The Director of Learning and National Programmes at the V&A on the new programme inspiring young designers in schools

Nearly a year ago I blogged about the role of design thinking in underpinning V&A Learning. The key principles of user-centred approaches – applied creativity, problem solving and iteration – are essential to ensure that the V&A is a relevant, impactful and transformative force for creative change for all learners from early years across the life course. 

These principles are now integral to our programmes – a timely example being V&A Innovate, our new, digital first, national flagship programme for schools which drives forward our national remit and ambition for design education for the 21st century.

Amanda Spielman, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector, Ofsted, said: “Your pupils, I’m sure, will do great things with a challenge like this. And as they grip this challenge, I hope to see schools re-engaging with the design and technology curriculum.”

V&A Innovate launched in July with an inaugural teacher conference at the Victoria & Albert museum. Designed to be as flexible as possible, V&A Innovate is a free online teacher resource hub with toolkits, animated video guides and a range of inspiring activities to unlock the creative potential of the next generation of designers, makers and creatives.

Within the programme there’s the National Innovate Challenge, to which Key Stage 3 students in state schools can submit their projects with the chance to have them showcased at an awards day hosted at the V&A in early 2020. Finalists will be invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of judges who include some of the most high-profile creatives and designers in fashion, sustainability, manufacturing, art and design. Design challenges are thematic and draw on the V&A’s world-leading collections, exhibitions and cutting-edge industry practice. 

This year’s themes are:

GO: How might we give more people the ability to be mobile, and give people and the planet a better chance to breathe? 

EAT: How might we ensure that the way we eat is sustainable, and give more people access to affordable and healthy food? 

WEAR: How might we ensure that what we wear is part of building a better world?

All are underpinned by sustainable approaches to design from the outset. To ensure user-centredness, V&A Innovate was created and tested with teachers, young people and designers to equip young people at KS3 with the confidence and skills to develop design solutions for real-world issues. It’s initially aimed at KS3 (pupils age 11-14 years) because this is a pivotal point in young people’s education in which the pressure to take up English Baccalaureate subjects, and the narrowing of KS3 to two years in many schools, impacts adversely on opportunities to participate in design and technology. 

The July conference included talks from a range of fantastically inspiring designers and educational specialists, including Rodrigo Garcia Gonzalez, Cofounder & Co-CEO of Skipping Rocks Lab and Amanda Spielman. Amanda’s speech was on the new Ofsted curriculum inspection framework and the critical importance of a broad and balanced curriculum (that includes programmes such as V&A Innovate for example) to a fully rounded education. The conference also included creative workshops which provided activity ideas for teachers to take back to the classroom including material design, mapping research methods, and iterative product design.  It was a day dedicated to firing up teachers with excitement about the project. 

With this in mind, my introductory presentation concluded with a clarion call to empower teachers to understand their role as one of the most powerful professions on the planet, given their agency in helping shape young lives with creative skills for the future.

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