Big Change Project Visit: School 21

The future of education in the 21st century

With all the fun and great times that surround the Virgin Strive Challenge, it’s so easy to be distracted from the significant impact that Big Change and the projects they support are having in the community. I recently had an opportunity to visit one of the projects supported by Big Change; School 21.

In 2014, Big Change assisted School 21 with seed funding for the development of their oracy program/framework and has continued to provide valuable support. It was great motivation to further understand how the money fundraised by the Strive Challenge is making a difference in the world. The below video gives a great introduction to the philosophy behind School 21.

It was my first time back in a school since I graduated in 2010 and obviously nothing has changed because 6 years later and I’m still turning up late! Fortunately I didn’t miss much, so here’s a few things I learnt about School 21 and it’s journey to being an organisation which is challenging the traditional education model.

The school was founded in 2012 with the goal of creating a school which addresses the rapidly changing needs in the workforce and prepare students for success in the 21st century. To achieve this, the founders developed a structure based on values and attributes which have become the foundation for all the learning activities.

2 Core Values:

Humanity – ” We look out for each other”
Integrity – “We are true to our word”

6 Attributes:

Eloquence, Spark, Professionalism, Grit, Craftsmanship, Expertise

Along with these underlying foundations, the school has developed a number of unique programs and practises which result in the school being much more of a holistic institution dedicated to the personal development of their students, not just obtaining GCSE results. With all the awesome things the school is doing, I could write a book, however, the stand outs for me were the well-being program and the oracy program. Both of which I strongly believe should be incorporated into every school on the planet.

Q&A with Ed Fidoe, Cofounder of School 21. Pic - Big Change/Emily Jarrett
Q&A with Ed Fidoe, Cofounder of School 21. Pic – Big Change/Emily Jarrett

The well-being program serves as an exercise through years 7, 8 & 9 to assist the students in developing a “growth mindset” and a belief that effort and grit rather than innate intelligence is the route to success. You may have to read that again… A school that teaches students that hard-work and determination are more powerful than natural ability.

It might seem like common sense, however, the traditional education system is dedicated to separating students based on their initial test scores as early as primary school. This segregation has the potential to foster a belief in young students that they weren’t born ‘smart enough’ and consequently lowers their self-belief and results throughout their education and further into adulthood. It is amazing to see a school acknowledging this issue and embracing and the importance of mindset and the role that primary and secondary education can play in the development of a healthy mindset.

The second program I that made me want to come back to school was the oracy program which School 21 has created as a framework (Voice 21) which can be adapted and integrated across the entire education system. They understand the vital importance of oracy skills and this was immediately evident after we entered a classroom to see a class full of students practising for their ‘Ignite Speech’. A TED Talk inspired format in which the students speak about a passion/interest of theirs in front of their peers. During my education, from primary school all the way through to university, speaking skills were never a priority and consistently made up a small fraction (generally 10%) of any assessment. This is certainly not a reflection of the workforce and I strongly believe that oracy is of equal importance as numeracy and literacy.

Learning about the oracy program
Learning about the oracy program. Pic – Big Change/Emily Jarrett

Overall, it was an amazing experience to see a progressive approach to education and a commitment to shaking up the system that is continually failing to evolve and adapt to the needs of the 21st century. This is also just one of the projects supported by Big Change, to find out more about their other successful projects, check their website out here.

And if you would like to contribute and help us support Big Change, there’s a couple of options:

1) Come and join us on the Virgin Strive Challenge  in September, it’s going to be an insane amount of fun and all the funds raised go to Big Change to enable more projects like School 21 to reach their potential. You can sign up here.

2) If you would much rather watch us sweat our way through Europe from the comfort of home I don’t blame you, in that case, you can make a donation here and help me hit my ambitious £20,000 fundraising target.


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