Embracing Individuality in Education

There is a family feel at Ipswich High School, the staff, parents and students all feel part of our community. We have a sense of ownership and unlike other schools there is a greater opportunity to be treated as individuals. There is enough freedom that allows students to be themselves, balanced with a positive discipline structure that ensures a level of personal responsibility that is developed by the pupils.

We are providing an education that is preparing students for the future. We challenge the students to not only gain skills, knowledge and a competitive spirit but also to learn who they are and embrace it. If an education is too authoritarian it will develop rule followers and students that need to be constantly given direction. An education that is solely focused on academic studies can have a tendency to produce passive learners. Our students learn how to think, adapt and be leaders in their fields.

Education for the future needs to provide the right balance between academic, sport and the arts. An academic education provides the skills and knowledge, a strong sports education provides a resilient mindset, a competitive spirit and an arts education feeds the individual. Tristram Hunt director of the V&A and previous Shadow Education Secretary announced on the Radio 4 Today the importance of the arts in education in preparing individuals to face the modern world. He commented: ‘If we are thinking about the future of the British economy looking at the report on robots in the future, studying for the creative industries, studying Design and Technology is a kind of immunisation process against robots taking our jobs. Human creativity cannot be taken by a robot.

The arts subjects provide our students with the ability to be pro-active learners and offers them a space for freedom of thought, a place to consolidate and apply what has been learned across the whole of the curriculum. As a design teacher, I see the development of us as individuals, our values and experiences as an essential part of understanding why we make choices. The design process is ultimately a series of questions, ideas, experiments and decisions that need to be made and in order to be clear about the path that you are choosing, you need to know why you want to make that particular choice. Visiting the London Design Festival at the weekend highlighted the importance of human production as the current trend moves away from standardised machine manufacture and leans towards handmade products that have a unique raw and natural quality.

We often hear that the future will be uncertain, but the future is here, tech companies are gaining in strength and are re-shaping the world. We have seen how tech companies are not restricted to one market. Dyson announced this week they are releasing an electric car in 2020. Until the change in regulation by TFL, Uber has been free to flood the market with taxi drivers. Facebook is clearly shaping election outcomes and Amazon is not only a retailer, it is a film producer, a greengrocer and a candlestick maker.    

The roles that schools have been training for in the past are likely to become obsolete and outsourced to artificial intelligence. Those still selling a traditional model of education will continue to fall behind in the changing world. The way we can best prepare our students is to encourage them to become proactive and flexible individuals that are excellent learners who know how to sell their strengths and will be able to adapt quickly as the world continues to change at a rapid pace.

We are a school that supports the arts, we genuinely enable the individual and encourage students to follow a path that is right for them. As teachers, we try to inspire them to be bold and go out into the world and make a difference.

By Mr Joe Earley – Head of Design and Technology

A link to the original article which Mr Earley has responded to can be found here.