It's Time

Putting human leadership at the heart of the education system

Vicky Gerrish  Head of School Partnerships, Ivy House

Over the last 200 years the education system has remained relatively unchanged. Covid-19 changed everything. Whilst for some the impact may be seen as a temporary upheaval, for others it has been a catalyst for positive change. Calling into question not just how we teach, but what we teach. Not just the grades that students achieve, but how we’re resourcing students to deal with change, navigate uncertainty and stay well – developing well-rounded young adults who are ready to take their place in the world.

It’s time for us to face up to reality – the way we’re preparing young people for life beyond school is not working. For all the challenges and frustrations of the pandemic, this extraordinary forced experiment has given us a powerful opportunity to rethink education, and put human development at its heart. To create a business-education coalition that ensures we are truly preparing young people for life beyond the classroom and to work together to turn ‘the forgotten generation’ into the most well-equipped generation of all time.

Schools offer some amazing opportunities to students that, in a roundabout way, may develop confidence or resilience or self-worth, but very few have programmes explicitly designed to develop the critical life skills students need. One of the main reasons for this is that they don’t have the expertise to do it.

Human development isn’t about a set of knowledge that can be picked up, regurgitated, and assessed against a standard test. It is a very individual and personal journey, it takes time and requires deep expertise. At the heart sits human leadership – the most profound and effective way of developing young people for the opportunities, responsibilities, and experiences of later life. Developing the future leaders we all want and need.

At Ivy House we’ve channelled 25+ years of award-winning expertise in leadership into developing a programme for 15–18-year-olds that not only empowers them to make informed decisions about their future, but also teaches them the skills that employers tell us every day are sadly missing when they show up to the world of work.

Partnering with forward-thinking educators we developed The Ivy House Award. Taking the core learning from our transformative future leaders programme in the corporate world, and putting it into a programme for sixth formers, we have developed a flexible, blended learning programme of 20 modules which cultivates 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.

There is no pass or fail with The Award. Students who fully engage with the programme, access the learning, contribute to the facilitated discussions, and proactively get involved with the opportunities they have access to, graduate from the programme with a certificate and digital badge. The digital badge can be shared on their social networks, CV, personal statements and future job applications, enabling future employers to feel confident that they are employing young people who have mindfully chosen them as employers. And who have built resilience, confidence, communication capability and have a deeper understanding of who they are, and the life they want to live.

Employers also have a critical role to play in supporting this change. The latest government figures sadly report that 525,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed in May-July 2021. By all historical standards, whilst unemployment levels for young people remain low, it’s not good enough.

It’s easy to talk about skills and attributes in theory, to have a tick box list that students need to develop. If we look at what this actually means to students in school, and the difference it makes, this tells its own story.

“As a result of this learning I have become more aware of how what I do reflects me as a person. It’s 100% my choice, I can do what I want, but the best choices will push me in a positive direction exploring all the things I wouldn’t normally do. I am me, I need to embrace that and do what makes me happy and puts me on the right track for what I want do in the future.” Student

“The Award has enhanced the school’s leadership training, tenfold. Pupils’ inner explorations have developed confidence in who they are — their weaknesses have been laid bare, their strengths have been celebrated and they have come to realise that they all have the characteristics of a leader.” Headteacher

The team at Ivy House are hugely passionate about and focused on nurturing these skills in all young people, regardless of their background, their family circumstances, where they live or the results they might achieve.

Partnering with equally passionate corporate and education businesses, we have developed:

  • The Future Leaders Project – a life-changing schools’ project bringing together a collaboration of changemakers from education and business to support students aged 15-18 to flourish, in work and life
  • Fair Chance Funding, where organisations can sponsor schools in under privileged areas to access The Award

Both projects build a bridge of connectivity between education and the world of work and equip students with the knowledge, skills and inspiration to step up and become the leaders of their lives.

Even before the pandemic there were big questions about the education system and its fitness for the 21st century. We have been offered an unprecedented opportunity to refocus it – to come together as a community, share ideas, initiatives and crystallise learning – and to make meaningful change in the way we deliver education and prepare the next generation.

In a recent survey, 85% of school leaders said that now is the time to change and embrace a different way of doing things. The question is, will we?

About Ivy House

At Ivy House we put game-changing leadership and life skills at the heart of how we develop every generation. We deliver the kind of transformational personal and professional development normally reserved for a handful of the most senior executives to talent across schools and organisations; equipping them with the knowledge and skills to become extraordinary leaders and lead extraordinary lives.

In the corporate world we work with companies like NatWest, Aviva and The Economist to develop their brightest emerging talent. Now we’re bringing the same opportunity to schools through The Ivy House Award — delivering the essential aspects of this incredible learning to students.

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