Innovative Education

Richard Gerver

Innovative Education, the conference held by us here yesterday, sets various educational hares running: the backdrop to Richard Gerver’s keynote speech is the backward-looking nature of government educational policy and the mismatch between the skills employers are looking for and so many of the  requirements of our content-obsessed, over-assessed educational system. His talk culminates with an illuminating set of challenges stated by the OECD as being essential to create the skills needed for the workplace:  interpersonal skills (above routine cognitive ones); the ability to learn, adapt and change; closer links needed between the worlds of work and that of education; and avoiding over reliance on formal qualifications rather than actual skills. The backdrop set by Richard (whose mentor is TED’s most famous educational son, Sir Ken Robinson) is one that suits Mike Grenier, whose Slow Education movement turns the usual associations of slow in education around and asks us to consider the benefits of intensity and depth of learning, thinking and relationships over the quick, superficial wins of fast, over-assessed and often superficial learning. I like his description of the best kind of learning involving “joyous engagement”, rather than learning because you need to for some extrinsic reason.

Additional workshops involve sessions on global education, technology for innovative learning, post 16 educational reforms and entrepreneurship. Alistair McConville and I run a well attended workshop on curricular innovation and reform. This is the story of the Bedales Assessed Courses (BACs)- their origin in the re-shaping of the school’s aims in the early 2000s; the evident mismatch between the desire to create inquisitive thinkers and the GCSE curriculum; the subsequent exercise of our independence with the courses’ creation; and the impact of the BACs on students and teachers over the past eight years.  At least as telling as anything that we say is the presence and testimony of various Bedales sixth formers who talk about what they did at BAC and how it affected their learning.

Bedales School is one of the UK’s top independent private co-education boarding schools. Bedales comprises three schools situated in Steep, near Petersfield, Hampshire: Dunannie (ages 3–8), Dunhurst (ages 8–13) and Bedales itself (ages 13–18). Established in 1893 Bedales School puts emphasis on the Arts, Sciences, voluntary service, pastoral care, and listening to students’ views. Bedales is acclaimed for its drama, theatre, art and music. The Headmaster is Keith Budge.