walk on the Moon) and a host of others – including, of course Fellows of the RSA, like Stephen Fry, Howard Goodall and computer scientist Sue Black.

We have contributions in Welsh, Dutch, French, Polish, Catalan, and Russian, too – some people record themselves in more than one language. The contributors include scientists, authors, journalists, artists, explorers, librarians, a peer of the realm, and even many Eurovision Song Contest competitors! Each recording is – like all Wikipedia content – available under an open licence, allowing anyone to reuse it.

How you can help
I want to invite anyone – everyone – who is the subject of a biography in Wikipedia, to provide a brief recording, saying the same kind of things about themselves – or a little more if they care to. Many fellows will have Wikipedia articles about them (but please – don’t write a Wikipedia autobiography; it’s really frowned upon) and can make a recording on their phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer and email it to me for uploading, or upload it to Wikipedia’s sister project, Wikimedia Commons themselves.

While not every Fellow has an article about them, I bet every one of us has a colleague, friend or relative who does. Some Fellows no doubt work as PAs or agents; they can supply recordings of their clients.

Imagine if we could hear the voices of RSA fellows of the past. Let’s make sure future generations can hear ours.

Andy Mabbett, FRSA

Andy Mabbett

•    View Andy’s blog ‘Pigs on the wing’.
•    See a guide to making a Wiki VIP recording, and more examples
•    Contact Andy by email at andy@pigsonthewing.org.uk

The impact challenge: reaching parts of the audience that aren’t normally reached

November 28, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

For organisations in all sectors that seek to make a difference to people’s lives – charities, social enterprises, funders, research bodies and public services – being able to measure and demonstrate impact can help them get better at what they do, and reach more people, more effectively.

Finding evidence that one’s work has reached its intended audiences and achieved its goals can be tricky. The pathway from publishing and disseminating a piece of research, to achieving awareness, acceptance and action is not always linear or direct. Instead, having influence and impact often happens indirectly, via a circuitous route with a fair few cul-de-sacs and some serendipitous connections.

Having impact often happens indirectly, via a fair few cul-de-sacs and some serendipitous connections

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has today published an evaluation of its education and poverty programme carried out by the RSA. The study aims not just to describe levels of awareness amongst key audiences, but also to assess how far particular messages and findings have had resonance with different parts of the audience, and as far as possible, to explain why this level of influence has been achieved.

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‘To create is to hurt a little’ – a Dutch perspective on creative learning

November 24, 2014 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

This is a guest blog written by Richard Gerver and Rik Seveke.

 In a world of growing complexity and accelerating change the creative capacities of people are increasingly important to design our personal and collective lives. If we truly value the development of creativity in our children, we need to redeem ourselves of our addiction to measurable development.

In the Netherlands and the United Kingdom there is little doubt of the importance of creativity. The Dutch minister for Education Jet Bussemaker spoke of ‘capabilities for the future’ at a symposium of the Royal Dutch Academy for Science and said: ‘Education as a source of equipment, capabilities as conditions for imagination and the development of creative rebels. World famous designer Daan Roosegaarde during the opening of the academic year at the University of Twente: ‘Creativity will become our main export product.’ But it isn’t just policy makers or artists who claim creativity as an indispensible asset. IBM’s research with 1500 CEO’s worldwide in 2010 states: ‘Creativity is the key asset for navigating in today’s increasingly complex world.’

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The Mobility Problem

November 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Education Matters 

The Problem

Britain has a mobility problem. However, according to new research, the problem is not the one many have come to think it is. The study, conducted by Oxford University and LSE, has found that the political and media consensus on social mobility being in long term decline has been a misdiagnosis. Instead, the problem of mobility is more subtle, with more of us now at risk of moving down the social ladder due to an increasing lack of space at the top – a situation, says co-author Goldthorpe, that has “little historical precedent” with “potentially far-reaching political and wider social implications”. The study further found that inequalities in relative social mobility are significantly greater than thought previously, with a child whose father worked in a higher professional or managerial field 20 times more likely to end up in a similar job than a child with a working-class father.

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    Joe Hallgarten is Director of Education. He was Director of Programmes for Creativity, Culture and Education from 2009 to 2011. Joe worked as a consultant to London 2012, and as an advisor for the Department for Education’s Innovation Unit and the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit. Joe is a founding trustee for The Ministry of Stories, a children’s creative writing centre in Hackney. Follow @joehallg

    Louise Bamfield is Associate Director of Education. Louise was previously a senior research fellow at the Fabian Society, a senior policy adviser at the Child Poverty Unit and head of education at Barnardo's. She is currently governor of a primary school and a children's centre in Croydon, and has a PhD in the Philosophy of Education from Cambridge University.

    Selina Nwulu is Research Assistant and works across several projects in the Education team. Selina has previously worked for a number of non-profit organisations, including the Equality and Human Rights Commission. She is also a writer and is studying for an M.Sc. in Education, Power and Social Change. Follow @SelinaNwulu

    Alison Critchley is Executive Director of RSA Academies. Having started her career in the Department for Education, she then moved to local government, working in education and children’s services in four London boroughs. Alison is skilled in school place planning and admissions, including work to enlarge existing schools and establish new schools and Academies.

    Georgina Chatfield is Communications and Business Officer of RSA Academies. Previously Programme Manager of Citizen Power Peterborough and Senior Developer Arts and Society at the RSA, Georgina has worked for the Arts Council and with creative industries for many years and is excited to be learning about the world of education. Follow @georginachat

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