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Introducing School Differently

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

Over the course of this very strange year, it has become evident that many people in education – and that includes parents and young people – want to see change. There are also some incredible groups – those same parents and young people, but also educators, academics and thought-leaders – who are working to this end. From the late great Sir Ken Robinson, to Big Education and new groups like Rethinking Assessment, there is no shortage of will and creativity.

What has become apparent though, is that much of this work is happening in isolation of others (and consequently there is quite probably duplication of effort and more than one missed opportunity to collaborate). At Square Peg we have always believed in the power of ‘diverse collaboration’; of building a broad and eclectic network and bringing together people with different perspectives to identify innovative solutions to challenging problems. We wanted to bring this approach to our one-size-fits-all (by the way – it doesn’t) English education system.

School Utopia, a Square Peg initiative, was an attempt to question all the elements of traditional ‘school’ and start with a blank sheet of paper. Could you build a personalised, bespoke curriculum that taps into the learning preferences, talents and passions of an individual child? How do you ensure that school leaders share a consistent ethos, creating a baseline of consistency from school to school even if each school has its own distinct personality which resonates with its local community? And surely there must be more ways to exploit 21st Century technology, leading to a plethora of benefits for everyone?

School Utopia led to a conversation with Ian Gilbert, founder of Independent Thinking, and then on to School Differently, this joint initiative. A pandemic felt like the right time to ask the question ‘What is the purpose of education?’ and ‘Is the English education system (which hasn’t changed in its basic tenets for decades) fit for purpose?

I guess our answer is a resounding ‘no’. But therein lies the challenge. How do you change an age-old system like this, when the policymakers in the driving seat don’t want to listen? School Differently is about bringing together like-minded people so that we can have a collective conversation and hopefully together build some tangible next steps. It can’t be all about talk – there’s been enough of that to last us years. Somehow we have to find a way to either work around the immovable brick wall that is our Government, or to bring that wall down, brick by brick.

So we are beginning with this website and a forum which we hope will become a vehicle for change. We’d like anyone and everyone who is passionate about seeing change across all aspects of our education system to sign up as a member and jump into the conversations in the forum. There’s a small (and as you might expect, diverse) group of us who’ve set this ball rolling, but now we need others to get involved. So please share as widely as you are able. Let’s get this conversation started and see where we get to. The groundswell is tangible, and as Ian and Independent Thinking would say ‘there is another way’.


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