What type of people are we trying to ensure leave our schools?
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”
“Sir, can the Headmaster take fingerprints or DNA samples from the school roof?”
“Errr… no Terry”
“ 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.
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