Offsetting formal education for young people – Why rushing to university may not be the only answer

Why rushing to University may not be the right answer
Why rushing to University may not be the right answer

In the old days (of not many years ago), if you did okay in your A Levels you went to university. Better grades meant a better university and a better university meant a better job for life. Right?

With successive governments targeting more and more young people going to university there is a danger of doing more harm than good. You create half a generation who feel like they have failed – even if they were never destined to be academic – and you create a false hope in those that do complete degrees that they should automatically have a right to a graduate level job which pays more than the equivalent job with no degree entry qualification.

I think this has all changed. With the introduction of paid tertiary education for all, graduation taxation and prospective debts which will last a lifetime, it begins to offer more exciting alternatives to the conventional red brick university route. A ski season or two seems remarkably cheap by comparison. You earn, whilst you learn to live away from home and render yourself far more employable and have an amazing experience at the same time.

Travelling the world alone or in groups, will undoubtedly broaden your mind, enhance your experience and make you far more employable than a peer who has just done a degree whilst living at home. In my design agency days we were far more interested in whether someone as interesting than if they were qualified. Expedia’s ‘Travel yourself interesting’ campaign was brilliant (and won lots of awards)

This generation of young people will work longer, be healthier, live longer and see more of the world than we ever will. They’ll see medical changes that hadn’t even been dreamt of in science fiction, so why does forcing them into a school grading and exam system from year six onwards make sense? Why not encourage offsetting tertiary education for a few years to see the world and experience a bit of life before they have to decide what they want to do for the rest of it.

At eleven, I still wanted to be an astronaut or a train driver and yet this is when the average student has to begin to decide what their future holds. I’m not sure your average 18 year old facing a 60 year working career can know, or should be forced to decide what shape their life will take. So, why not let them take a few years?

A 25 year old that’s seen the world, seen poverty in a third world country first hand, slept on a beach,  skied for a year and maybe had to work some terrible jobs to make ends meet and has a far better chance of being driven to succeed and really KNOWING what they want to do than an eleven year old who’s only been to Disneyland.

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The future of British education

Sir Ken Robinson - Educational super hero
Sir Ken Robinson - Educational super hero

I’ve had a pretty eye opening week with the education system and I have to say, that I am massively encouraged by what I have been seeing.

It started with the fabulous book ‘The Element’ by my hero Ken Robinson, lent to me by my mate Leanna the very clever General Manager and ex teacher from BeWILDerwood.

I’ve written about Sir Ken before and loved his TED Lectures., so I guess I was on the look out for particularly creative elements in education.

As I said previously, my kids are both at Rushcliffe School in Nottingham, which is a good state school that prides itself on its results, but also uses the theory that every child should be allowed to shine in any subject. What I love about this is that it means there is life beyond maths, english and a few science subjects. Teaching young people to pass exams, does not enable them to enter the world of work.

I was there this week for some presentations and not only saw some amazing musical performances by the pupils, but a headteacher Phil Crompton, stand up and openly say he disagrees with the idea of an English baccalaureate as it will restrict young people from being able to excel in drama, music and other areas that encourage their creativity.

At last. Ken Robinson’s thinking is getting through. Thank you Mr Crompton and your team, my children are in good hands.

And then on Thursday, I went for lunch at Antenna in Nottingham with the brilliant Craig Chettle. I just love the place. It’s a hive of creativity and is giving young people the chance to learn how to produce, manage and make music and TV. It is like a gigantic sweet shop for a geek like me with technology and creatives all jammed into such a inspiring space.

Antenna is part of the Confetti Media Group that Craig runs and has TV production, music studios and a really powerful educational element to it that I would love my kids to think could be part of their future. It just doesn’t feel like an exam based place, but feels like kids will naturally shine if they have it in them to take the opportunity.

They are both places that Nottingham should be incredibly proud of. Maybe some other cities should come to us and have a look.

Reading back over this post, it sounds like a press release sponsored by Ken Robinson, Rushcliffe and Antenna, but it’s not. It’s genuinely not.

I had a pretty seriously low opinion of the way education was going and between these three events, my opinion has changed.

I was lucky enough to be at a lunch the other day too, where some senior Labour politicians came and listened to our opinions of what we thought they should do in order to get things back on track. Unsurprisingly, I said that I thought they had to invest in education and educational infrastructure. It would be money well spent and help build the future of the country by allowing more creative and open minded people to enter work and not be afraid of making mistakes on the way.

Maybe, just maybe, this is starting to happen.

Sir Ken Robinson: Do schools kill creativity?

Some of you may have seen this. 2 million people have already watched this, so there is a good chance that you have. But it is truly brilliant and inspirational.

Firstly because Sir Ken is very funny in the speech.

And secondly, he talks so passionately about creativity in children and how we have spent years as a nation getting them to conform, rather than getting them to explore – a subject that is very close to my own heart.

If our schools took some notice of this, they would be far better places for kids to grow and develop.

I know it’s 20 minutes long, but bear with it and you will be royally rewarded. And so will your kids, because you will look at them differently and allow them to try things for the sake of it.

My kids are both at Rushcliffe School and they seem to be exercising a lot of his ideas. Concentrating on the individual in a way that seems to go far beyond the Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda being set by successive Governments.