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TEDGlobal 2011

Geoff Mulgan: A short intro to the Studio School

July 12, 2011

Some kids learn by listening; others learn by doing. Geoff Mulgan gives a short introduction to the Studio School, a new kind of school in the UK where small teams of kids learn by working on projects that are, as Mulgan puts it, "for real."

Geoff Mulgan - Social commentator
Geoff Mulgan is director of the Young Foundation, a center for social innovation, social enterprise and public policy that pioneers ideas in fields such as aging, education and poverty reduction. He’s the founder of the think-tank Demos, and the author of "The Art of Public Strategy." Full bio

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Double-click the English subtitles below to play the video.
What I want to talk about today is one idea.
00:15
It's an idea for a new kind of school,
00:18
which turns on its head much of our conventional thinking
00:20
about what schools are for and how they work.
00:23
And it might just be coming to a neighborhood near you soon.
00:25
Where it comes from
00:28
is an organization called the Young Foundation,
00:30
which, over many decades,
00:32
has come up with many innovations in education, like the Open University
00:34
and things like Extended Schools,
00:37
Schools for Social Entrepreneurs, Summer Universities
00:39
and the School of Everything.
00:42
And about five years ago, we asked
00:44
what was the most important need for innovation
00:46
in schooling here in the U.K.
00:48
And we felt the most important priority
00:51
was to bring together two sets of problems.
00:53
One was large numbers of bored teenagers
00:55
who just didn't like school,
00:57
couldn't see any relationship between what they learned in school
00:59
and future jobs.
01:01
And employers who kept complaining
01:03
that the kids coming out of school weren't actually ready for real work,
01:05
didn't have the right attitudes and experience.
01:08
And so we try to ask:
01:10
What kind of school would have the teenagers fighting to get in,
01:12
not fighting to stay out?
01:14
And after hundreds of conversations
01:17
with teenagers and teachers and parents
01:19
and employers and schools
01:21
from Paraguay to Australia,
01:23
and looking at some of the academic research,
01:25
which showed the importance
01:27
of what's now called non-cognitive skills --
01:29
the skills of motivation, resilience --
01:31
and that these are as important
01:34
as the cognitive skills -- formal academic skills --
01:36
we came up with an answer, a very simple answer in a way,
01:38
which we called the Studio School.
01:41
And we called it a studio school
01:43
to go back to the original idea of a studio in the Renaissance
01:45
where work and learning are integrated.
01:49
You work by learning,
01:51
and you learn by working.
01:53
And the design we came up with had the following characteristics.
01:55
First of all, we wanted small schools --
01:58
about 300, 400 pupils --
02:00
14 to 19 year-olds,
02:02
and critically, about 80 percent of the curriculum done
02:04
not through sitting in classrooms,
02:07
but through real-life, practical projects,
02:09
working on commission
02:11
to businesses, NGO's and others.
02:13
That every pupil would have a coach, as well as teachers,
02:15
who would have timetables
02:18
much more like a work environment in a business.
02:20
And all of this will be done within the public system,
02:22
funded by public money,
02:24
but independently run.
02:26
And all at no extra cost, no selection,
02:28
and allowing the pupils the route into university,
02:31
even if many of them would want to become entrepreneurs
02:34
and have manual jobs as well.
02:37
Underlying it was some very simple ideas
02:39
that large numbers of teenagers learn best by doing things,
02:42
they learn best in teams
02:45
and they learn best by doing things for real --
02:47
all the opposite of what mainstream schooling
02:50
actually does.
02:52
Now that was a nice idea,
02:54
so we moved into the rapid prototyping phase.
02:56
We tried it out,
02:59
first in Luton --
03:01
famous for its airport and not much else, I fear --
03:03
and in Blackpool -- famous for its beaches and leisure.
03:05
And what we found -- and we got quite a lot of things wrong
03:08
and then improved them --
03:10
but we found that the young people loved it.
03:12
They found it much more motivational, much more exciting
03:14
than traditional education.
03:17
And perhaps most important of all,
03:19
two years later when the exam results came through,
03:21
the pupils who had been put on these field trials
03:24
who were in the lowest performing groups
03:26
had jumped right to the top --
03:28
in fact, pretty much at the top decile of performance
03:30
in terms of GCSE's,
03:33
which is the British marking system.
03:35
Now not surprisingly,
03:38
that influenced some people to think we were onto something.
03:40
The minister of education
03:43
down south in London
03:45
described himself as a "big fan."
03:47
And the business organizations thought we were onto something
03:49
in terms of a way of preparing children much better
03:52
for real-life work today.
03:54
And indeed, the head of the Chambers of Commerce
03:56
is now the chairman of the Studio Schools Trust
03:58
and helping it, not just with big businesses,
04:01
but small businesses all over the country.
04:04
We started with two schools.
04:07
That's grown this year to about 10.
04:09
And next year, we're expecting about 35 schools
04:11
open across England,
04:14
and another 40 areas
04:16
want to have their own schools opening --
04:18
a pretty rapid spread
04:20
of this idea.
04:22
Interestingly,
04:24
it's happened almost entirely without media coverage.
04:26
It's happened almost entirely without big money behind it.
04:29
It spread almost entirely through word of mouth, virally,
04:33
across teachers, parents,
04:37
people involved in education.
04:39
And it spread because of the power of an idea --
04:41
so the very, very simple idea
04:43
about turning education on its head
04:45
and putting the things which were marginal,
04:47
things like working in teams, doing practical projects,
04:50
and putting them right at the heart of learning,
04:53
rather than on the edges.
04:56
Now there's a whole set of new schools
04:59
opening up this autumn.
05:01
This is one from Yorkshire
05:03
where, in fact, my nephew, I hope, will be able to attend it.
05:05
And this one is focused
05:08
on creative and media industries.
05:10
Other ones have a focus on health care,
05:12
tourism, engineering
05:14
and other fields.
05:16
We think we're onto something.
05:18
It's not perfect yet,
05:20
but we think this is one idea
05:22
which can transform the lives
05:24
of thousands, possibly millions, of teenagers
05:26
who are really bored by schooling.
05:28
It doesn't animate them.
05:30
They're not like all of you who can sit in rows
05:32
and hear things said to you for hour after hour.
05:35
They want to do things, they want to get their hands dirty,
05:38
they want education to be for real.
05:41
And my hope is that some of you out there
05:44
may be able to help us.
05:46
We feel we're on the beginning of a journey
05:48
of experiment and improvement
05:51
to turn the Studio School idea
05:53
into something which is present,
05:55
not as a universal answer for every child,
05:58
but at least as an answer for some children in every part of the world.
06:00
And I hope that a few of you at least can help us make that happen.
06:03
Thank you very much.
06:06
(Applause)
06:08

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Geoff Mulgan - Social commentator
Geoff Mulgan is director of the Young Foundation, a center for social innovation, social enterprise and public policy that pioneers ideas in fields such as aging, education and poverty reduction. He’s the founder of the think-tank Demos, and the author of "The Art of Public Strategy."

Why you should listen

Geoff Mulgan is director of the Young Foundation, a center for social innovation, social enterprise and public policy with a 50-year history of creating new organisations and pioneering ideas in fields as varied as aging, education, healthcare and poverty reduction.

Before the Young Foundation, Geoff Mulgan has held various roles in the UK government including director of the Government's Strategy Unit and head of policy in the Prime Minister's office, and he was the founder of the think-tank Demos. He is chairing a Carnegie Inquiry into the Future of Civil Society in the UK and Ireland. His most recent book is The Art of Public Strategy: Mobilising Power and Knowledge for the Common Good.

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