Filed under: Adam Lent, Arts and Society, Education Matters
In Adam Lent’s recent blog ‘Why is creativity the most important political concept of the 21st century’ he outlines the broadest definition of creativity as being ‘an act that is unique to an individual’s own capacities or vision’.
Why is it then that you’ll frequently hear people recoil in trepidation asserting ‘oh, but I’m not creative’?
Is it fear that they’ll be asked to draw? Or worse still, sing? Is it that someone way back told them they were no good at something and it’s stuck? Is it an excuse to get out of doing something? You’re creative, you do it. Is it an underlying lack of confidence in themselves? Is it a lack of birth right or sense of status?
Lent goes on to explain that creativity is important for four reasons:
- It’s good for us
- It’s economically more important than ever
- It’s the only solution to long term austerity
- It is under threat.
Do read his blog for more on this, am oversimplifying here to provide context, with this in mind I’d like to add two different thoughts.
Firstly, and perhaps crucially, does it matter then that people claim not to be creative? And often vociferously so. Is it because they default to the narrow association of creativity = art? Who are these people? And what implications does this have for our growing mission of the ‘power to create’ and the broadest definition of creativity.
Secondly, and perhaps fundamentally, I have to throw into the concept driven mix that creativity is FUN! Don’t we all want to be more creative? Personally and professionally?
Creativity enables us to solve problems, to meet people, to feel more human, to relax, to use our hands, to express ourselves, to experiment, to get dirty, to learn a new skill, to be brave, to get something wrong, to have a laugh, to feel fulfilled, to innovate, to feel a sense of achievement, to take a risk, to grow inside, to allow us to think a bit bigger.
But in case you were wondering , think you are not creative? Oh yes you are. It is in us all, it is innate. Embrace it. Follow it. See where you go.
Filed under: Design and Society, Education Matters
I would like to start this blog by wishing you all a very happy new year! 2014 is looking like an exciting year for the design team here at the RSA – it’s the 90th birthday of the brilliant RSA Student Design Awards. The RSA Student Design Awards is a global curriculum and annual competition that challenges students and recent graduates to think differently about design, through tackling briefs focused on real-world problems. We work closely with universities to help them implement the curriculum and support participants through workshops and mentoring. Winners are rewarded with cash prizes, paid industry placements and complementary RSA Fellowship to kick-start their careers.
We’re driven by our mission to enable, support and reward design that positively impacts the world, and we are looking to build on a hugely successful 90 years of working with students by launching a brand new project in 2014. The ARC Design team are teaming up with the Education team to pilot the Pupil Design Awards. We want to introduce a version of the RSA Student Design Awards to about sixty teenage pupils aged 14-19 in three RSA Academies. If the model is successful, we will expand this into a national competition for all schools in the UK.
Why now? Design Technology education is on the decline. In 2013’s A-Levels there was an 8.56% drop in those taking the subject from the previous year, and D&T has seen a steady decline in those taking the subject as a GCSE – from 5.6% in 2009 to just 4% last year. This has seen it fall from number 6 to number 9 in GCSE popularity tables. This needs to change. With the Design Council telling us that every £1 spent on design gives you over £20 in increased revenue, £4 increased profit and £5 in increased exports, and that the UK spends £33 billion on design every year, we can’t afford to let this subject slip at a young age.
Design and Technology was introduced to the curriculum in 1988 to “prepare pupils to meet the needs of the 21st Century; to stimulate originality, enterprise, practical capability in designing and making and the adaptability needed to cope with a rapidly changing society”. Now 14 years into said 21st Century, these words ring truer than ever. The Pupil Design Awards will not just teach the students to learn to ‘cope’ with a rapidly changing society, instead they will be given the chance to design how that new society will look. Challenges will look at topics around collaborative consumption (asking pupils to design a product or service that gets better or more useful the more people use it), how to design out waste and how to use design to bring generations together, thus helping to tackle isolation in the elderly.
We know that the RSA Student Design Awards is a successful model which makes a huge difference to how young designers think about and use their craft, and past winners have told us they think it would benefit younger pupils. 2012 winner Richard Watters commented “If I had done this award when I was younger, it would have inspired me to think about the world differently and how design can help society as a whole”.
We need your help to make the Pupil Design Awards happen. We are raising money using Kickstarter to fund the pilot project – the first ARC project to do so. We have some brilliant rewards up for grabs including framed prints of winning entries and being a named sponsor on one of the briefs. We have two weeks left on our campaign, and are passionate about making the Pupil Design Awards happen this year.
Happy New Year
Filed under: Design and Society, Education Matters, Fellowship
We are happy to announce that our project RSA Pupil Design Awards: Coming to a school near you? has now been launched on Kickstarter!
Following on from the success of the RSA Student Design Awards, we are hoping to trial the expansion of this scheme for 14-19 year old pupils, aiming to inspire them to apply their design skills to solving real life problems. The Pupil Design Awards will challenge pupils to think differently about design, through tackling briefs focused on real-world social, environmental and economic problems. The project will initially be run in three of the RSA Academies with the opportunity for further expansion at a national level if successful.
It has been particularly interesting to look at alternative ways of fundraising and what this may mean for the ways in which charities operate in the future. Crowdfunding has the advantage of allowing people to donate as much as they like, offering them the chance to receive various rewards pending on the amount donated. In thinking up our rewards for this project, it was necessary to think more clearly about our audience which has in turn assisted us in further developing the project. Our rewards include an invitation to the Pupil Design Awards ceremony if you pledge £50 or more and a signed A3 colour copy of one of the three winning pupils’ designs if you pledge £20 or more.
It is still the beginning so it is impossible to comment on our success as yet, though we have already raised £2, 300 of our £10,900 target in 5 days which is a great start. We’re grateful for all of the tweets and retweets and we’re hoping that this will continue during the next few weeks.
Please help spread the word and make the Pupil Design Awards happen! Donate here!
Earlier this year I played a small part in helping Chess in Schools and communities raise almost £700,000 from the Educational Endowment foundation for a randomised control trial on the impact of chess on attainment in Maths and English (and a few other measures) in about 50 primary schools. The scheme is being evaluated by the Institute of Education in London and represents a big breakthrough for chess, and potentially for educational research too.
Those who played chess when they were younger tend to have little doubt about its educational value, but as with almost any educational initiative, finding hard evidence for that is difficult. There is a huge range of anecdotal, case study and qualitative evidence, but this study over 4 years will hopefully prove what we have long suspected.
At the current count, Chess in Schools and Communities now covers over 283 schools over 46 boroughs, mostly in deprived areas. They are hosting a conference this weekend at Kensington Olympia’s exhibition centre called Successes and Challenges: Improving School Chess Practice, Research and Strategy. There are still places available for those who want to attend!
I had very much hoped to play a part in the conference, but now urgently have to finish our climate change report and conserve some ‘wild card’ energy to compete with some of the best players in the world later next week.
The challenge with any educational intervention is not to show that it helps, or how much, but to say what makes you think it helps more than other interventions. Chess has potential to make this case, due to its rich history and cultural resonance, affordability and helpful association with intelligence.
The most exacting challenge with any educational intervention is not to show that it helps, or how much, but to say what makes you think it helps more than other interventions. Chess has potential to make this case, due to its rich history and cultural resonance, affordability and helpful association with intelligence. Many who otherwise struggle at school find they are good at chess, and realise that thinking and reasoning has a positive place in their lives.
My own ‘take’ on the value of chess in a nutshell, particularly in areas of educational disadvantage, is that it builds what Ron Ritchart calls ‘Intellectual Character‘ by providing a safe space with rules and feedback where you learn that you will inevitably make mistakes, but can still win. It also creates particularly valuable forms of what sociologists call ‘social capital’, in terms of community pooling of resources and time and inter-generational learning…but alas instead of developing that, I’m afraid I currently only have time to share a lightly edited version of a newspaper column I wrote on the subject two years ago! I hope some of you can make it to the conference.
Herald Chess Column for October 1st 2011:
Primary school feels like a long time ago, but it was instrumental to my chess development, as it is for most players who go on to become Grandmasters. Had it not been for supportive teachers and a team of players I liked most of the time, including my brother, there is no way I would have fallen in love with the game in the way I did.
I went to Skene Square primary school in Aberdeen where chess was always played in the library with the red carpet, on the corner of the second floor. We only tend to remember things that make an emotional imprint on our souls, and that room must have, because I remember little else of the inside of the school.
I went to Skene Square primary school in Aberdeen where chess was always played in the library with the red carpet, on the corner of the second floor. We only tend to remember things that make an emotional imprint on our souls, and that room must have, because I remember little else of the inside of the school.
Chess in primary school meant challenge, delicious tension like no other, structured competition where physical strength didn’t matter, and a constant experience of learning and growing. It was also a time of learning away from home, going to nearby schools to represent my own, and sometimes crying when the result didn’t go my way.
I think of this now because the charity, Chess in Schools and Communities, is campaigning hard to get chess into primary schools, at least in England and Wales, but no doubt North of the border in time. The charity was set up by the chess world’s most revered and respected Scouser, Malcolm Pein, and already teaches chess to primary school children in seventy schools.
The breakthrough was an appearance on BBC breakfast television, which led to Yasmin Qureshi, the MP for Bolton South East, tabling an Early Day Motion supporting the playing of chess in primary schools, which was co-signed by Rachel Reeves, the Labour MP for Leeds West:
“This House recognises the positive social and intellectual benefits for all children across the social spectrum of learning chess at a young age and the relatively low costs of teaching it in schools; notes that while chess currently receives no financial support from the Government, many European countries including Sweden and France financially support chess in schools; further notes that the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Multilingualism and Youth would welcome UK support for the Chess in Schools project being developed by the ECU and the Kasparov Chess Foundation; welcomes the work of the UK-based charity Chess in Schools and Communities which teaches chess to primary school children from less affluent backgrounds; and calls on the Government to ensure that all children are given the opportunity to learn chess at primary school within existing resources.”
The end of November saw RSA Academies hosting the Student Leadership Conference for Year 12 and 13 student leaders from Arrow Vale RSA Academy, Whitley Academy and RSA Academy, Tipton.
Here are some of the TOP 5 TIPS from the students and the RSA Fellows who joined in for a day of inspiration and conversation.
Marie Nixon, Chief Executive at Sunderland University’s Students Union starts us off.
1. You’re a leader all the time. You don’t have to wait for the ‘big’ job or opportunity to start being a leader. You can be a leader in your community, in your area of interest, in anything. Get on with leading and the big leadership opportunities are more likely to come your way.
2. Don’t be scared of ‘don’t know’. One person can never know everything. Surround yourself with brilliant people and together you can know all sorts – and work out the answers to what you don’t.
3. The power of the unthinkable. Don’t be afraid of ‘mad’ ideas that might seem beyond the realms of possibility. It’s a great spark for exciting conversations which help you decide on ambitions and exciting things you want to change and do.
4. The boldest measures are the safest – changing something a tiny bit usually requires exactly the same effort as changing something radically. Be bold, be brave, attempt to do what you really want to do rather than what you might get away with. It’ll take the same effort and you might as well go for what you want.
5. Telling it like it is. Feedback is super powerful and it takes a bold soul to give it. Feedback is essential to make sure you’re getting to where you want to be. When you’re giving feedback make sure you do it with accuracy and kindness and that you’re doing it for the good of the person affected or the project. It’s NEVER a chance to be mean.
Followed by Prince Chivaka and Cynthia Ariana, Head Boy and Head Girl at Whitley Academy in Coventry.
• Communication is key
• Develop confidence in the role
• Be very firm, but friendly and be assertive and considerate in a team
• Plan an agenda for each half term and meet with Student Leadership Group and the Principal
• Encourage others to become leaders, be a role model
And Rick Hall from Ignite’s 5 Rs: the characteristics of creativity… and leadership
1. Resilience – be determined and learn from your mistakes, this is part of the process of getting towards the solution
2. Resourcefulness – working out what to do when you don’t know what to do
3. Referencing – see something is like something else and make the connection, learn from this
4. Reflection – step aside and observe, use mind mapping as a technique to help
5. Risk taking – pushing the boundaries, going outside your comfort zone
And lastly from Andrew Watts, Head Boy at RSA Academy in Tipton
• Plan, plan, plan – set goals, what do you want to achieve?
• It’s crucial to talk to people – what do students want from you? Expect the unexpected.
• Don’t be afraid to ask for help – you don’t have all the answers and learn from the example of others
• You have to make big decisions – consider everything, sometimes what you want isn’t best
• Be willing to get involved – you have to be in it to win it
Duncan Piper at the Young Leaders Consultancy has the parting shot. He encouraged us to think about self-less leadership: how can I help you get to where you need to be?
“Imagine a classroom where everyone started off an academic year with an “A” grade, and in order to keep the grade, a pupil had to show continuous improvement throughout the year. In this classroom, the teacher would have to dock points from a pupil’s assessment when his or her performance or achievement was inadequate, and pupils would work to maintain their high mark rather than to work up to it. How would this affect effort, expectations, performance, and assessment relative to current practice?”
This is one of the questions we pose in our upcoming paper, due to be published next month, which explores the application of behavioural insight to educational policy and practice.
Specifically, we are concerned with the socio-economic attainment gap – the difference in performance between pupils from affluent backgrounds and those from deprived backgrounds. We’ve been working with the Vodafone Foundation Germany to understand the education context in Germany, where the gap is particularly severe.
While no country has yet to achieve a fully equitable system where educational attainment is not correlated with socioeconomic background, the UK, Germany, the USA, France, Austria, Bulgaria, Belgium, and New Zealand, among many others, are worse than the OECD average. So while our paper reviews the German context in particular, the message is applicable across many different parts of the globe.
So what is the big idea with everyone starting with an A? Regular readers of this blog might recognise that this approach taps into our tendency to want to avoid a loss – more so than we want to receive an equivalent gain – a tendency known as loss aversion.
Loss aversion just one of many behavioural insights that we explore, where the term behavioural insight is used to describe the application of behavioural science (comprising many different fields, including behavioural economics and social psychology among others).
Our paper includes the distillation of academic theory that would be expected, but we also turned to educators to get their perspectives on the practicality and value of applying behavioural insight in the classroom. To do this, we conducted focus groups with teachers in Berlin (see Josef Lentsch’s blog post from earlier this year for a glimpse into that experience), ran a survey with YouGov to explore views of teachers in England, and drew on a report that Vodafone Foundation Germany published earlier this year about teacher, parent, and pupil perspectives on a range of educational issues.
The paper be published in both English and German, and we’ll provide another update closer to the date with a link from which you will be able to download the report.
Today the RSA and Arts Council England will launch Towards Plan A: A New Political Economy for Arts and Culture. This series of four papers which examine how the arts sector might play a full role in the UK’s economic and social renewal. In the papers:
- Martin Smith asks for a new industrial strategy for the arts, to make the most of ‘ the prickly, sometimes antagonistic but always necessary relationship between art and commerce’;
- Alex Jones asks for cities to be more honest about their capacity to be so-called creative hubs – not all cities can be – and more intelligent about the way they understand the impact of cultural spending on regeneration;
- Mandy Barnett and Daniel Fujiwara argue that ‘the cultural sector needs to agree a single framework within which to talk about value, whilst disentangling the social from the cultural in the process’; and
- Sue Horner (chair of RSA Academies), in calling for a ‘grand partnership’ between education and cultural sectors, suggests how both sectors need to step up to harder-edged collaborations.
John Knell’s excellent introduction also offers recommendations to inform future policy and practice. This includes the idea that: “ACE should commission, in partnership with DCMS, DfE, AHRC, key trusts and foundations, and the sector learning network, at least one ‘high burden of proof’ study – involving if appropriate randomised controlled trials – which would explore the impact of particular arts interventions in a key impact area (for instance health and well-being, education or community cohesion).”
Having spent several years leading probably the largest ever ‘high burden of proof’ study ever undertaken in the arts, the Creative Partnerships learning programme in thousands of schools across England, it would be tempting to show John my wounds and medals. As, over the years,the quality of our research, evaluation and outcomes improved, it actually became more difficult to make the case for continued investment. However, I think John is onto something, and his proposal could be even more ambitious.
Could the cultural sector create something similar to the Education Endowment Foundation – a body dedicated not just to commissioning rigorously evaluated projects, but also to improving the way that evidence is built and used across the education system? Importantly, the EEF exists and is funded through an endowment – from the DfE – which secures both its independence and its long term stability. Although it is too early to judge the impact of individual projects (and my prediction is that only a few will show statistically significant impacts on closing the attainment gap), the Foundation’s processes and toolkits are already informing school decisions. Many schools are finally moving from a culture of data use to a culture of evidence use.
A Cultural Endowment Foundation, perhaps funded through a small percentage from the recent 4G auction, should be entirely independent from Government and Arts Council England. ACE is too invested in demonstrating rather than understanding the impact of its spending. It should support programmes to be externally evaluated against cultural as well as social or economic outcomes, possibly using Mandy and Daniel’s single framework, so that the arts are not just the servants of other public policy masters. Finally, it should be prepared to go public when the cultural sector engages in poor quality, advocacy-heavy evaluation processes – I’ve got a few favourite worst evaluations, which I won’t name and shame here. Understanding value should not be a compulsory activity for all in the arts sector – some will just want to get on with making great art for everyone, to use ACE’s mission statement. A Cultural Endowment Foundation could help cultural organisations make the choice between either doing evaluation properly or not doing evaluation at all.
Joe Hallgarten Director of Education @joehallg
Filed under: Design and Society, Education Matters, Innovation
In recent months I have had the privilege of developing new opportunities with the RSA Academies and the RSA’s Royal Designers for Industry (RDI). The aim is to assign at least one RDI to each school every year. As reported by my colleague Georgina Chatfield in her blog post ‘What’s the secret to learner engagement’, interior and exhibitions designer Ben Kelly RDI, recently visited Arrow Vale RSA Academy to set a radical ‘live’ brief.
The initial project for Year 12 product design students was to design a shelving system for the school entrance hall in which to display student’s work. However, as communications developed between Ben and design tutor Paul Taylor, the brief, much to the students’ excitement, became a more daring proposition to completely re-design the reception space.
During the visit Ben shared his design path with the students, from school days, to a career-defining commission to design the Hacienda nightclub in Manchester, and beyond. When discussing the project he challenged the students to “dare to be different”, and to “challenge convention by breaking the rules”.
I joined Ben for the presentations and tutorials and it was evident that the students were engaged throughout, asking searching questions and listening attentively. But could this experience really make a difference to them? Our intention from the outset was that it should.
Following the visit we were encouraged by a report of the day written by two students from the group; Bren Heald and Chantelle Pollit. It was a heart-felt and incredibly rewarding account of the experience from the group’s point of view which they described as “thought-provoking and inspiring”. The group continues to develop its’ design proposal as I type, and Ben Kelly will be returning to the school at the end of term to assess the outcome.
This project is a unique opportunity for the students to take ownership of a space that could redefine the character of their school, and that will enable them to be confident about taking risks when testing their ideas. It is also a valuable example of how designers can contribute inspiration and quality to design education, and also of the enrichment that partnership with the RSA can offer.
The independent Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission has today published a weighty tome, running to 348 pages, which in size at least indicates the zeal of its members to ‘hold the Government’s feet to the fire’. Led by former Labour frontbencher Alan Milburn, and deputy chaired by former Conservative Minister Baroness Gillian Shephard, the Commission is decidedly even-handed in its appraisal, alternating between assessment of the current and previous governments to spread the blame and some of the credit across all the main political parties.
In keeping with its deliberately balanced analysis, I’d like to offer one positive and one more critical comment about the new State of the Nation report.
The media coverage so far has focused on two main stories: the growing problem of ‘in-work poverty’ – affecting families where at least one adult works, but living standards are falling due to stagnating wages and rising prices; and the political dilemmas wrought by intergenerational inequality, particularly the vexed question of whether or not well-off pensioners really need their free bus passes, TV licenses and winter fuel allowance.
While these headline messages encompass an important set of issues, there is a lot more to be gathered from the report within its plentiful pages. The apparent spat between Milburn and the Deputy Prime Minister about what to do to tackle intergenerational inequality should not distract from the repositioning that the report represents.
Rightly, the Commission members are unimpressed by the ‘myriad of different initiatives, indicators and strategies’ that have been forthcoming since 2010. The plethora of strategy documents (relating to ‘Social Justice’, ‘Child Poverty’ and ‘Social Mobility’) reflects the keenness of each Coalition Partner to demonstrate (rhetorically, at least) its fairness credentials in a time of austerity. It also indicates some of the jostling for control of the political agenda that has been going on behind the scenes.
The focus of this latest report is primarily on the UK Government’s Social Mobility strategy (which shares almost all of the same policy priorities as its Child Poverty strategy) – reflecting the priorities of the Deputy Prime Minister, who called on Alan Milburn to act as ‘social mobility’ Tsar many months before his appointment as head of this Commission was finally agreed by other, more reluctant members of the Cabinet. Tellingly, the Commission’s report is pitched at a much broader swathe of the population than the ‘Social Justice’ agenda driven by DWP Secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, who in office has pursued the same moral crusade against Broken Families that began after his ‘Damascene’ conversion during a visit to Glasgow’s Easterhouse estate in 2002.
For anti-poverty campaigners, there tends to be a decided antipathy towards the policy goal of ‘social mobility’ – it seeming to offer a rosy prospect for the brightest and most fortunate children from poorer families, while confining the rest to a continued existence in relative poverty and deprivation.
But rather than confining the poverty debate to welfare reform targeted towards (or perhaps against) the bottom 1-10%, it is arguably more productive to build a coalition around more equitable life chances for the bottom 90 or 99%.
One of the main practical recommendations here is the call for a broader definition of disadvantage than eligibility for free school meals, which doesn’t ‘properly capture the breadth of the cohort which is in poverty or at risk of falling into it’. The report notes that one-third of school-aged children living in poverty in England – around 700,000 children are not entitled to this extra support. It is right to call for a new definition which includes all children at risk of poverty and disadvantage.
More broadly, by focusing on the life chances of a broader group of children and young people – not just those purportedly afflicted by severe, persistent and inter-generational poverty – the Commission has positioned itself against a reductionist view of poverty, which should be welcomed. What is more, this is a report that talks repeatedly about child poverty, warmly welcoming the Government’s decision not to jettison the 2020 child poverty targets (brushing over its ongoing attempts to redefine how child poverty is measured), and refusing to let child poverty slip quietly off the agenda. This is a positive – even if the hope of further progress towards the 2020 vision feels like a distant dream.
This brings us to the negative: despite the telling critique of certain aspects of past and current approaches, the report is too generous in suggesting that either government has made anything like sufficient progress towards raising the tail of underachievement and in tackling the UK’s abysmal record on youth and adult skills. Yes, there is more to do to open up a rather closed meritocratic system, in which young people from more privileged backgrounds find it far easier to do well at school and gain entry to higher status universities, qualifications and jobs than their less affluent counterparts. But the report does not give enough direction about what more must be done to tackle underachievement and poor development, beginning in the early years of life.
Progress towards promoting early childhood development is being severely constrained by under-investment in proper training for the early years workforce. The Commission rightly recognises that one of the keys to unlock social progress is ‘high-quality, affordable and universal childcare that enables more parents to work and helps improve children’s early development’. ‘High quality’ needs to be more than a catchphrase. It should mean employing a professional workforce of qualified teachers to ensure every child has the foundations for learning by the time they start school.
Despite recent projections, Ministers have continued to assert that the Coalition’s flagship policies are on track, and will improve outcomes for the most disadvantaged children and young people. As reviewed here, the evidence to support these claims is unconvincing. The weakness of the ‘new approach’ is not that it has focused on the wrong areas of policy; like the ‘old’ approach, the key programmes are, in the main, based on sound evidence that worklessness, low educational achievement and poor maternal and infant health are the key drivers of poverty and limited life chances. Where the government’s approach seriously falls short, however, is in expecting a few flagship programmes to do all the heavy lifting.
In the face of wider spending cuts to key public services and changes to the tax and benefit system that will have an overall adverse effect on children and families, the Coalition will be lucky to achieve even the same slow level of progress in narrowing achievement gaps as that achieved under the previous government. As Labour’s limited record shows, making progress on tackling poverty and entrenched social disadvantage is not easy even in good economic times, let alone in the new age of austerity. But the biggest poverty gap that now exists is that between the government’s rhetoric and reality. It would help if the Coalition started by giving up the rhetoric of a ‘new approach’, and responded to the Commission’s report with an honest appraisal of the likely impact of its policies.
Louise Bamfield is Associate Director of RSA Education.
Within the RSA Family of Academies many families of pupils do not have strong networks with employers or universities. Recently schools have had to take on new responsibilities for careers information, advice and guidance. It follows then that one of our priorities is to ‘connect learners to people, places and issues beyond the school gate’ – something we are working towards with a new Warwick University and RSA partnership.
Last Thursday night students from the RSA Academies joined with their teachers, academics from Warwick and the RSA to celebrate the launch of this partnership. It is aimed at increasing the student’s knowledge about what a university education involves and helping them to develop skills, knowledge and experience to gain a university place.
For the partnership to have real impact, we need to consider the perceived barriers of going to university. Practical concerns about how students would manage, including anxiety about the financial implications; a sense that it is ‘not for people like me’; a lack of knowledge and confidence in going through the application and interview process, have all informed the planning so far. The partnership will generate:
- opportunities for the students to attend the ‘Experience Warwick’ summer schools
- support with the university application process
- advice and guidance sessions for the students and their parents about going to university
- visits to the schools by the academic staff
- taster days at the university
And more than this, there will be a programme of activities for the schools that is focussed on raising aspirations and increasing awareness of different university options. There is plenty of potential for projects between different academic staff within Warwick and the schools that will bring to life some of the more esoteric sounding disciplines – theatre productions about the financial crisis that allow you to explore economics and the relationship between human behaviours – it’s about finding ways to engage and excite students with new subjects and ideas, and teaching staff and academics in return.
Student focus groups carried out by RSA Education Intern Lisa Hevey showed the importance of talking about university as an option at an early age. At Year 8 students were talking about adults who had influenced their future plans and career aspirations, so getting in early with a range of potential career possibilities is essential. Importantly role models also have a clear impact on students. Some students do not have older siblings at university and putting these individuals in touch with university students or adults who may inspire them could have enormous effect.
So this partnership offers potential. And when you feel you have potential, the sky’s the limit.