Encouraging and supporting pupils to try their hand at anything is an important part of Ipswich High School’s philosophy. Here, Joe Earley, Head of Three-Dimensional Design, writes about how the school values all forms of learning.

I recently heard a story based in the 1950s about a distant relative whose father was a headmaster.

His father forced him to study Maths and Science as he valued them more than Humanities. He then made him take his accountancy exams – he took them four times and never passed.

A long time later he took an open university degree in History and flew through it.

A changing landscape

Years ago, education was much narrower; traditional values and academic study was held up as the elite.

Everything else came secondary to this and resulted in those who did not fit the narrow mould suffering their way through school until they could leave and find their niche.

Why did they have to wait until after school and waste those years?

Today, I am sure in some corners of the UK, there are still examples of this happening, but that approach is not part of our philosophy at Ipswich High School.


Diverse learning

We value all forms of learning and realise that we have to factor the spirit of children into our process.

We try to foster a strength in learning that they can apply across anything they try.

One of the greatest strengths I witness at school is when I step outside the classroom and see how many pupils will give everything a go and put their all into it, even if they have just started.

I certainly saw this when facing a well-established opponent like the U13s cricket team did at the St Joseph’s College tournament last term. The spirit of the students to battle hard and even take a few blows from the ball and continue to play until the end was great to watch.

It was excellent to have a patron of the arts, Neil Pearson, speak on Berner’s Day at the end of the summer term. It was fascinating to hear about the old boys’ school at Woolverstone Hall and hear about the spirit that encouraged their students to believe ‘anything is possible. And, although very different schools, he believed that spirit still exists at Ipswich High School.



I was glad to read a blog from Mr Hastings about a recent article which revealed the Russell Group are changing their approach to advice about the best subject options.

I think the universities have realised that by advising in this old-fashioned way, it narrows students’ choices as they fear not being accepted by the Russell Group universities.

While we understand some of the old challenges that exist and face students when following a certain path, deviating from this could result in not achieving the requirements to study a specific course.

The world is a vastly different place now and the job market will continue to challenge the universities to adapt and create new courses. I visited the New Designers exhibition part two in July which presents the work of 3,000 hand-picked graduate design talents from around the country.

With a whole range of universities under one roof, it provides a great opportunity to see the breadth of approach. The standard was incredibly high and there were students with ideas about tackling mental health, sustainable approaches to products and materials, futuristic architectural schemes, tech products with a social conscience, adaptable furniture with ideas around obesity (Holly Winship, IHS alumni).

It was an inspirational show full of humanity and passion for design and ideas that challenge the status quo as they asked questions aimed at improving the world we live in.


What is success?

It leaves me questioning ‘what is the best advice I can give students?’ which will be the route to a successful future. This is more unclear now than ever before.

I suppose it all depends on what we value as a successful future and the design students at New Designers were showing that they believe there is a more positive future vision for us all.

I can only suggest to students wanting a path to success that gaining a body of skills, the ability to communicate, passion for what you are learning and creative confidence like the New Designers graduates have is certainly a really good start to go out and navigate your future.