More focus on character, please

More focus on character, please

If we believe the purpose of education is to prepare pupils to thrive in the future, then we have to develop skills that will enable them to do that. We need to give them the time and tools to discover which direction is right for them and the ability to learn and adapt from their experiences. This means developing the skill of building meaningful, trust-based relationships, the skill of effective conversations, of proactive wellbeing, of managing their minds and the essential skill of taking 100% ownership for who they are, the decisions they make and the behaviour they choose.

For me, developing character is a three-part process. Firstly, we need to give students the time and tools to discover their unique character, who they are and how they can play to their strengths. Then we need to give students the skills that will enable them to take that character into the world and thrive. Finally, we give them the opportunity to practice these skills in a safe environment.

Traditionally, the approach has been to jump straight to the third stage by getting kids involved in lots of different activities and hope / assume that they will learn something positive about themselves.

This is a hit miss approach and has as much chance of teaching them bad habits as good.

Forward-thinking schools are now taking a different approach – taking time in the curriculum, using expert content and tools, and only engaging teachers who are genuinely interesting in human potential and learning themselves. If a school is genuinely committed to character development, they need to take it seriously.

I’ve spent the last 20 years running one of the leading executive development businesses in Europe. I spent my days sitting in board rooms and, while I sat there, one thing kept bugging me. Why are these life-changing skills only given to those who’ve already reached the pinnacle of their careers? Why aren’t we giving them to younger people – at a time when it could make a real difference, not only to the leaders they become, but to the lives they create?

I realised that if we were going to give our young people the best opportunity to thrive then this had to change, so I created Ivy House.

We have taken the core learning from our transformative, future leaders programme and put it into a programme for sixth formers. A flexible progammes of 20 modules, it gives teachers the expert content and professional tools they need to facilitate this kind of learning in their school.

Developing ownership, initiative, resilience, confidence and self-leadership, The Award bridges the gap between education and work, equipping students with the knowledge and skills to enable them to thrive, whatever their chosen path.

The Award is running in a number of schools including Canford, Eton, Brighton College, Charterhouse, Downe House, Cranleigh and City of London – and, following huge success we have just released another 5,000 student places for 2020-2021.

Want to find out more about The Award? Have a read of our brochure and give us a call.

Be brilliant, whatever that looks like for you

Be brilliant, whatever that looks like for you

Jay Lockwood decided to open his own school in 2014 after realising how unfit the curriculum was for many young people. He shares his journey here.

Upon leaving University, I joined a scheme called TeachFirst – a new programme aimed at putting talented graduates into some of the toughest schools in London. The aim was to attract people into the profession, and it wooed me with the aim of doing a couple of years and then working for one of their many corporate sponsors and going to make my millions. To be completely transparent I had little interest in helping others, it was simply an interesting way to start my career.

My first school was based in Hayes, a grey and not so shiny example  of London’s urban sprawl. At the time, 1 in 10 of the GCSE examinations sat scored a C or higher and a police officer was stationed full time on site. This was my first experience of how different education can be across our supposedly developed nation. I remember teaching my first year 10 history lesson, trying to explain my academic career to date and how much I knew. I was greeted with rhythmic chants of posh boy, posh boy and other, more unrepeatable abuse. If you have to google an insult you know you are out of your depth. I also soon met Terry. Grandson of a famous gang leader who used to rival the Krays, as Terry’s new form tutor I wandered by him sat outside the Head’s office:

“Terry is everything alright” 

“ Sir I have been accused of smoking on the school roof”

“Well were you…”

“It depends sir”

“Depends on what Terry?”

“Sir, does the Headmaster have CCTV on the school roof”

“No Terry”

“Sir, can the Headmaster take fingerprints or DNA samples from the school roof?”

“Errr… no Terry”

Nodding.

“ Sir…I can now confirm that I was not on the school roof”.

It was a mad place. A mix of white working-class families and intergenerational worklessness causing lower aspirations than you can imagine and an immigrant population who reflected global issues at the time – from war refugees to child soldiers, Hayes had it.

What struck me was how unfit the curriculum was for so many in the school. What were we building towards? What type of young people are we trying to ensure leave our schools?  I was acutely aware of the political short termism and the failure to overhaul the curriculum so that students can develop skills for the future economy – something a community such as Hayes needs so badly.

Indeed a recent study suggested that those entering the post-2020 economy will most likely have at least five careers, with employers wanting to recruit those with creativity, complex problem solving skills and emotional intelligence. And yet our education system remains focused on more 1970-esque content and rote learning of facts and quotations. There is simply not enough join up between our education strategy and economic planning – today in Europe there are 1 million jobs in the computing industries unfilled, and conservative estimates suggest that our digital deficiencies cost the UK economy £70bn a year. We are simply not training people properly.

It is with this in mind that in 2014 I decided to open my own school under the Government’s free school programme. A rioja induced brainwave quickly became reality and the Conservative government approved the opening of Logic Studio School, which opened its doors in 2016. We are a school based in Feltham, for 14-19 year olds. Our focus is giving our young people what they need for the future – qualifications, skills and confidence. Every GCSE student studies Computer Science and digital design, at post-16 we have no lessons on Wednesdays – students are on a range of internships, visits or studying industry exams in accounting or cyber-security and networking.

It has been a brilliant four years, designing a school from the ground up; building a community with a strong and authentic ethos that gives students the chance to build confidence and learn when they fail. A school that gives young people so many opportunities that they are able find what their passion is. A school that asks young people to take responsibility at an early age.

Feltham, where we are based, is one of London’s most deprived areas.  2% of our parents have been to higher education, if they do work, many work in low skilled jobs. I recently went to a new Amazon factory in London and it was striking to see how few people were employed. it was a mini city of machine and computer. So what for these already struggling communities like Feltham, like Hayes, Walsall, Hull? What happens to the 45,000 uber drivers in London alone once the driverless car arrives?

We keep making the same mistakes – the closure of the mines in the 70s might have been financially prudent but the lack of planning for the economically displaced and otherwise unskilled communities was a national disgrace.  As we sleep walk into the artificial intelligence and digital revolution I fear the forthcoming economic displacement will be much, much worse. We are still too focused on political short termism and cheap point scoring. Listening to PMQs is embarrassing. Maybe a dictatorship with a friendly face is what is needed – over to you Boris.

I would like to finish with a bit of advice to the incredibly talented young men and women in education across the UK.  You have an unbelievable number of opportunities to develop your emotional skills, interact with teammates, lead on and off the sports field, opportunities to hone your creativity. These are the skills the future is demanding so do not take these opportunities for granted. Get involved, try everything and enjoy it. Continue to academically excel but realise that this is only the start. Grades on a piece of paper will get you so far but there is so much more to it than that.

Modern life is about people skills, modern life is about character and modern life is about leadership. Make sure you are developing yourself for the modern world.  And when the time is right, go out there and be brave. Innovate. be creative and stand up for what you think is right. Go and be brilliant, whatever that looks like for you.

We’re with Jay on this one. The Ivy House Award is all about giving students the time and space to consider who they want to be, learn the skills to make it happen and become the leaders of their lives.

Five things you need to know about the apprenticeship levy

Five things you need to know about the apprenticeship levy

Who pays into the apprenticeship levy?

If you’re an employer who pays over £3 million in wages each year you need to pay 0.5% of your total pay bill into the apprenticeship levy set up by the government.

Does the government also pay into the levy?

No. This is an employer-funded initiative and that’s why employers are able to determine how they spend their funds. Unspent funds will be surrendered to the government after 24 months and those funds are distributed to non-levy paying employers as part of the 95% co-investment.

If my company isn’t eligible to pay into the levy, can I still access the funds?

Even if you don’t pay into the levy because your pay bill is below £3 million, you can still receive support with your apprenticeship training. The government will pay 95% of the costs, leaving only 5% left for you to pay. You can also partner with a larger levy-paying company that can donate unspent funds to you to use. They can donate up to 14% of their full levy pot.

What can the apprenticeship levy be used for?

Your funding can only be spent on the cost of training apprentices. It cannot be used to pay apprentices’ wages or any associated travel or set up costs for the training.  

As long as the apprenticeship training is delivered by an approved apprenticeship training provider, employers are free to identify the skills that are needed within their organisation and can choose the standards that employees need to meet in order to do their job effectively.

What if my levy funds don’t cover the total cost of the apprenticeship training I’ve chosen?

Payments for your chosen apprenticeship training will be taken on a monthly basis from your Digital Apprenticeship Service account and sent to your provider.

If you don’t have enough funds in your account to pay for training in a particular month, the government will ask you to share the remaining cost of training and assessing your apprentices for that month. The government will pay 95% of the shortfall, and you will pay the remaining 5%.

Bonus fact: Using the levy to invest in current employees to broaden your talent pool is just as valid as taking on a new apprentice to fulfil a specific role.

Ivy House has partnered with The Opportunity Group, a registered apprenticeship training provider and talent consultancy, to create a programme that not only delivers life-changing development to your emerging talent and future leaders, but is also aligned with the apprenticeship standard.

If you want to chat about using your levy funding to transform your emerging talent, get in touch today.

Apprenticeships are employer-led, not opinion-led

Apprenticeships are employer-led, not opinion-led

Learning is a lifelong process. We shouldn’t be discounting people who have already started their career from becoming an apprentice just because they don’t fit into the commonly accepted view of what apprentices are.

There appears to be a misconception around apprenticeships, and specifically what an employer’s apprenticeship levy can be spent on, which has been reinforced by the recent EDSK report released on apprenticeships. Traditionally, apprenticeships were a way of entering work by learning a set of vocational or technical skills for a specific role. This often conjures up images of school leavers taking an alternative route to that of a university graduate.

This is a valid view point. We need to give young people all the options to kick-start their career and support them with identifying the best possible route to entry. But let’s not forget about the large pool of people who are already employed but haven’t yet developed the behavioural traits or technical skills to progress and be successful. We already know there is a skills gap within organisations which isn’t just affecting talent acquisition; what do we do with an existing workforce that has not previously had the investment to develop future leaders?

The Institute for Apprenticeships reminds us that apprenticeships are employer-led. Employers identify the skills that are needed within their organisation, now and for the future, and can choose the standards that employees need to meet in order to do their job effectively. The apprenticeship levy puts the employer in the driving seat, allowing them to choose the training that is going to be most effective for their organisation. Using the levy to invest in current employees to broaden their talent pool is just as valid as taking on a new apprentice to fulfil a specific role. This shouldn’t be dictated by an arbitrary definition of apprenticeships.

We need to encourage organisations to invest in training that will have the biggest impact on their business and right now, life skills are sorely missing from all points of the learning journey. This can be attributed to an idea that leaders are born rather than developed; there is a misconception that people will pick up life skills along the way. If you follow that train of thought, only those who have made it to senior executive level will be fully equipped with these essential skills, assuming that all we need is time. This totally ignores the talented, driven people who could become extraordinary leaders at any level of the business.  

What if we could offer life and business-changing learning at a time where it can make a difference now rather than simply waiting for these skills to be developed?

Even better, what if employers could give use the apprenticeship levy to provide this training?

Ivy House has partnered with The Opportunity Group, a registered apprenticeship training provider and talent consultancy, to create a programme that not only delivers life-changing development to your emerging talent and future leaders, but is also aligned with the apprenticeship standard. The Master Programme is a 12-month early career programme that is almost wholly funded by the levy.

At the core of the programme are five intensive, experiential masterclasses. Every delegate is supported with five hours of 1-1 executive coaching to give them the kind of input they would never typically have at this stage in their career. The masterclasses are supported by a suite of e-learning modules and monthly workplace assessments to track and support their progress and meet the requirements of the Government.

The latest figures show that only 22% of levy paying organisations have utilised their apprenticeship levy contributions. If you want to chat about using your levy funding to transform your emerging talent, get in touch today.

To push or not to push?

To push or not to push?

‘How will you push my daughter?’. This is a question Alex Neil, Head Teacher of Farnborough Hill, is often asked. But is ‘push’ the right word to describe the education journey? Alex shares her take on this.

I understand where parents are coming from; they want their daughter to achieve all that she can, but the use of the word ‘push’ worries me. It implies we have to chivvy the girls along, that they are passive in their learning and it is up to us to force them to achieve. I would like to give all children much more credit than that. I believe the girls want to learn, they have high aspirations – just ask any 10 year old what they would like to be; it is up to us to inspire, encourage and celebrate their unique gifts and talents, however they manifest themselves.

No two girls who have ever entered, or whoever will enter, Farnborough Hill are the same. One will be a musical maestro, another an awesome spin bowler and a third a mathematical genius. One may be the quietest and most unassuming in class but tread the boards with aplomb and flair in a way not seen since Judy Garland. Another might be a combination of all talents listed. It is up to us as the teachers and educators to work with each pupil to discover her passion and drive – to find her element – and to use that as a tool to encourage. We must present the pupils with the opportunities to achieve; we need to inspire the girls through outstanding teaching and learning methods.

When we know what drives a pupil, when we know they are in their element, then we do not have to ‘push’. Achievement will come; they will feel inspired not only by themselves but by those achieving around them.


Supporting students with finding their element and playing to their strengths is a key part of The Ivy House Award. Farnborough Hill sixth form students have been participating in The Award over the last term, developing their self-leadership skills to give them the edge in a competitive world.

Download our brochure to understand more about how The Award could benefit your pupils.

A three-pronged approach to leadership

A three-pronged approach to leadership

Leadership is idiosyncratic; no two leaders are exactly the same, and nor should they be.

When we teach people a series of leadership skills and techniques and ask them to get on with it, it’s really down to luck as to whether it’s a happy match or not. If we want to develop exceptional, authentic leaders, we must first connect them with what they have to bring to the leadership space.

To do this requires a three-pronged approach:

  1. Self-knowledge

Deep self-knowledge allows us to show up and lead from an authentic place. It is the process of understanding ourselves deeply. To know what strengthens us, where our purpose lies and what our values system is. To be familiar with our thinking and behavioural patterns and the impact they have. The odd psychometric test and team building day doesn’t begin to cover it.

2. Self-empowerment

There are some core skills, essential to everyone, that make a game-changing difference to the results we achieve. They are not tips and techniques – they are fundamental skills that are core to how we relate to ourselves and others. They govern how we build trust-based relationships, create teams, have authentic presence, master dialogue and stay well. It is this expertise that enables us to bring our full authentic selves to the leadership space.

3. Self-mastery

A practice of self-mastery means recognising that we are wholly responsible for how we show up in the world. It is a commitment to lifelong learning with the understanding that there is always room for growth. Without this pivotal practice, all development risks being transitory, and the only direction we’ll ever be going is backwards.

Whether we are leading ourselves, a global corporation or a movement to create meaningful social change, these three principles are the foundation from which we can grow to be our full authentic selves.

Do you have brilliant, determined and talented people within your organisation? Help them become extraordinary leaders with the Ivy House Corporate Programmes.

Can character education create happy people?

Can character education create happy people?

Let me ask you a question: How many happy people do you know? 

I am not talking about skipping through the daisies happy, or the ‘happy shiny people’ kind of happy. I am talking about the really solid kind of happy. The happy that comes from feeling comfortable in your own skin, being in relationships that are kind and respectful, studying what you are passionate about, doing work you love and feeling valued while you do it. How many of those people do you know? 

As I see it, this is the principal purpose of character education. Underpinned by a belief that confident, collaborative and curious people will have happier and more successful lives. It is a belief that sees people who can truly communicate, access their creativity and commit to things as better set up for success, than those that can’t.

Yet what I find fascinating about the need for character education is that, what is actually described here, is in fact the human condition. It is how we are born. Anyone that has spent time with toddlers will testify to their innate confidence; have you ever seen a toddler learning to walk, give up after their first fall? No, me neither. We are born confident, curious and collaborative. We are also born with the ability to communicate and commit to what we are interested in. I recently watched 5-year-old Katie building a dam in a stream… nothing would get in her way. She was oblivious to her mum calling her in for tea and nor did she care that she was knee deep in cold and muddy water for hours because she was in ‘her element’. She was in ‘the zone’. Until that dam could withstand a minor tsunami she wasn’t shifting and, in that moment, she was an engineer and a craftsman. However, give Katie a hairdressing set and the task to create the perfect chignon, I suspect her curiosity and commitment to craftsmanship would have waned pretty quickly.

The fact is, these skills and ways of thinking make a material difference to how people’s lives turn out. The question is how do we help people access them? For me, having worked as a senior executive coach for twenty-five years, there are three things that make a standout difference. 

First, we need to recognise that, instead of these attributes being found outside of us that they are already within every one of us. And, our job as educators, as facilitators of human potential, is to help people to reconnect and build from what already exists. What this means is that instead of starting with a position of ‘lacking’ e.g. “I am just not a confident person”, we start from a place of abundance e.g. “I was born confident; all I need to do is choose the thinking and behaviour that accesses it.” 

Just a few months ago I was working with Jonathon, a senior leader who told me in no uncertain terms that his problem was that he had always been shy. He therefore absolutely couldn’t do the kind of public addresses required of him. It was, in his mind, a fact. The next morning, however, he stood up in front of over 5,000 people, spoke for 30 minutes with a single mind-map as a guide and, at the end, got a standing ovation. What happened? First, he had understood that ‘shy’, like so many things, was actually just set of feelings and behaviours generated from the thoughts he was choosing to focus on. And, if he wanted, he could change the focus of his thinking at any moment and produce a different result. Secondly, he acquired a new skill that makes talking about anything, without notes, easy. Simply put he realised that he was creating the behaviour of ‘shy’ and decided not to do it anymore, then he learnt a skill that enabled him to perform better. 

This brings me to the second key thing which makes all the difference. The learning needs to be relevant. Jonathon was able to learn how to change his thinking around being shy because it mattered to him. He was interested in being able to present well so could perform in his job. The same learning wouldn’t be interesting to me. ‘Shy’ or ‘poor presenter’ are not labels I have applied to myself. On the other hand, show me how not to get stressed by my workload and I will listen to every word you say. We learn when we have a need or a want – just like we look up how to bake a chocolate soufflé when we want to make one (or are curious about how it’s made).  Curiousity is not a blanket thing. We are only curious about the things that interest us.

And finally, if we want to support people to live their best lives, we need to show them how to live from a place of ‘core strength’. Core strength is a set of personal identifiers that make up our unique blueprint. So, when we talk about giving students ‘character’ in order that they can go on and live their best lives, we have to help them find their character, their values, their beliefs, their vision and discover what puts them in their element. Like curiousity, character is not a one size fits all thing. It is something we need to discover within us and then bolster by learning a set of skills that matter to us. When people understand how to live from their core strength they show up as their best selves, they are grounded and able to realign easily when things get out of balance. When we don’t know these things about ourselves, realigning becomes a game of chance… and that is not the best recipe for a great life.

So, here’s the good news. Teenagers love it when they discover this. The moment they realise that all these great attributes are already inside them AND they can access them at any point, they sit up and listen. In my experience character is not something that can be ‘taught’, it is something that must be discovered, supported and above all facilitated. When we take the time to do this, we create more happy people and, in doing that, we begin to change the world.

If your school is on a mission to create happy, confident students, download our brochure to find out how we can support you.

Organisational gratitude. The new thing.

Organisational gratitude. The new thing.

Here’s a question for you. How much gratitude do you, your team and the people within the organisation show? We’ve all seen gratitude journals – a prompt for us to take a few moments every day to be thankful for what we have in our lives. Some of us have even got one and written in it a few times, some, even made it a daily practice. But, from what I can see gratitude hasn’t yet found its place in our organisations.

The other day I was with a very senior team, not as their coach but to talk about their emerging talent and you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife. Nothing to do with me, I have to add, but everything to do with the team dynamic. And, before I had really engaged my brain, I had called it – as if some alien had picked me up and transported me back to my days as an exec team coach. Luckily – rather than showing me the door the CEO suggested I take 20 mins to help them sort it out. (Nothing like an impossible challenge to make a sales meeting go well!) But, seeing as I had already opened my mouth, I had a go. I asked each of them to name three things they were grateful for in relation to the business right now. What do you think happened? A number of them got angry. Two told me to stop wasting their time and one mentioned that any decent coach would get them to name the issues they were facing as opposed to getting pink and fluffy (yes, he actually said that). But I held my nerve and waited. Eventually, one seemingly timid lady spoke up.  She said, “I am grateful for the bright committed people I work with each day, I love that I am developing my career in perfect direction for me and I will be eternally grateful for the health care cover that looked after my daughter this last year.” One by one they followed. You could have heard a pin drop in the room as phones and computers were put aside and every single one of them truly listened to each other probably, for the first time ever.

As they came to the end the whole dynamic in the room had changed. They were still and thoughtful. They carried on the meeting but now they were on the same side, their debate had a less aggressive air. One of the men said he had gained a different perspective. Another said how well they had done as a business to get to where they were and how lucky they were to be in their roles. I am not saying they transformed into a truly effective team, obviously that would take a lot more work, but I came away thinking that having a daily dose of organisational gratitude could be an amazing thing.

The 5 top talent development needs of 2019…

The 5 top talent development needs of 2019…

A recent Deloitte survey* identified that the No.1 reason people leave their jobs is the ‘inability to learn and grow’. 

The simple truth is if millennial and Gen Z employees don’t feel their organisations are investing in their education, training and development, they’re not going to stay. 

So, we have spoken to the brightest emerging talent from across pretty much every sector, to get their view on their top 5 talent development needs of 2019…

1. “Utilise the many varied opportunities to develop us.”

Reverse mentoring, shadowing, joining associations, keynote speaking opportunities, taking on research projects or being asked to publish articles are all free ways to develop your emerging talent – and they love them! Help them spot these opportunities, give them time to take part and offer support and feedback.

2. “Take our development seriously.”

Millennials and Gen Z place huge value on the growth of their personal brand and ongoing professional development is hugely important to them. However, the odd training day with a junior trainer every 6 months simply won’t cut it. They want access to experts and a clearly structured training and development pathway that will keep them engaged and get them to the top.

3.    “Let us play to our strengths.”

Whilst many businesses say they do this, the consensus amongst emerging talent is that this isn’t happening. Be proactive in understanding your high potentials’ strengths, passions and what puts them in their element and support them in finding work in this space. This might mean giving them more creative freedom within their role, or supporting them in moving to a slightly different position within the organisation – Far better that your talent moves within your business than outside of it.

4.    “Embrace a more relaxed hierarchy.”

With many of your most capable individuals sitting lower down the organisational chain, loosening the hierarchy allows change to be driven by those with the most powerful and relevant ideas, rather than those with the most prestigious titles. This might mean finding opportunities for your HiPos to lead strategy meetings, giving them regular contact with senior leaders or creating feedback forums so they can shape solutions and the direction of the company.

5.    “Give us a voice – make it safe and consistent.”

Our organisations are brimming with bright, capable people who want to make a difference.  In order to ensure they are able to share their voice, we need to set up two things.  Firstly, it needs to be safe to have a bad idea – to be able to brainstorm and explore. Secondly it needs to be safe to challenge the status quo. While many companies claim to be this way, this is far from what emerging talent are currently experiencing.

To read the full findings, download our white paper: ‘Future Leaders: The Research and the Reality’

At Ivy House we offer the kind of life-changing development, usually reserved for a handful of the most senior executives, to your brightest emerging talent. Our programmes build the knowledge and skills to allow your high potentials to thrive; becoming extraordinary leaders and living extraordinary lives.

To find out more about how we can support your emerging talent and future leaders, get in touch today.

*’2019 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends’ report

Future Leaders: The Research and the Reality

Future Leaders: The Research and the Reality

We’re in the midst of a leadership crisis, attrition rates have reached a record high and for the first time ever we have four generations together in one workplace.

What’s more as we approach the fourth Industrial revolution, preparing our brightest emerging talent for the demands of a very different world has never been more challenging. But whilst we may be facing a rather uncertain future one thing is for sure – we need a different approach.

That’s why, for the first time ever, we’re bringing together all of the research, insight and best solutions to talent and leadership development, in one place.

Whether you’re a business looking to attract, retain and develop your top talent and future leaders, or a school looking to equip your students with the skills they need to thrive in a very different workplace – look no further.

Download this white paper to:

  • Understand how best to prepare young people for jobs of the future
  • Get to grips with how to futureproof your workforce
  • Discover how to successfully engage and retain your brightest talent
  • Build a sustainable strategy to fill your future leadership pipeline

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Future Leaders: The Research and the Reality

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